Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2014 Toys
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $49.95

The Jumperbot, enables children to build eight spring-powered machines and shows how, through play, springs and cams work in real machines. With contents that feel a lot like LEGOs (bright and colorful bits that easily fit together) a 24-page engaging instruction manual, and a variety of "experiments" kids have a lot of opportunity to design their play and find fun. While the kit has a motor that requires batteries, not all of the experiments (i.e. toys is a better description because they are so fun) require them, which extends the kit's appeal.

As a building toy, the Jumperbot construction and experiments gets kids engaged very quickly. Beyond simple building, it also leverages "thinking with your hands," dimensional thinking (2D drawings to 3D construction) and it encourages thinking flexibly with pieces that can be re-used across experiments. It begins to get into analogy with its examples of other forms of energy and easy to grasp similarities between a ball point pen and one of the experiments. All of these play values are further amplified by a nice layer of science -the physics of weight, mass and force. The variety of toys that can be built (robot, car, crab, kicking machine, grappler claw, amusement park ride and more) helps children see core mechanical elements as "powering" many everyday products as well as their imaginations.

While the toy itself is not entirely original, its overall design, playful learning amplification, educational opportunities, and appeal are. My only recommendation for improvement would be a suggestion at the end of the booklet for kids to make or invent their own toys and invite them to share their inventions online.

Laura Seargeant Richardson   ©2014 Parents' Choice
Currently a Creative Director at argo design, Laura spent more than a decade at frog design, an innovation consultancy. As a designer, speaker, author and mother, Laura believes play is the greatest natural resource in a creative economy and is on a mission to empower kids to be designers of their own play.

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