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

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The Toy Testers test: Orchard toys ‘Baa Baa’ and ‘Pirate Shapes’

This is a new addition to my blog, from now on, along with my regular blog posts, I’ll be posting video reviews of products with the boys (Logan, who is 4 and Alexander who is 2). They had a great time making this one and Logan in particular is loving his new ‘job’ as a ‘toy tester’. Orchard toys sent me a couple of games, both newly released this year: ‘Baa Baa’ which is a colour matching game for 2 to 4 players aimed at children of 3 and up (though as you can see Alexander managed OK with a bit of help), and ‘Pirate Shapes’ which is for 2-4 players and is aimed at 2 1/2 years and up (I thought the 1/2 was a bit odd but seeing Alexander playing it kind of made sense).

Colour recognition game orchard toys

You can find ‘Baa Baa’ here

‘Baa Baa’ looks set to be a really helpful aid in getting Alexander more accustomed to colours, which up to now he’s been having a little trouble with. It was easy to unpack with only a couple of minor difficulties when getting the sheep pieces out of the backing board. As I said in the video though, the pieces themselves were well glued and the damage was to the backing board: as I popped a few of the pieces out some paper from the backing board came off to, not a major criticism and to be honest it’s the only complaint I could come up with about the production quality. In terms of playability it was easy to get started and both the boys enjoyed using the spinner (though it was a little fiddly for Alexander’s wee hands he managed fine). To play you pop all the sheep pieces in the middle of the table (in our case the floor) and you each take a turn at using the spinner, the spinner will land on a colour and from here it works a little like bingo/lotto: if the colour on the spinner is the same as the one on your board you take a piece and fill the space, there is the possibility of spinning an ‘any colour’ in which case you choose your own, also you can only use one colour per space. The winner is the first to fill their board with sheep. As I said in the video, the game may not appeal to kids that are a lot older than Logan (he’s nearly 5), but to be honest big brothers/sisters of 7/8 years+ won’t mind helping a younger sibling to learn their colours. Overall it’s a great early colour recognition game and I’ll definitely be using it to help Alexander get ahead on his colours.

The next game we tried ‘Pirate shapes’ is aimed at a slightly younger starting audience and Alexander instantly took to it. He’s a big fan of puzzles so it was no surprise that he was excited to pop the shapes in place and it was a great game for helping him understand about turns (always a difficult one with toddlers). The game is well made and the boards have a nice robust feel, despite the fact that they’re full of holes the boards don’t seem to show any weak points, though this is hard to be sure of in a first play I’m fairly certain this game will weather well (I’ll obviously update this description if it doesn’t weather as well as I thought). It’s a 2-4 player game for 2 1/2 years plus and though the half year confused me at first, once we got playing it started to make sense: Alexander is nearly two and a half and he’s just starting to show the fine motor and shape recognition skills you need to play this game. Each player gets a board with cut out shapes missing from each picture and the object of the game is to find the your missing shape. There is a circle, a square, a triangle, a rectangle, a half circle and an oval missing from each picture and the missing pieces are place face down in the centre of the table/floor. If someone else turns over a shape that fits into your picture you need to remember where that is and pick it up when it’s your turn. ‘Pirate Shapes’ is simple and entertaining game which will help your child to develop both memory and shape recognition skills. To be honest it could also double up as a selection of shape puzzles for a wee one to do on their own (Alexander wouldn’t leave his board alone for about 10-20 minutes after we made the video).

Anyway that’s our review of ‘Baa Baa‘ and ‘Pirate Shapes‘ by Orchard Toys, we hope you enjoyed it and stay tuned for more from the ‘Toy Testers’ in the near future. Thanks for reading (and watching), Cheers, John

(repost) The most visited castle in all the land

I’ve noticed that I don’t have much of a chance to write anything at the start of each week so I thought I’d start a ‘repost Tuesday’ if that’s OK with my readers. This week I thought I’d revisit a post about a toy that turned into a real favourite in our house. Melissa and Doug’s ‘Fold and Go Castle’:

As promised in my last post I’ll be concentrating on a particular toy today: Melissa and Doug’s fold and go castle. Logan got this as a present from Santa when he was two (Christmas of 2010) and as soon as it was opened every other present lost its appeal. This was particularly unusual because up till that point Logan had rarely fixated on a particular toy, he had been more of a hoverer when it came to playing (jigsaws and Manny and Diego excepted). We generally open presents in the morning, have some lunch with my parents and then go visit his other Granny and Grampa for Christmas dinner and this particular year the castle came too.

We had to open his other presents for him, he was so engrossed, and to be honest is was the better part of a week before he played with anything else. Even then the other toys were incorporated into his castle so that we had T-Rex attacks, a visit from a mammoth, a sabre toothed tiger (and their friend the sloth), the inhabitants of the castle even got to know their neighbours (some anthropomorphic animals that lived in a pink doll house we got in a charity shop). Sometimes there would be an attack from a giant Winnie-the-pooh teddy bear and the king and queen were kidnapped at regular intervals by a whole array of different baddies.

Logan isn’t particularly soft on his toys (but he can be careful if he knows something is fragile) and that much play can’t go on forever without some wear and tear, but then this is where the really important quality of wooden toys comes into play: they can be fixed. After well over a year of play some of the furniture started to break, a bit of wood glue, a night to dry and we were back in business (a plastic alternative would have had to go in the bin). The castle itself got a crack, again wood glue and everything sorted. We’ve never had to replace any parts, we’ve only had to stick things back together, the castle has even gone flying down the stairs a couple of times and still it comes up fighting.

The characters inside have never needed repaired (though they have occasionally gone awol for a few weeks) and they still feature in games that Logan (and his wee brother Alexander) play now. Last week the castle broke again (a crack along the hinge), I’m out of wood glue but as soon as I have some more it’ll be back in play.

People point out that wooden toys are more robust but that’s not the whole story: unlike their plastic counterparts wooden toys can be fixed time and time again, even if a piece is damaged beyond repair replacing it is as simple as getting a piece of wood the right size and shape and sticking it on (maybe with a bit of paint if needed). The plastic toys which we encounter every day are great at what they do, and some really are near-on indestructible  (e.g. Lego, Wow toys, Playmobil), but wooden toys give you extra piece of mind. If something becomes a favourite and is played with to destruction it can be as simple as administering some glue and the ‘destruction’ is counteracted. Wooden toys aren’t just more robust they’re practically immortal.

The most visited castle in all the land

As promised in my last post I’ll be concentrating on a particular toy today: Melissa and Doug’s fold and go castle. Logan got this as a present from Santa when he was two (Christmas of 2010) and as soon as it was opened every other present lost its appeal. This was particularly unusual because up till that point Logan had rarely fixated on a particular toy, he had been more of a hoverer when it came to playing (jigsaws and Manny and Diego excepted). We generally open presents in the morning, have some lunch with my parents and then go visit his other Granny and Grampa for Christmas dinner and this particular year the castle came too.

We had to open his other presents for him, he was so engrossed, and to be honest is was the better part of a week before he played with anything else. Even then the other toys were incorporated into his castle so that we had T-Rex attacks, a visit from a mammoth, a sabre toothed tiger (and their friend the sloth), the inhabitants of the castle even got to know their neighbours (some anthropomorphic animals that lived in a pink doll house we got in a charity shop). Sometimes there would be an attack from a giant Winnie-the-pooh teddy bear and the king and queen were kidnapped at regular intervals by whole array of different baddies.

Logan isn’t particularly soft on his toys (but he can be careful if he knows something is fragile) and that much play can’t go on forever without some wear and tear, but then this is where the really important quality of wooden toys comes into play: they can be fixed. After well over a year of play some of the furniture started to break, a bit of wood glue, a night to dry and we were back in business (a plastic alternative would have had to go in the bin). The castle itself got a crack, again wood glue and everything sorted. We’ve never had to replace any parts, we’ve only had to stick things back together, the castle has even gone flying down the stairs a couple of times and still it comes up fighting.

The characters inside have never needed repaired (though they have occasionally gone awol for a few weeks) and they still feature in games that Logan (and his wee brother Alexander) play now. Last week the castle broke again (a crack along the hinge), I’m out of wood glue but as soon as I have some more it’ll be back in play.

People point out that wooden toys are more robust but that’s not the whole story: unlike their plastic counterparts wooden toys can be fixed time and time again, even if a piece is damaged beyond repair replacing it is as simple as getting a piece of wood the right size and shape and sticking it on (maybe with a bit of paint if needed). The plastic toys which we encounter every day are great at what they do and some really are near-on indestructible  (e.g. Lego, Wow toys, Playmobil) but wooden toys give you extra piece of mind. If something becomes a favourite and is played with to destruction it can be as simple as administering some glue and the ‘destruction’ is counteracted. Wooden toys aren’t just more robust they’re practically immortal.