Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hoagies' Gifted Top Toys of 2011!

What were the top toys of the 2011 holiday shopping season? The press will tell you it's Angry Birds and Disney Princesses. Gifted kids often have different opinions, but this comes as no surprise to you. What toys and games excite our gifted kids this season?

Our countdown this inaugural year includes a wide variety of toys and games, featuring something for every age and play style. Young kids, construction champions, teens, strategists, word gamers and more... there's something for everyone!

Popular for the third straight year, Khet is the laser strategy game for kids and adults. It takes a subtle strategy to line up your pieces while you protect yourself from your opponent!

A perennial favorite for gifted kids of all ages (especially me!), SET makes the list again this year. Fun for all ages, SET is simple to learn: find a set of three cards where all the characteristics of the card are either alike or different. There are 3 shapes, in 3 different colors, with 3 different fills, and either 1, 2 or 3 of the shape on the card. But though it's simple to learn, just wait until your whole family or group is circled around the tableau of cards, all trying to be the first to spot a set of three cards that make up a SET! Great visual/spatial fun for all!

From Blue-Orange games, a new game called Spot-It makes the list for younger kids with rave reviews. Spot-It is comfortable as a 2-player game for a little quiet fun, or up to an 8-player for tons of party fun. And with 5 different variations to play, Spot-It never gets old!

Looking for a game that's tons of fun, and doubles as a 2e teaching tool? Rory's Story Cubes lets your imagination roll wild! Roll the nine dice, each with a different icon on each side, and look at the face up images. Pick an image to start your story. Beginning with "Once upon a time...", make up a story that somehow links all 9 face up images. There are no wrong answers!

Snap Circuits continues to engage gifted kids in construction challenges for young and old alike. Beginners can try Snap Circuits Jr. while older tinkerers will love Snap Circuits Extreme. No matter which version, there are tons of great projects to complete and experiment with!

MindWare provides three of our most popular board games: Q-bitz and Qwirkle. Q-bitz is visual dexterity, cubed. View a picture, and use your cubes to recreate the challenge exactly before your opponents do. Fast fun! And if you run out of challenges, you can get 100 more! Qwirkle is a bit like dominoes but with colors and shapes. It's easy to learn, but hard to master. Imaginets is a creative design toy for the youngest gifted kids. Use your imagination and the Imaginets magnets to create the designs on the 50 challenge cards, or create your own designs.

Looking for a quick card game, where the rules are different every time? You guessed it... Fluxx! Not only are the rules in Fluxx, but the versions are, too! This year's most popular versions include Fluxx 4.0, as well as EcoFluxx for our ecology-minded families, and Star Fluxx for our sci-fi aficionados.

Next on our countdown are Tekton Girder & Panel sets, including the Tower, Plaza & Hydrodynamic sets. Classic construction kits first introduced in the 1950's, these collections of columns, beams and side panels make building simple and educational. Of course the pieces are interchangeable, so each new set expands the last one.

Lego sets are ever-popular gifted-kid construction sets, and this year is no exception. The most popular this year are the Lego Architecture sets, with new designs for 2011. Don't miss the Burj Khalifa Dubai and White House sets among other great Lego Architecture sets!

The next most popular game is also from Out of the Box: 10 Days in... There are 10 Days versions for Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the USA, and they're all popular. 10 Days in... is a strategy game where you start with 10 tiles, and you must create a trip around... the geographic region of the game. Tiles include boats, planes and foot travel, as well as countries from throughout the region (or U.S. states). Follow the travel rules to create a seamless trip, and you win! This game, too, is popular in my house of teens+, as well as with my elementary-school aged nieces.

Thinkfun toys and games are also near the top of the list. Math Dice is a great pocket game for 2 or more, or even solitaire. Use the target dice (n-gons) to multiply to a target number, and the 6-sided dice to get as close to that number as possible. Decimals, fractions, they're all legal if you're the closest to the goal! Swish is a card game. Use your spatial sense to combine cards and remove them from the playing field. Each set of 2-12 cards you combine must match up perfectly so that every ball on one card swishes through a hoop of the same color on another card when the cards are all lined up neatly. It's a tricky little game! PathWords is a puzzle where Word Search meets Tetris. Place your pieces onto the challenge card so that the letters under each piece are a word, read either backwards or forwards. 40 challenges from Beginner to Expert, PathWords is sure to challenge everyone!

Rush Hour is the perennial favorite; slid the pieces around the board to help the car escape the Rush Hour traffic jam. Cars can only move either up and down or side to side, making it more than a little tricky to navigate the traffic. If you've mastered all 40 challenges, check out cards Set 2, Set 3, and Set 4, each with a new car, too! Gordian's Knot is a hands-on puzzle of only 6 pieces. Sounds simple, but you'll need 69 moves to get them apart. The second challenge is to get them back together again!

That's all the ThinkFun puzzles and games we'll mention here, but there are many more great ones. Visit Thinkfun to see them all!

The number two most popular is a card game, 7 Ate 9, from Out of the Box. 7 Ate 9 is simple enough to understand, but tricky to play... you have to think fast! Players add or subtract 1, 2 or 3 to or from the top card on the pile, and place a card from their hand that matches that number. Sounds simple, but if the top number is 2, and the add/subtract number is 3, you're looking for a 5 or a ... -1? No negatives, so you wrap-around to a 9. (Yes, for you math geeks, this is a mod 10 game.) Tons of fun for kids as soon as they can add and subtract single digits, right up through adult. My daughter always beats me!

The top toy for gifted kids this year is... (drum roll please)... Perplexus! Available for a limited time some years back, gifted kids adored Perplexus. Then it disappeared... and it's back! Perplexus is a marble maze encased in a plastic ball that you move, twist and turn to lead the small metal marble along the path, right-side up, upside down, and every which way, from start to finish. This year it's available in three flavors: the original Perplexus (with 100 challenges), Perplexus Epic (with 125 challenges) and Perplexus Rookie (with "only" 75 challenges). Mr. Hoagie is happy that Perplexus is back, because it's one of his favorites and his was broken at a gifted gathering a few years back. Great hands-on toy for young and old!

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