Published on By Gina Briles
Moshi Monsters Moshlings Review
From $6 Best
Moshi Monsters toys are a budget-friendly gift hot among kids who play the online game.
Moshi Monsters Moshling figures (starting at $6, Amazon) are more than just another cute collectible craze. These tiny, plastic creatures are the newest merchandise extension of the wildly popular Moshi Monsters online game. Developed by the British media company Mind Candy, the Moshi Monsters site allows kids to adopt, raise, and tend to virtual monster pets. By completing puzzles, players earn Rox, in-game currency that can be exchanged for clothing, food, and even furniture for the not-so-scary critters. Monster owners also collect little animals called Moshlings by planting seeds to grow the flowers that attract them -- or by visiting the local toy store and bringing home three-packs of Moshling mini-figures, a more tangible version of the online experience.
Our 8-year-old tester regularly plays the online game, so she squealed with delight as soon as she spied the toys. The packs include three randomly chosen Moshlings, one of which is hidden from sight and marketed as a "mystery Moshling." Immediately our tester turned to the enclosed pamphlet to identify her acquisitions: Chop Chop the ninja monkey, Stanley the seahorse, and an ultra-rare purple glitter Honey Bunny as her mystery prize. She then pulled out her Moshling collectors guide from a nearby drawer and seemed exceedingly pleased with her new collection. However, despite getting a rare Moshling in her pack, she noted that the transparent, sparkly plastic was too hard to see and said she kind of liked the regular version better. She also said she wished the plastic figures were squishier, like Squinkies, the tiny toy collectibles.
While Toys R Us has the Moshi Monster figures on its list of hot holiday toys, online reviews are rather scarce, because the product is new on the market. All three comments posted on the Toys R Us site are positive. Two reviewers enthuse about the enclosed Moshi Monster codes, which get players free merchandise and premium membership trials. The codes excited our tester as well. As far as durability is concerned, one parent posting on Amazon warns that the painted details wear off over time.
Moshi Monsters toys are a budget-friendly gift hot among kids who play the online game. Both the game and the characters are designed for children ages 7 to 12, so it's best to avoid gifting these little bitty pals to the very young.
Squinkies Tea Time Surprise Review
From $8.75 Best
These tiny toys are only growing in popularity. Luckily for parents, Squinkies come with a modest price tag.
Squinkies are squishy, thumb-nail-sized collectibles that double as pencil eraser toppers. These tiny toys come in the form of people or animals encased in clear plastic "gumballs". Play sets, like the Squinkies Tea Time Surprise (starting at $10, Amazon) set we tested in our Squinkies Tea Time Surprise review, are designed to dispense these "gumballs" when young collectors insert a plastic coin and turn the knob. The Tea Time Surprise set includes two plastic coins and five Squinkies.
Once given the Tea Time play set, our eight-year-old child tester quickly busied herself with unwrapping and exploring it. During the Squinkies Tea Time Surprise review, she got a kick out of the gumball vending feature and discovered a way to "store" the plastic coins in the coin return slot. She did comment that the little tokens would be easy to lose, though. Luckily, as one parent mentions in a review on Amazon, regular U.S. pennies and dimes also work in a pinch.
The young toy connoisseur participating in our Squinkies Tea Time Surprise review was pleased with the cute factor of the included Squinkies, but seemed to have some difficulty opening and closing the plastic spheres they came in if they weren't aligned just so. All in all, this toy was a hit.
We found only a dozen or so Tea Time Surprise reviews online, where it is sometimes called the Squinkies Twisters Teapot, but they were positive overall. The most common complaint concerned the size of this toy. Adults, like one who posted a review on Amazon, grouse that it will store only a half dozen Squinkies, but kids don't seem to mind this limitation. If the child you're buying for has a large collection of Squinkies, you may want to consider a play set with more storage. The Squinkies Cupcake Surprise Bakeshop (starting at $25, Amazon) and the large version of the Squinkies Gumball Surprise (starting at $18, Amazon) will hold 15 plastic-encased Squinkies each, while the Squinkies Palace Surprise (starting at $14, Amazon) displays up to 96 Squinkies without their capsules.
Squinkies are only growing in popularity, and seem to be sticking around. Look for new collections to launch this summer, including Hello Kitty, Barbie, and Disney Princess Squinkies for girls and Hot Wheels and Cars 2 Squinkies for boys.
If you're seeking educational toys or classic appeal, Squinkies may not impress you. Kids love them, however. Since testing the Tea Time Surprise play set with our 8-year-old toy expert, she and her two siblings have acquired more than 30 additional Squinkies and a Palace Surprise play set. Luckily for their parents, Squinkies come with a modest price tag. The Tea Time Surprise play set starts at $10, standard 16-piece Squinkies bubble packs cost just under $10, and Squinkies Share N Wear charm bracelet sets will only set you back around $5.
Kids love to collect things. Whether they're amassing an army of action figures or piling on armfuls of bracelets, the more the merrier seems to be their philosophy. Below is a glimpse of a few cheap toy collectibles appearing on wish lists of kids we know. Some seem more like girls' toys and others like toys for boys, but you'll know what appeals to the intended recipient. Cheap toy collectibles are inevitably a big hit because you're buying something you know the child really likes, either as an addition to a growing collection or the start of one.
Cheap Toy Collectibles Buying Guide
Squinkies (starting at $9/pack of 16) are tiny pencil-toppers encased in gumball-sized plastic spheres; the creatures inside the bubble range from babies to princesses to animals. Another toy collectible, the Squinkies playsets (starting at $12) double as candy-style dispensers, operated by inserting special plastic coins included with each set. Silly Bandz, shaped rubber-band bracelets, come in 24-packs in a large variety of themes, such as Pets (starting at $3.50), Rock Bandz (starting at $3), and even Justin Bieber (starting at $6). A competing brand, Forever Collectibles, sells bracelets licensed by Disney, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Harry Potter, the NFL, and others. The 20 bracelet packs of silicone bands include Disney Princesses (starting at $4), Spiderman (starting at $3), Toy Story 3 (starting at $3), and Ironman (starting at $3). Smencils (starting at $11/pack of 10) are scented colored pencils made from recycled newspapers and come in their own scent-preserving case.
Movie action figures have long been, and continue to be, big draws for elementary-school-aged theater-goers. Toy collectibles for your young movie-hero groupie include the Toy Story 3 Action Figure Buddy Pack (starting at $8), an Ironman Action Figure of Mark III (starting at $10), or a Star Wars The Saga Legend 3.75 Inch Action Figure of a Clone Trooper (starting at $8).
Grade-schoolers love stockpiling cheap collectible toys like Squinkies and Toy Story action figures, hauling them out when friends come over and regaling dinner guests with the stats on each piece in their collection. What's hard to determine from toy reviews is how much entertainment value these cheap toys for kids actually have. Are they fun to play with or just fun to talk about and display on a shelf? Toy reviews of Iron Man action figures on Toys R Us indicate both uses keep youngsters and adults(!) happy, although the made-to-play camp seems to dominate.
Toy collectibles have some inherent limitations. They tend to be small or come with little pieces, so you don't want to leave them lying about when toddlers are nearby. Moreover, notes a toy review of Squinkies on the Walmart site, these little items are prone to being misplaced. They also have minimal educational value, and their durability is questionable. That said, kids who hoard them can't seem to get enough, and while they may not teach teamwork, they can teach children about trade and barter.