Product Reviews - The Old Schoolhouse


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The Way Things Work Game Review by Tammy Walker

International Playthings
75D Lackawanna Avenue
Parsippany, NJ 07054
(973) 316-2500

Calling all pre-engineers and handymen!  Do you want your children to know which way a sail boat will turn if you turn the tiller to the left?  Do your children know what people used to write on before paper was invented?  Which end of a magnet is attracted to another magnet?  Which wheel spins faster around a turn, the inside or outside?  Mechanically minded children (ten and older) should get a kick out of this game.  Those not mechanically inclined will hopefully learn a bit!
The game is broken down into three levels, so children slightly younger than ten may be able to enjoy it.  I played with my six-year-old son who seemed to get some enjoyment, though most of the concepts were over his head.  He loved collecting the tools! 
At level one, the player who collects all six tools from one of the four closed toolboxes is the winner.  Play begins by the youngest player rolling his die and moving in either direction the number of spaces indicates.  If he lands on a space that pictures a tool, he may open a toolbox and retrieve that tool, but he must be careful not to open a box in which that tool has already been removed or he receives nothing.  If he lands on a space that says, “toolbox,” he may open any toolbox and take a tool he does not yet have.  If he lands on a broken space and he has the tool to repair the problem, he may go again.  If not, he loses his turn.  If he lands on a space with a question mark, he chooses a What? When? Where? Why? How? “Question” card.   When he answers three such cards correctly, he may exchange them for a missing tool.  When all six tools are collected, he wins.
At level two, not only must the winner collect all six tools, he must also collect one “Question” card, one “Use Your Head” card, and a Certificate of Brilliance.  Most of the rules from level one apply except the “Use Your Head” cards were bypassed.  In level two, your child will use simple machines he has made (materials provided) to answer questions from this card pile.  For example, he will use a scale to make objects balance or simple ramps to guess which way an object will roll.  If he answers his question correctly, he keeps the card and gets a tool.  Once he has earned his six tools, “Question” card, and his “Use Your Head” card, he will try to land on a space marked “Brilliant” before he can cross the finish line and win the game.
Level three is just like level two except it utilizes a mini book, “50 Absolutely Amazing Experiments.”  When a player lands on a “tool” space, before he can retrieve a tool, he must solve an absolutely amazing experiment.  The experiments solve questions about how scales work, how objects react when using ramps, how simple electricity works, and many more.  Most materials are included, though many are simple items found in most homes.  Level three creates a much more hands-on learning experience.

For families with engineers or who are more mechanically minded, this game will easily find a home with you.  My engineering husband will greatly enjoy working with our son when he is a little older building simple ramps, talking about fulcrums and gears, and why objects move faster in differing situations.  Though a bit complex to play, this game offers a unique form of entertainment with real educational value. 

Product review by Tammy Walker, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2008