July 8, 2014

#WildKratts Toys Are Here! - A Review

"I'm too excited to eat!" my 5 year-old daughter declared.

I had checked the tracking information before breakfast, and announced our sample of Wild Kratts toys would be arriving that day. She parked herself by a window in the living room, looking out at the street.

"I'm staying here until they come."

I explained the time would pass more quickly if she occupied herself in some way. I encouraged her to play. Read a book. Heck, I didn't care if she watched TV. As long as she stopped asking me every few minutes, "When are they going to come?!"

She remained at the window pretty much the entire day, taking breaks only to eat or go to the bathroom. The package arrived after 7PM, as I was getting her ready for bed. Which made for a long day.

But really, we have been anticipating the new line of Wild Kratts toys for much longer than that. I first learned of plans for a toy line during a Twitter chat with the Kratt brothers in January 2013. Then, when we met them last February, I asked for more info.

In October 2013, the Kratt Brothers Company announced a deal with Wicked Cool Toys to develop the line of toys in support of the show. We were very excited to have the opportunity to receive some samples in advance of the official launch. You can see the items we received in this video, as well as my daughter's reaction to them (check your settings to make sure you are watching in HD):

Now, I'll offer my thoughts from a parental perspective. Some things I really liked about the Wild Kratts toys overall:

Promote imaginative play - The first thing my daughter wanted to do when we received the samples was create a creature power disc for her favorite animal - the tiger. Once we had, she put on the creature power suit with last year's Halloween costume, touched one of her stuffed tigers to activate her creature powers, and made up her own episode of the show. I believe that was the first of many personal Wild Kratts episodes I will be seeing play out in our household.

Incorporate well with existing toys - We have more animal toys in this house than I care to count, in every size, shape and material imaginable. My daughter took Martin on adventures in the Createrra using her existing animal toys. It didn't matter that we had not received all the different action figures from the line. It was easy to work with what we already had. Which I very much appreciated. She even set him up in her doll house, (after he returned from Siberia, where he was studying tigers).

Function as stand alone toys - Most toy lines today are designed in such a way that in order to get the most enjoyment from them, you need to make multiple purchases. "Sets" are sold in separate components, the individual ones not necessarily intended as stand alone toys. The Wild Kratts line somewhat fits this model. (And as a former marketing professional, I understand.) But while my child would love to have pretty much every toy available, I appreciate that she can take any individual component and have fun with it. They certainly build on one another, and she hopes to have them all eventually, but each component can work well all by itself.

My thoughts on the individual samples we received:

Creature Power Suit

I was happy to receive this item, because I am not crafty. Many fans of the show make their own. I have seen tutorials and the finished products, and they are awesome. I'm not sure how my attempts would turn out, however. My daughter appreciated the authenticity of this item, and I enjoyed not having to make one myself. 

The set is well constructed. The suit and gloves are padded. The fabric is very nice. The vest has three velcro straps on each side and one on one shoulder, so it is easy to put on and adjust for your child. But I have the feeling there will be some very disappointed kids who will not be able to fit into it. The suit comes in one size, 4-6X. The gloves were large enough to fit me, but the vest seems to be more limited. Given that the target demographic for the show is 4-8 years old, I think there should be more size options available. I agree with my daughter on that one!

The creature power discs are about the size of a half dollar. And very easily misplaced by young children. (Or at least my child.) The suit comes with two discs, and there are plastic pockets for storing them (one on the vest and one on a glove). As you buy other items in the line, you can collect more creature power discs. However, my daughter and I created our own, thanks to the internet and the creativity of other Wild Kratts fans. So she was able to have any creature powers she wanted.

Creaturepod Projector

This is a very cool toy. It looks just like the creaturepods Chris and Martin use in the show, and comes with a velcro band so it can be fitted on the forearm. When you press a button, the toy projects images from the show. There are 20 different ones.  You use a turnable dial to scroll through them. You can adjust the focus for each image by turning the lens.

She has had a ball with this thing. Thankfully, it included batteries, so she could begin to use it right away. Since the package arrived late in the evening, we got in her bed with the lights out and projected the images on the ceiling. (As a side note, this also makes a great cat toy. Ours enjoyed it as much if not better than the laser pointer we sometimes use with them.)

My daughter also used her creaturepod like the brothers do in the show. She would communicate with Aviva in the Tortuga, pretend to record animal data for creating new creature power suits, and call for help when she got into a bind, as Chris and Martin often do.

Createrra Creature Rescue Set

This set includes a vehicle and figurine. And man does it zip! Especially on our hardwood floors. The doors open and, to my daughter's delight, the steering wheel moves. Although the wheels of the vehicle do not move as you adjust the steering wheel. The doors are very stiff, and you have to pull hard to get them to open. But pull too hard, and they come off. They are easy to put back on. But they were falling off so often I finally had to tell my daughter to leave them alone. (Note: I informed Wicked Cool Toys about this issue. They were very responsive, appreciative and are looking into it, working to determine if changes need to be made to the production line.)

The Martin figure that came with the Createrra is about three inches tall. It was difficult to move his arms and legs initially so we could sit him in the vehicle. Over time, this became easier, just like with the vehicle doors (and his arms/legs have not fallen off!). The figure is not articulated. There are no elbows or knees. And the arms and legs do not move independently. He does stand on his own, and is sized just right for the driver's seat. You can even get his hands to grip the steering wheel.

My daughter was able to fit some of her own animal figures in the back of the Createrra. So Martin could drive them places and go on all kinds of adventures...

One of the reasons I love the show Wild Kratts, as a parent, is that it is quality educational television. My daughter truly learns from watching. Hubby and I learn things. Even my daughter's teachers have picked up new animal facts she has shared with them! The web games and apps developed in support of the show have done a great job of carrying that on. And now it seems the toy line will do the same.

Disclaimer: I received samples of Wild Kratts toys in exchange for this review. However, all opinions expressed are my own. See full disclosure statement here.

Special thank you to Christian Eigenheer, whose creature power disc templates I found here. It was thanks to his blank templates my daughter and I were able to make the tiger disc seen in the photo above. 

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