Was I too harsh on: Computer games?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how the use of apps can eat into our quality time with our kids and whilst I stand by what I said wholeheartedly I’ve had a few comments about how positive these kinds of games can be for children. First off there’s the video above which was sent to me by a friend whose job relies on the games industry (he specifically works on providing independent games companies with more affordable production software). OK, I’ve established that he has a vested interest in defending computer games (just as I’ll happily admit to a vested interest in toys and traditional games), but I see his point entirely. I won’t go through all the details of what can be positive about sharing the gaming experience with your child, the video above does a thorough job of that itself, however I will admit that I downplayed the bonding potential of a computer game.

New teenage mutant ninja turtlesOne of the main reasons for this is pretty simple; back when I played computer games my parents had basically no experience of using these kinds of systems. My dad had a good crack at it (as many dads of the 80s and 90s did, why wouldn’t you?) but there wasn’t an established ‘gamers culture’ at that point, at least nothing comparable to what exists today. As I explained in my post last week about the bonding potential offered by companies that re-sell us our childhood (as I put it) those of us who are parents now are in a position of advantage compared to our own parents. We are familiar with the ways of sci-fi/superhero cartoons, we understand (if not belong) to ‘gamers culture’ not to mention countless other innovations which we witnessed the birth of that are an engrained part of everyday life now. Most technology doesn’t look as ‘new-fangled’ to us as it might have to our parents and as a result we can, of course, enjoy a more shared experience with our children when it comes to their gaming.

time with kids playing board gamesThe next criticism I received worried me; someone pointed out that what I had  said in ‘Quality Time‘ (and in the ‘Strathallan Times’ article it spawned) could be seen as offensive to parents of children with autism who use apps to engage with their children and to help them develop. Believe me, it was not my intention to include parents in this unique situation in my criticisms of the use of apps to keep kids occupied. When it comes to interacting with a child who sits on the autistic spectrum you should grasp any progress you make. If you need to use a tablet/phone/computer to do that then do it, in those early years anything you can do to connect with your child and motivate them to interact should be encouraged. I apologise if what I said neglected to acknowledge this.

Melissa and Doug Backyard Explorer dress up set costume

Melissa and Doug Backyard Explorer dress up set available from Fun Junction (£19.99)

With these two criticisms under my belt I should perhaps feel sheepish but I do feel justified in what I said. There are of course many positive things that can be gained from gaming, however I don’t think this should be at the expense of exposing your child to non-electronic forms of entertainment. There’s a wealth of possibilities for teaching your child about the world and among these are a vast selection of activities which can help your child develop a unique understanding of who they are as individuals. Computer games contribute one element to this but there are board games, books, music, sport, crafts, arts activities and more ‘outside the box’ activities like archaeology or entomology which children could easily participate in. Computer games and apps are great but it’s our job as parents to show our children the great variety of entertainment which the world has to offer them.

Was I too harsh on computer games in my previous post? I don’t think I was, I neglected to mention a couple of positive aspects but my problem with games and apps still stands: I still think there’s a standing danger of them being over-used as ways to keep a child occupied. Do you think I’ve been overly critical about computer games? What are your own experiences of children and computer games? Should we go so far as to force our children to try a new activity ‘for their own good’? As always thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing what you have to say, Cheers, John

P.S. This is the first of my ‘Was I too harsh on…’ posts, please let me know if you have read any posts here that you thought of as ‘too harsh’ and I’ll put together a reply.

Tuesday Repost: You’re too old to play with that

I really enjoyed writing this post and it lead on to a lot more discussion, after writing this a good number of people quizzed me about it but without exception people seemed to be on the same page. Let me know in the comments what your own take is on age appropriateness for toys. Are we too quick to move our kids along? Do we all grow up too fast? For the big kids (and geeks) out there you can click on the picture of Riker below to see him hug his Picard dolly.

This is a little bug bear of mine and I can guarantee that at least three or four times a week I’ll have to go through this spiel again. The issue of the age appropriateness of a toy can arise whenever the child’s interests differ from the norm for their age.

A fairly benign case of this happens where a child plays at a stage above their age. When I’m asked what might be a good toy for such a child I’m faced with a slight dilemma: say we have a boy of seven who does a new jigsaw puzzle every week, based on this information I can guarantee his abilities will be higher than the jigsaw companies expect and as a result I would suggest picking a jigsaw puzzle that perhaps has age 8 or 9 on the box. This particular age on the box is a guide, it has nothing to do with safety (or anything so rigid) and has much more to do with the manufacturer’s opinion of what would be the appropriate age for this toy. This is based on general ideas about children’s play, so specific cases like our seven year old jigsaw fan are unlikely to fit within their paradigm.

However the person buying the toy can often be put off by the suggested age and in this case will opt for something which is likely to be below the child’s abilities. With something like a jigsaw this is likely to mean that the child will get bored with it, not the worst thing in the world but when you’re buying a gift you tend to hope that the recipient will enjoy it. This doesn’t happen too often though and most of the time people actually like the idea that the child they’re buying for exceeds expectations.

The real problem (and the main topic of this entry) lies at the other end of the spectrum. Some toys do not show a suggested age but instead place for example a 3+ mark on the box (which is placed to mark the manufacturer’s recommended ‘safe’ playing age), the problem is that it’s sometimes not easy for a customer to decipher between a 3+ safety tag and the suggested ages such as the ones described above.

There is a big difference between these, and when some customers see e.g. 3+ on the box they assume that older children won’t be interested in it because the toy is ‘for’ 3 year olds. This isn’t right and the children potentially miss out on something really fun. I’ll admit it’s easy to mix up the numbers on the box but this is where common sense should step in: does it look like something the child would enjoy? If the answer is yes then by all means get an 8 year old child a toy that says 3+ on the box.

The problem is even worse when the child is actually there in the shop and specifically asks for the toy only to be told ‘you’re too old for that’ or even worse ‘that’s a baby toy’. It seems we’re happy for a child to drive on and surpass their expected level for play (note play not maths, English or a sport) it fits our culture of striving for improvement in our children, and there’s nothing wrong with this but we see the opposite as something like an inverse of this situation: a child who likes toys aimed at a younger age is seen as somehow falling short when in fact they just like the look of it. Giving a child a younger toy doesn’t mark them as a failure since many toys can be played with in vastly different ways by different ages. Instead of accepting this though we are careful to avoid play which isn’t progressive: that is we discourage play which seems orientated around an earlier developmental stage. And we wonder why kids grow up so fast these days. Do you have any recollection of being told that something was ‘for babies’ as a kid? Have you done this to your own kids?

Reselling us our childhood

seriously how did I not know until today that there's a lego movie?!!!There’ s no doubt about it, the most recent franchises which are popping up are all recycled 70s and 80s favourites (or at least approximations of that theme). It seems as though industries aimed at kids have got savvy to the fact that today’s parents grew up in that time period and so they already identify strongly with certain franchises. For me it’s superman, ghostbusters, gummy bears, care bears, the ewoks, transformers, ghost rider, the x-men, teenage mutant ‘hero’ turtles (here in the UK they changed ‘ninja’ to ‘hero’ due to some controversy or other, to be honest ninja makes more sense but the theme tune doesn’t sound right to me) and to a lesser extent thundercats. I know that in my heart of hearts I will find it harder to say no to purchasing any of these products than anything else and a lot of people in the toy industry know this.

New teenage mutant ninja turtlesThe strange thing is I can’t get mad about this, all the best to them so long as they bring me more re-invented characters from my childhood. This industry is like someone I want to hate but I just can’t do it, they have the charm of my childhood mixed with modern technology, bringing toys, TV and film to heights I could only dream of as a kid. The new turtles cartoons are awesome, I love what they did with the new turtles (the discovery of ‘pi-zzaa’), I’m eagerly anticipating my chance to go and catch man of steel, the transformers movies were awesome especially the last one with Leonard Nimoy and the bit where (oh wait just in case I spoil it for anyone) anyway you’re like ‘Awesome!’ and then you’re like ‘No wayyyy…whaaaaaaat?!!!!’ (sorry that’s my nineties teenager talking, he gets out sometimes, apologies).

The industry is even able to manufacture this nostalgia with movies like ‘Wreck it Ralph’ where the general feel is based around classic 80s arcade games but bears no direct relation to anything from our childhood. It makes those of us who grew up in this time feel as though the world revolves around them and I say keep it coming, I’ll gladly hand over my cash for more of this kind of thing. However, underneath my appreciation of this is something deeper, I’m starting to realise that if this trend continues my sons and I will share commonality in a way that I didn’t see with my parents. During the 80s TV, films/movies and toys all changed dramatically and the computer games industry was in the very early stages of it’s development.

Lego man of steel 76002I would talk to my mum and my dad about their childhoods and though it sounded nice and though I could find some commonality I have to admit their reaction to characters that I was crazy about was less than I hoped and that grated a little. It wasn’t their fault, these were brand new characters that had never existed when they were kids and they did their best to remember their names etc. but the erosion of 60s and 70s TV stereotypes meant that my mum frequently thought the transformers were all baddies and the humans goodies and I just couldn’t seem to explain the autobot vs. decepticon dynamic so that it stuck.

Ben 10 and other recent contributions follow a similarly grey ethical dynamic which my parents’ generation find hard to follow but we kind of get it, OK so I see big scary alien but thanks to the TV shows I watched as a kid I withhold judgement on what camp he falls into until I get a feel for the kind of things this character gets up to.

I’m hoping this helps me to stay connected with my kids, it doesn’t hurt that my enjoyment of these kinds of shows when I was a kid means that I still enjoy that kind of show now, so I’ll happily sit through a ben10/ care bears/ turtles marathon. The industry may be cashing in but by recycling these old franchises they’re also ensuring that parents and children have something in common. My message to anyone out there who is responsible for this industry development: keep up the good work. Oh and now that Disney owns Star Wars is there any chance of some new Ewoks episodes (or at least a DVD release of the old ones) ? Logan’s a bit young for Star Wars yet but I’d happily sit though a bunch of Ewoks episodes.

Leonardo's electronic stealth sword

Anyway thanks again for reading. All the toys pictured above are available at Fun Junction stores (Perth and Crieff). So what are you most happy to see come back? Is there anything you think has gone wrong in this franchise recycling extravaganza? Oh and while I remember, may I turn everyone’s attention to one of the best movie trailers I’ve seen in a while (I hope to God it’s real), when this comes out I AM THERE!

One year of John the toy shop guy

Pirate cakes

I nabbed this picture from a local cake maker’s facebook page, you can find them here

This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog (you can find my first wee post here). I have to admit that for the first few months (maybe as much as the first 6) it felt like a hard slog with little to no reward in terms of readership. However I knew that my subject matter was so specific that I’d need a bunch of posts under my belt before I started to gain any google hits. As I expected it’s been a slow start but it’s getting there, I no longer suffer readerless days, I’m now part of the mumsnet bloggers network, I write a guest blog for parents space, I write a monthly toy column for the Strathallan Times and I was recently asked by Richard Gottlieb if he could repost the reply to his article which I wrote last week on his toy news site ‘Global Toy News’.

This is just a short post, simply intended to point out this blog’s wee anniversary but I thought I might throw in a few general hints for people just starting their blogging journey:

1) Stay on topic from one post to the next, I’ve been tempted to drift off a number of times onto topics which might catch more readership but I started this blog for a reason; to talk about toys and encourage people to check out Fun Junction (the toy shop where I work). Of course this advice only applies if you want to maintain a faithful subscriber list, if you want a vast random set of readers coming by your blog through search engines then variety will be your friend.

2) As much as possible use original images in your posts and then tag them like crazy: image description, alternative title etc. etc. Google image search brings me a whole heap of traffic this way and I only started doing this about 4 or 5 months ago.

3) Don’t feel guilty if you only blog once or twice a week. Some of my favourite blog writers only post once a week, unless you have something new to say every day, don’t spread yourself too thin.

Lastly:

4) Read lots of other people’s blogs and venture into topics outwith your own area. This can be enlightening and can also help you to figure out ways in which you might improve your own blog.

Many apologies to my regular readers and subscribers for falling so far from the topic of toys in this post. I hope my wee bits of advice help some new blogger out there. As always many thanks for reading and a big thank you to those of you who have been reading my posts for a while, for giving me the support and incentive I needed to reach this milestone. If anyone would like to subscribe to future posts and receive a wee e-mail about twice a week (when I publish a new post) there’s a box over to the right where you can enter your e-mail address and get added to the list (neither I nor wordpress will pass your address on to third parties, for starters I wouldn’t know how). Anyway thanks again for reading, hope you pop by again soon, Cheers, John

Quality time

time with kids playing board gamesSometimes a couple of random things coming to my attention at the same time can be enough to get me writing, and this happened last night: first I read a short article by toy industry writer Richard Gottlieb about kids and the fight for time when it comes to play, he basically points out that the upsurge in app play over traditional toys might be due to the stretched schedules of children, the next thing I read (literally about five minutes later) was one of these viral stories from facebook (I’ll post the transcript at the bottom of this post) which describes the lengths that a little boy had to go to to get some time with his dad. Normally I don’t spend much time looking at that kind of thing but the timing was strange so I read on. Mixing these two together I started to think about how hard it is for parents of even fairly young children to fit in some quality play time with their kids.

orchard toys and gamesThanks to Orchard toys we’re now the proud owners of brand new boxes of Baa Baa, Pirate Shapes and Rocket Game and I’ve got to admit we’re all playing a lot more games at home now. Finding the time to sit down and play a board game always used to seem like a bit of a struggle. We’d be running the boys round different clubs/ groups etc., getting Logan to nursery, getting them to sit down and eat their meals, in amongst this we’d let the boys decide what to play, so board games, puzzles or anything else that sat away in the book case often didn’t get looked at. Thanks to the time management it took to get our first couple of ‘Toy Testers’ reviews done I’ve now realised that it’s OK for daddy to pick what we play sometimes and it’s made it so much easier to fit in things like games, puzzles and non-bedtime stories.

I’m not saying that these things never got played with before, it was just that they normally didn’t get looked at unless it was a day when the whole family was together and we hadn’t arranged to be heading out anywhere. I’m not sure if I’d go so far as to timetable the boys’ play from now on but having a deadline meant that I had to sit them down and play with something specific and they both loved it. In the past I’ve confessed to a lack of confidence about doing crafty stuff with the kids (mainly because of the chaotic mess I can imagine whenever I think about it) but I’m starting to see how it could work. Maybe it’s because the boys are a bit older now too and they’re starting to appreciate a more timetabled play time, trying out new things and getting some one-on-one time with us.

centepede, comando etc etcAll I can say to Gottlieb’s article is that although parents do feel more obligated to get kids along to clubs we need to think about the motivation for that. I was a telly addict as a kid and gradually moved on to be hooked to my games system and when I became a dad I decided I wanted to try and expose my son to more than just TV and other ‘indoor’ stuff. With this in mind we signed Logan up to a whole bunch of activities, groups and classes from when he was very young to try and make sure he socialised with other kids and also (an important one for me) we didn’t want him to feel intimidated by sports. I’m not sure if the motivation for clubs etc. is the same for other parents.

all the apps are belong to usI often hear (from parents of older children than my own) how much they despise the games systems their kids are hooked to and that they’ve signed them up for this class or that group to try and get them out of the house and away from their computer games. Gottlieb points out that the more kids are signed up to classes the more time they’ll spend travelling to these classes and the more time spent travelling the less complicated the toys they use on the way will have to be; here entereth the app. An iphone, tablet or whatever can be handed to a child in the back of a car and they will stay occupied until they reach their destination. This simple fact could easily be a big part of the rise of the children’s app. With this in mind lets just stop and think for a second; parents are signing their kids up to more clubs etc. to get them away from games systems only to hand them a computer game to play with on the journey, am I the only one that finds this strange?

Gottlieb suggests that the toy industry needs to adapt to this market and I heartily agree, since an industry that doesn’t adapt is set to fail. However a toy shop can’t join in with this without ceasing to be a toy shop, so for those of us who still sell toys we are faced with a challenge. We need to show parents how easy and fulfilling it can be to step away from the games systems and apps for a few minutes.

charades for kids by Paul Lamond games

Fancy a game of charades? You can get yours here

Once you play a board game with your kids or spend some time doing crafts it becomes clear that these activities aren’t just about keeping them occupied; it’s about maintaining a relationship and keeping the lines of communication open. For all the TV I watched and all the computer games I played as a kid I still cooked with my parents, played board games, read stories, went on days out; in short I still had quality time with them. This went back a long time, it wasn’t a last ditch attempt to connect once I hit my tweens/teens, it was a part of my day-to-day life for as long as I can remember and because of this I had a real relationship with my parents. I told them everything I did throughout my teens, and they were there with advice and support when I needed it. The old adage ‘talk to them now and they’ll talk to you later’ definitely holds true.

Apps are fun, they’re a clever little diversion packed comfortably into your phone/tablet for those times that you just need to keep your child occupied for a few minutes but that’s all they can do. They will not keep you bonded with your child, they won’t stimulate their social abilities and they won’t make them feel loved. I don’t think I’m being over-dramatic when I say that an app will keep them occupied but a board game could keep your family together. Time dedicated to your family should translate into a dedicated family and there’s no harm in trying at least. After seeing how easy it actually is to slot in a wee bit of structured play I’ll definitely be doing more myself, time will tell if I’m able to hold my own against the wave of computer games that will be heading Logan’s way in the next few years.

Here’s a link to the board games sections for wee ones, for older kids and to our ‘family games‘ section on our web site, if you don’t have any board games kicking about the house or if you fancy trying something new it’s worth a wee look. I’ve even thought of a slogan; ‘Board games, a box of family therapy’ (yeh it’s not very good is it? Ah well you get the idea).

Have I angered you, made you feel contemplative or do you now feel superior because you already schedule quality time with your family into your day. Whatever the case I’d love to hear from you so feel free to pop a comment in the comments box below. Once again thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Here’s the viral facebook post:

SON: “Daddy, may I ask you a question?”

DAD: “Yeah sure, what is it?”
SON: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?”
SON: “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “If you must know, I make $100 an hour.”
SON: “Oh! (With his head down).
SON: “Daddy, may I please borrow $50?”
The father was furious.
DAD: “If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I work hard everyday for such this childish behavior.”

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?
After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think:
Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $ 50 and he really didn’t ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.

DAD: “Are you asleep, son?”

SON: “No daddy, I’m awake”.
DAD: “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here’s the $50 you asked for.”

The little boy sat straight up, smiling.
SON: “Oh, thank you daddy!”
Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

DAD: “Why do you want more money if you already have some?”

SON: “Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do.

“Daddy, I have $100 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.”
The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness. It’s just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts. Do remember to share that $100 worth of your time with someone you love? If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family and friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than to our family.

Some things are more important.

Tuesday repost: Educational value

Here is this weeks re-post, it has always intrigued me to watch the reasoning parents put behind the advice they give their children on how to spend pocket/holiday money, this led to the post I made last September and I’ve a feeling I’ll be delving into something similar on Thursday. Sorry for the sporadic posting over the past few weeks, I’m hammering on with our web site on Thursdays now and that used to be my main day for blogging. I’ll try and get back on track this week.

I’ve made the decision that this week (and possibly from now on) I’ll be doing a post on toys in general and then another about a specific toy that either of my sons (or I myself) enjoy. Hope this works, if people don’t like the new set-up let me know and I’ll go back to the normal of one a week.

Parents (and in this I’m really referring mostly to dads) occasionally go through a peculiar process of persuasion with their kids in the shop where the kid has picked a toy but the parent thinks a more expensive toy would be better value. To be honest there really isn’t anything wrong with this, provided they’re right about value and this is the odd bit because value is a slightly relative notion: e.g. a child who likes cars and doesn’t really play outdoors much is unlikely to play with a kite, regardless of the quality of the product (though of course there’s nothing wrong with showing them something new) so there’s little value to be had in getting him/her a kite.

The strangest value judgement by far is when parents assess value based on developmental contribution (that is allocating value based on how much the toy helps their child to develop). We parents can’t help but hear about the latest ideas about how to get our kids to reach their ‘potential’ but some parents allow this to steer all the decisions they make regarding their children. Some toy companies specialise in the kind of advertising which appeals to this mentality (leapfrog springs to mind) and though their toys may provide the developmental assistance advertised this doesn’t mean that other toys (which aren’t advertised in this way) can’t.

A bouncy ball can help hand eye coordination, any dice based board game can contribute to early numeracy, dolls and other character-based toys aid in language development and in social awareness (not to mention imagination), jigsaws stimulate the shape recognition capacities that will assist children in understanding further mathematical concepts which they will encounter later in their school career (and the same could be said of any construction toy), the list can go on and on. There isn’t a toy in the shop that I couldn’t describe in a way that points out some developmental benefit which it can provide.

Keeping this in mind then it seems odd to refuse the child a cheaper toy solely based on the fact that it’s seems less enabling of a child’s development. Of course if there’s some specific thing that the kid needs help with perhaps the parent will need to consider toys that might help them a bit but when the child is just looking to spend some holiday/pocket money it seems a bit of a shame to force them to spend their own money (as far as they are concerned) on something more ‘educational’. What better way to put a child off of something?

What’s more really good learning resources don’t have to cost a fortune. I remember a customer a while ago whose daughter was having problems with recognising numbers and with counting, what was worse was the girl had started to put up a block whenever her mother approached the subject with her. I suggested that she get some spotted dice and some number dice and try playing light hearted games with them (keeping talk of the numbers to a minimum), starting off just using the spotted dice (since she could count the spots) and moving on to introduce the numbered dice so as to start the girl off with a countable quantity and then slowly introduce her to the symbols which represent those quantities. After concerted effort from the mum the girl ended up not only picking it up but she jumped up to be one of the best at maths in her class. The dice cost a total of 80p for the four of them. Very good value I’d say.

We also sell maths games , books and activity books which are great for specific tricky subjects but if you have the time and the energy you can get similar results with just a set of dice. So what am I trying to say? I suppose its this, when a kid has pocket money it’s for something fun and frivolous, educational toys etc. are the parent’s domain and they don’t have to be expensive. Logan (my oldest son) doesn’t get pocket money, instead he gets stickers then he gets to pick a toy of about £7-8 when he reaches 20 stickers, it can take him over a fortnight to collect up enough and at the end of that fortnight I seriously can’t imagine insisting that he buy something based solely on it’s educational merits. Those kind of resources are for me to get hold of.

Development is a tricky issue for parents: we all have our own idea of how to bring our kids along but along the way we have to sometimes let them buy what we might regard as nonsense. If they don’t get to be a bit silly as kids when will they?

The Toy Testers test: Orchard Games ‘Rocket Game’

Ali from Orchard Toys sent me an e-mail late last week asking if we’d like to try out ‘Rocket Game’. Of course we would! It arrived on Monday morning and I’ve been itching to get into it since, unfortunately due to work, tired kids, work, tired and hungry kids and sleeping baby brothers Logan and i didn’t get to crack into the box until yesterday evening. I held off on my Tuesday re-post this week because I hung on to the optimistic notion that I’d have something new to say, but the adage is right, working with kids is tricky mostly because they don’t really understand schedules etc. Ah well it couldn’t be helped and as you can see Logan and I really enjoyed our wee stint as toy testers this week when we finally got the chance. I let Alexander have the week off since ‘Rocket Game’ is a little old for him anyway.

The game itself is simpler than it sounds, when I looked at the instructions I wasn’t sure if Logan would follow what we were supposed to be doing but he got it no problem. You each get a coloured ‘base’ (launch platform) and the aim is to get as many loops of exhaust as you can before you find your rocket and pop it on top of the exhaust trail. You roll a spinner to decide which card to pick up from the middle, there are a few possibilities under each card: on your turn you may find yourself with either 3, 2, 1 or no loops (just a straight line) of exhaust, alternatively you could find yourself with a rocket. If the rocket matches the colour of your base it’s game over for you, you’ll have to hold out and hope that you’ve picked up enough loops. If, however, the rocket is a different colour then you have to put it back in the middle, face down, and yell out ‘space shuffle’ and mix all the cards into a new order.

Orchard toys space game rockets

You can buy your own ‘Rocket Game’ here

It’s kind of a chance and memory game mixed together but the pace is so quick you don’t get much chance to remember much (especially thanks the odd ‘space shuffle’). Logan normally has a good attention span anyway but I think it’d even be good for kids who normally can’t sit still long enough to finish a board game. Also, to be honest, I can see it being OK for slightly younger kids too pretty much because of the attention span thing. We really enjoyed it and ended up playing a few more games after the review. I’m now trying to figure out what to talk about for next week’s ‘Toy Testers’, suggestions welcome, we don’t have any new products to try out next week so I’m thinking we might talk about a toy they’ve already had for a while, possibly the Melissa and Doug castle I talked about in an earlier post. Anyway hope you enjoy the review, comments welcome, Cheers, John