Being a toy tester is a fun job. It gives me a chance to explore something new with my kids, and I love to watch their reactions as they experience interesting sights and sounds for the first time.
I can’t say we’ve ever had any duds dumped on us by the lovely folks at PTPA. But, for the most, part, toys are just toys. They’re material things that help us piece together different parts of our day . Some are more educational than others. Some are just pure fun.
Rarely do both of my kids enjoy the same toy; after all, one of them is now 21 months old and the other is four. They’re in very different stages. One’s a boy and one’s a girl. We try not to define our toy experiences by gender in this house, but nature calls and The K Man generally enjoys trucks and tractors and Things That Make Loud Noises, while Miss Q wants to dress up in bunny ears, sunglasses and a feather boa. At the same time.
And, typically, they have a love affair with a toy for a few days – maybe a week – and then want to explore something new for a while. (I really wish I was one of those moms who was organized enough to rotate toys, but I’m just not. Toy rotation in my house looks more like this: if it gets thrown into a bin within child-reaching distance, it’s in the rotation!)
It has been our great privilege to evaluate this experiential toy and help award it with the PTPA Seal of Approval. The new Symphony in B. is a special toy that will be in our family for many years. Hard to categorize, and so intriguingly hard to describe well – I’ll try to do it justice (and may just post a video on my YouTube channel as well).
Basically, there are 13 instruments (clarinet, flute, tuba, trumpet, xylophone, drums, cymbals, piano, accordion, koto, guitar, violin and sitar) – which form your own personal orchestra and can be combined to a maximum of six instruments at a time. Let’s get on with this glowing review.
There are 15 songs. Full songs – not song samples. And a set of lyrics, too, so you’ll also finally know the words to “I’m washin’ up my baby grumble-bee,” as my four year old sings it.
The age recommendation on the packaging is four to 13 (though online it’s three to 13), but I think this discredits even younger kids. Although Miss Q likes to swipe all of the instruments clear off the Symphony in B. panel at least seven times a day, she also very much knows how to use every component of this toy. This experience. She’s not two and has it pretty much mastered – and LOVES it. As does The K Man. As did our neighbour’s two and four year olds. As did The K Man’s young cousins. As does my 65-year-old father. In fact, everyone who sees it thinks it’s pretty neat. This is an ageless toy, really, but I’d probably rate it more for the two- to 10-year-old range.
Symphony in B. teaches colour and shape recognition. Each instrument corresponds to a specific colour and shape in the orchestra pit. With 13 different colours and 13 different shapes, this goes well beyond every other toy we own. Normally, there are about four colours and as many shapes.
The sound quality is excellent. I can clearly make out each instrument as it’s added or taken away from the mix.
It’s just really frickin cool to play with. You get this amazing sense of creating something. Look, I know I’m not Beethoven, but there’s something so magical about creating and recreating the fifth symphony with various instruments. Play Wheels on the Bus with just a tuba and the drums. Then try it again with a clarinet, the piano and a violin. Let your child’s imagination run wild. Again, again and again.
You’ll learn something new at every turn. Maybe, like me, you didn’t know what a koto was. Perhaps you didn’t know what sections of the orchestra best accompany the other (press a button on the Symphony in B. to be enlightened). Didn’t know that the xylophone is considered a percussion instrument? Now you do. What constitutes a string section? Press a button to find out.
An on and off switch PLUS auto-off. Thank you, Symphony in B. Thank you.
Batteries included! All six of them.
The packaging and marketing is, for lack of a better word, brilliant. There’s serious attention to detail. This, of course, has nothing to do with the toy itself or its functionality or fun-factor. This is just for the writer in me who appreciates really good writing. The people over at B. Toys are a clever bunch.
There are buttons to control tempo and volume (hallelujah!). While the idea of lento or pianissimo is lost on both of my kids at this stage, what they do understand is that it’s really, really funny to listen to what they call the “circus song” really, really fast and crazy loud. Incidentally, I just referred to the lyric sheet and it turns out that the circus song is actually called Entry of the Gladiators and was originally written as a military march. Huh!
This is a gift worth giving. I implore you, if you’re looking to spend about 50 bucks on a gift for anyone less than 10 years old, this is it.
How many toys do you have that you loathe playing with to appease your kid? This is perhaps what I love most about Symphony in B. I never feel like it’s a chore to get down on the ground and play with it. My kids and I find it equally amusing. It encourages us to work together, to play together. And, sometimes, to swipe together.
Every so often, and it’s rare but I’ve noticed it a few times, there are instruments that just don’t jibe. One is just slightly off the beat, or something. Maybe it’s that they’re just playing two very different parts of the melody but it doesn’t “work.”
One night, after a couple of the instruments made their way outdoors (without my knowledge or approval, I assure you), we put them into the pit and they played this wretched, jarring, static-y noise. This happened twice with two different instruments. And then it’s never happened again. Odd.
My parents – in their 60s – tell me they would really have appreciated if the makers of Symphony in B. would have added some paint in the imprinted text on either side of the “PLAY” button. It’s hard for them to read. I don’t find it hard to read, but I’ll revisit this post when I hit 40 and let you know if that changes.
I’d love an optional AC adaptor to come with this. We had to replace each of the six batteries within the first week of use. Yes, we use it a lot. Multiple times a day. So it would be great to just plug it in.
So…where can you buy it?
- Too many stores to list! Use your city, province/state or zip/postal code to find a store near you
You know you want one. Not just for your kids – for yourself. (I’ll never tell.) So, visit my contest page or scroll down and enter now!