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As a kid, I distinctly remember that the grown ups would all start getting giddy this time of year. One television commercial captured the sentiment well, and it sticks out in my memory. A mom and dad are skipping through an office-supply store pushing a shopping cart. With big grins on their faces, they twirl around tossing paper, pencils, and binders into the cart all while their kids look on with distain and the Christmas carol blares in the background: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Yes, Labor Day is fast approaching, and that means back-to-school time is in full swing. As a kid I didn’t completely understand why my parents loved this time of year so. In fact, it kind of hurt my feelings when mom and dad waved goodbye furiously and cheerfully to my brothers and me on the first day of school as we hopped on our bikes and rode off. Didn’t they want us around?
Now that I have kiddos of my own, I so get it. I bet I’ll get it even more when my kids are teenagers. For some reason the further summer progressed, the wilder my boys became. It’s to the point now where they are climbing the walls. I don’t know for sure, but I think they just really need the continuity and structure of school again. I find myself singing that darn Christmas carol, and I too have an extra jaunt in my step!
This week’s toys fit in nicely at this time of year. The D.I.Y T-Shirt Ties Kit is the perfect craft to kill time these last few dog days of summer while creating a unique way to accessorize those back-to-school outfits. And the Slingshot Soakers Kit is a great after-school activity to blow off some steam during the warm Indian summer days ahead. And the great thing about both of these items is that they've been exclusively developed by the folks Learning Express Toys - which means you won't find them anywhere else!
The Orb Factory’s D.I.Y. T-Shirt Ties
I haven’t seen these t-shirt ties since the 80s, but my toy testers Anna, 11, and Megan, 9, assure me that they are once again on trend.
“Oh my gosh, these are so great! I’ve been looking for a good t-shirt tie. Now I don’t have to use a hair elastic anymore!” said Anna. T-shirt ties are definitely back in style!
The girls got to work straight away. The kit has a variety of t-shirt tie shapes, including hearts, butterflies, and the more traditional round form. After picking the shape you want, you then pick from the many patterns to trace onto your t-shirt tie. The girls loved the animal print motifs as well as the owls.
Anna and Megan spent a good hour and a half coloring their t-shirt ties with the included colored pencils. The kit also includes charms you can design to hang off your t-shirt tie, as well stylish chains and jump rings to attach the charmsThe charms really were the icing on the cake for the girls.
When you are all though coloring your masterpiece, you are ready for the best part. Simply slip your creation into the oven for 3 minutes, and it miraculously shrinks down to the proper t-shirt tie size as well as hardens into a thick, sturdy, glossy plastic.
“Wow, the colors really pop!” exclaimed Megan. She’s right. The colored pencil designs are subtler upon entering the oven. But the shrinking/baking process really concentrates the color, and the final product is quite vibrant.
Overall, the D.I.Y. T-Shirt Tie kit is super fun and super easy. These girls are coveting a t-shirt tie to compliment their back-to-school outfits, so why not give them a way to get the accessory they crave while getting their creative juices flowing? It’s a win-win situation!
The Orb Factory’s Slingshot Soakers
Wow, my brothers would have LOVED this toy. It’s a giant slingshot that shoots sopping-wet sponge balls up to 50 feet into the air – what’s not to love?
Anna and Megan thoroughly enjoyed the Slingshot Soaker. I love toys that transition from craft project to game, and this kit certainly fits the bill. The girls loved making the sponge balls and were excited to bring them outside and launch them. It’s thrilling to launch something so high and so far, and there were lots of oohs and aahs and shrieks of laughter. Rather quickly though, the men at our family barbeque absconded with the toy, much to the joy of their inner 12-year-old selves!
The slingshot comes with uniquely designed sponge balls that hold a good amount of water and deliver a wet but harmless blow to their targets.
One person can hurl sponge balls off the foot launcher slingshot by sitting down and using their arms and legs. However, our crew found it loads of fun for three people to get involved in the launching process; even though the slingshot is designed as a foot launcher it can also held in your hands so a third person can shoot the sponge. It’s always helpful if a toy is good for a single kid or good for a crowd!
Of course, we had to think about other objects we could eventually launch from this contraption. Water balloons were certainly at the top of our list!
This Slingshot Soaker would be a fabulous way to celebrate the last warm days of the year and give the kids a really fun after-school activity to soften the set back of suddenly having to sit in a desk all day.
Happy back to school season to all!
– Katherine Riolo
Greetings, Learning Expressions Readers!
Today I want to introduce you to two new members of the Home Office, as well as two of our favorite new exclusive products here at Learning Express. If you ever stop by our Devens, MA headquarters you’ll most likely be greeted by the one and only Doyle Derse. Doyle is a 13 week old golden retriever, and he can be usually be found carrying his favorite dog toy (currently a pink Monstaz) around the office. You may also bump into Maggie Davies if you come and visit us here. Maggie hangs out a couple of times a week in the Marketing Department and loves to chase squirrels and eat leaves during her lunch break.
While they’re not dozing under desks, Doyle and Maggie love to sniff out new products. This week, they took a look at two Learning Express Exclusives: The Zebra Chair and the Get Wired Kit.
The Zebra Chair:
Moon chairs are the perfect addition to any tween’s room. They are cute, comfortable, and super sturdy. Doyle and Maggie are both big fans of this particular item! The Learning Express Zebra Chair comes to you in one piece but consists of two parts: the frame andthe cushion. The ultra-comfy cushion is bright pink on the underside and has a soft-to-the-touch zebra print pattern on the other. The metal base can quickly be folded down for storage or easily opened up for lounging around. The cushion includes a handy built in pocket that’s perfect for storing a magazine or even some dog toys. The chair is 30 inches in diameter and can hold up to 220 pounds.
All in all, we think the Zebra Chair is the perfect pick for any style discerning tween on your shopping list this season!
The Get Wired Kit:
When we decided that Maggie and Doyle should definitely have matching friendship bracelets, making them with the Get Wired kit was a no brainer. While playing around with some electrical wire last year, our product developer Sandie (who we will be interviewing next week) had an Aha! moment. Why not create a kit that uses telephone wire to create fun jewelry?? Thanks to a collaboration with the folks at The Orb Factory, the Get Wired Kit was born! Let’s take a look at how it works.
The Get Wired Kit comes with a number of different pieces, as shown here. They include: 105 feet of telephone wire, a wire styler, 2 coiling rods, elastic cord, and jewelry finishings.
To get started, you need to snap together the two pieces of the wire styler, stick it to your work surface with the provided suction cups, and then insert the end of the coiling rod into the top of the styler. Once that’s set up, attach the ends of your wire to the coiling rod (we experimented with one piece, two pieces, and three pieces but you can use up to five).
Hold the pieces of wire in one hand and then turn your rod with the other. In no time, you’ll have made a unique, gorgeous bracelet! There are lots of different styles you can experiment with, and the included jewelry finishings make it easy to transform your colorful coils into earrings, necklaces, rings, and more!
We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about this week’s exclusives— Maggie and Doyle give them both two paws up!
Talk to you again soon!