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Spark Talking Microscope

Spark_Microscope.jpgChristmas can be a real challenge when you're raising quirky kids. When your kids get more out of Dirty Jobs than High School Musical, traditional toy stores can leave you in the lurch. Seriously, you want to see my kids go nuts? Hand them the Discovery Store catalog.

When the Parent Bloggers Network offered the chance for me to review one of Discovery Kids' hot toys for Christmas, I knew it was going to be a hit at our house. When I ripped open the carton and saw the Spark Talking Microscope in the box, I did a little end-zone dance.

I'll admit, one of the major problems I have with "science toys" is the mess. Chemistry sets and electronic kits are a little advanced for my kids, and frankly, I can't even keep track of the legos - the thought of dealing with traditional microscopes with their glass slides and sensitive lenses gives me hives. I want my kids to love science, and I love to encourage their exploration, but I don't want to have to constantly admonish and correct. The Spark Talking Microscope is a perfect option for families of younger kids who are hungry for a magnified view, with parents who don't want to micromanage the learning experience.

First of all, it is designed in one solid piece, lightweight enough for kids to handle confidently. The controls are easily manipulated by small hands, and intuitive. Each "slide" features a detailed image of an creepy crawly, and by entering a simple three digit code, kids can access trivia or a quiz about each slide. The slides snap easily in and out of the stage clip, and allow kids to move at their own pace.

I really liked the parent's guide - this handy "lab assistant guide" provides a great framework to help you help your child explore. This is a child-led activity, and I've got to say, all three of my kids were enthralled by the process of viewing the slides, learning the facts and then taking the quizzes. I've been regaled with factoids about bugs for the last two weeks, people. All in all, at least I have a fighting chance in an insect-trivia contest, unlike the Pokemon pop quizzes my kids love to throw at me.

Want one? Go get it!

Want to hear what other bloggers had to say? Check out the roundup over at the Parent Bloggers Network.