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No Screen Summer: A 9 year old's toy review

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This summer our family had a significant first.  It was the first time I brought one of my children to a national trade show to help me run the Imagination Starters booth.  Alice has been asking to go to a show for years and this one seemed perfect.  ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailers Association) Marketplace is tradeshow and education event for all of the wonderful neighborhood toy stores across the country.  You know, that store in your area that always has the BEST toys that you actually want your kids to own.

So in short it was a 9 year old's dream.  Thousands of toys on display and many of them she got to preview even before they are in stores.  

I would love to tell you that she was an amazing help in the booth but I am not a liar.  She said to me after the first day, "I know I definitely don't want to sell things when I grow up"  We are now taking her to a geneticist to make sure she is mine.

Alice has decided that she loves being on camera and reviewing her favorite toys so here it is.... Alice's Favorite Things: ASTRA edition.

1. Imagination Starters Reusable Chalkboard Paper and Poster Board

You would think she was over it since she sees it everyday but I tell you that she was constantly using the samples of our poster board to draw roads for toy cars, writing cool messages on it for the show and has been begging to have the paper in her Pokemon binder.  She is currently "re-designing" her room to make wall space available for the new poster boards.  She wants "at least 2 chalkboard and 2 dry erase ones" so she can change her art at will.

MSRP:  Chalkboard Reusable Paper with Crayons $9.99, Chalkboard & Dry Erase Poster Board $6.99

Available in stores August 15, 2017

Why she loves it:  "I can color and change it when I want"

Why I love it: Not messy.  Re-usable.  Inexpensive and creative.

2.  Bloco Soft Puzzle Toys

This Canadian company was totally new to Alice and I.  She loved these toys that are essentially puzzles that you have to put together before you can play with them.  She said her favorite was the T-Rex and she liked that the arm legs and face could move.  She didn't get a chance to put one together from scratch but the rep told her that each kit takes about 30 minutes to make.  

MSRP $9.99 to $29.99  Available now is specialty stores and online.  

Why she loves it:  "It's a craft. I love crafts.  And then I can play with it."

Why I love it: Engages the brain and looks pretty durable.  I also love that the designs are gender neutral for the most-part.

3. Anything and everything in the Ann Williams booth

Alice loves to craft and play and craft again.  Ann Williams makes a ton of fun yarn wrapping craft sets from Fairy Trees to Giraffes and Alice loved it all.  The picture below is from the Fairy Tree that is coming out this fall.

MSRP $19.99-24.99  Some available in stores now and more debuting in the fall

Why she loves it: "It's got bright colors and is cute"

Why I love it: It's a craft which I am a sucker for and  will look really cute in her room when it's complete.  

Ann Williams Toys

4.  Magical Microbes

Mud and electricity and learning.  The girl loved it all.  Our booth neighbor Keeghan created Magical Microbes to teach kids about microbiology in a really fun way.  Alice's favorite was MudWatt which uses just your regular backyard mud and the natural microbes inside to create energy.  With the help of a trusty cell phone, kids can scan their MudWatt to see how many microbes live in their mud!

MSRP $39.99 Available now magical microbes and in stores.

Why she loves it: "It's science and mud"

Why I love it:  Educational and ongoing.  She can keep measuring the microbes for months.

5.  Slackers Slack Line and Ninja line

Everyday Alice would go by this booth and beg and plead to play and finally I let her try it.  It was awesome. Unfortunately I didn't get a good shot of her on the Ninja Line but it was pretty amazing too.  Be sure to watch for the Ninja button coming out this fall.  Measures their time on the course just like on the show!

MSRP: $39.99-99.99  Available now online and in stores.

Why she loves it:  She loves watching Ninja warrior and well it's fun to do.

Why I love it:  It's portable and small to store.  We can fit it in our tiny city yard too.


6.  Noel Shuffle

We are sadly past the magical elf period of our life.  Am I sad?  Not for the hours of planning required but for the family fun it created.  That is why Alice and I both loved Noel Shuffle.  It was created by a mom from a simple Christmas decoration that turned into a family game.  The game is simple.  You divide into two teams, NOEL and LEON.  Each team has to change around the order of the letters on the gingerbread family without anyone seeing.  The winner is decided on Christmas morning by what the letters read that morning.  It comes with a fully illustrated story and the adorable dolls too.

We plan to hide the gingerbread men when changing around the letters to up the anty for our family.

MSRP $29.95 Available Noel Shuffle and in stores now.

Why she loves it:  "I like to win and beat my brother"

Why I love it:  A Christmas family tradition that doesn't involve marshmallows, goldfish crackers and suction cups...I'm talking about you ELVES.


7.  Wise Elk building sets

This is just the coolest thing.  Alice immediately is drawn to anything building related (might be the architect in the gene pool).   These are real stone and terra cotta building sets.  Each set comes with glue and a plan and all the stones.  Alice thought the best part was that you can rebuild the entire thing by soaking it in water to release the glue. We brought one home for her brother Jack (12) and he loved it to.

MSRP $19.99-49.99 Available now online HERE

Why she loves it: "It's just really cool."

Why I love it:  Reusable.  Easy to do. Creative and good for older age kids.

There were so many toys she loved that I had to narrow it down.  I will put up all the videos on YouTube as soon as I dig everything out to edit them.  You can search for her toy reviews online by searching "Imagination Starters" on youtube.com

Hope this helps you find something new and different for your kids or kids you love.

You can download the printable list HERE


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