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GIANTmicrobes© Stuffed Toys Review by Donna Campos

By Drew Oliver
Giantmicrobes, Inc.
78 Harvard Avenue, Suite 300
Stamford, CT 06902

This review includes eight of the many available plush items in the line of GIANTmicrobes' products: The Common Cold, The Flu, Stomach Ache, Brain Cell, Red Blood Cell, E. coli, Penicillin, and Swine Flu As stuffed animals designed to look like tiny microbes with eyes, these items are a million times the actual size of the items they represent. They range in size from 5 to 9 inches long and come in a variety of shapes (e.g., a circle for the red blood cell, an oval for the flu, and unique shapes with finger-like extensions for the brain cell). They also come in a variety of colors: red for the Red Blood Cell, turquoise for the Common Cold, a gray Brain Cell, green for the Flu, and brown for E. coli. Each one has an attached tag with an image and information about the microbe it represents. The toys are surface washable with warm water and mild soap. 

These stuffed toys could be used as fun learning tools or amusing gifts for anyone with a sense of humor. The eight included in this review represent several of the different categories available. Penicillin and Swine Flu are part of the "Exotics" category, while Brain Cell and Red Blood Cell are "Corporeals." The Common Cold, The Flu, and Stomach Ache are members of the "Health" category. E. coli is in the "Alimentaries" category. Other categories include "Infirmaries" (Toxic Mold, Chicken Pox, and more), "Tropicals" (Malaria, Gangrene, and more), "Aquatics" (Algae, Red Tide, and others), and "Maladies" (Bad Breath, Athlete's Foot, and more), just to name a few. Each attached tag is a glossy cardstock folded card with text on the inside. The Product Catalog includes photos of each plush item along with its scientific name, all organized by category. The toys are also available in sets of 3 Mini plush dolls in a Petri dish. Some of the most popular ones are also available in a gigantic size of 15 to 20 inches.

The information included on each tag is educational as well as humorous. For example, the Brain Cell tag states that "the average three-year-old has ten times as many [synapses] as the average adult" and then goes on to a sentence with quite a few difficult words, commenting, "If you need help with that sentence, ask a toddler." As for the actual information, we found no reference to evolution or anything else upsetting to our family on any of the dolls in this review. There are some references to vaccines, but nothing particularly relating to the choice to vaccinate. The information is thorough enough to include that since flu shots are made with eggs, people allergic to eggs should not get the shots. In our homeschool, we used the Red Blood Cell to interest our younger children as our older children used a microscope. The informative card explained that red blood cells are produced in bone marrow, take a week to be made, and last about six months. Also included are symptoms of a low red blood cell count, which include pale skin, fatigue, and accelerated heart rate. The unique shape of the red blood cells is also explained; they "typically have a distinctive biconcave shape that helps maximize surface area to facilitate the exchange of gases." For a 5-inch plush doll, I'd say that is pretty educational information! And bits of history are on the cards as well. The Flu tells us that in 1918 there was a worldwide pandemic of Spanish flu. Penicillin tells of Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovering the antibacterial effects of Penicillium in 1928.

Unfortunately, the attached tags are the only place you will find the information. If the tags are bent or mutilated by active children, they will not hold up. We would have liked to see all of the information openly shared on the website, within the catalog, or in a more long-term form with each doll. Our family is choosing to keep the little guys boxed between uses with our science homeschool activities.

Our family has fallen in love with these toys! They are absolutely hilarious in a ridiculous sort of way. When we first took them out of the box, it was the adults and college kids who went crazy over them! What's not to love about a stuffed doll that looks like a brain cell with eyeballs? My children also had great fun throwing the E. coli doll at friends when they were just hanging out. It became a family prank to walk into a room filled with friends and toss a "germ" at someone while screaming that they were going to get sick. Once thrown, these little stuffed microbes attract attention, induce laughter, and cause recipients to take a minute to stop and read the attached information card! 

GIANTmicrobes© are a giant hit in our home and will be for years to come! I suggest hanging the Common Cold near a bathroom sink as a seasonal reminder for good hand-washing. Or place E. coli in the kitchen as a comical but very real reminder to cook meat thoroughly.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2010