I know that the company makes beautiful, high-quality, imagination-promoting toys and wanted to know what a line that has “Imagine” right in the title would be like. I’m not so sure the one we took a look at, the imagine I CAN Secret Agent Spy Gear kit, was the best of the bunch.
There are 28 (!) different kits ranging from crafts to games to role play kits, each of which comes in a cool metal box with a handle. Actually, they kind of look like the lunch boxes we used to have when I was a kid, before people decided plastic was a safer material to use.
Unlocking the Secret…
Kid Testers #1 and Kid Tester #2 (a Star Wars fan who now wants to be called TK-421 instead), both were intrigued by the Secret Agent Spy Gear’s metal lunchbox-like container. KT #2 remarked that the outside of the box actually had an Agent P (from Disney’s Phineas and Ferb) feel to it which made it even all the more appealing.
Once we opened it up he was also thrilled. Fingerprint powder! Invisible ink! A secret decoder and messages to decipher! A see-around-the-corner spy scope! A blueprint schematic on cloth!
It is all very cool looking and well made. The wooden bottles and spyscope are designed for little hands to handle and bang around, which is exactly what Kid Tester #1 has been doing with them and they’re withstanding the onslaught.
… And the Secret Is
After the initial excitement, the Kid Testers and I began to explore and discovered this really is designed for imaginative play and although the KTs represent two distinct age groups and levels of development, neither one of them really could figure out how to play with it.
The fingerprint powder and invisible ink bottles don’t have anything in them. (As KT #2 put it, “That’s some very invisible ink.”) And the spy scope didn’t really work well to see around corners unless you held it at exactly the right angle, one that was hard to replicate once you’ve found it.
The one piece of the Secret Agent Spy Gear that was a big hit was the decoder and the messages that came with it. Once KT #2 had decoded those messages, he declared them “boring, “ but then used the decoder to create his own secret messages.
All in all I wasn’t too thrilled with this particular imagine I CAN kit. It had all the right elements for a spy kit, but it just didn’t seem to spark imagination and creative play like I would have expected.
That’s not to say the entire imagine I CAN line isn’t worth checking out. Considering the imagine I CAN Sew Sweet and the imagine i CAN Creative Color Sticker Clings kits both won 2013 Parents’ Choice Awards, I can imagine Manhattan Toys has hit on something good with some of the products in this line!