Yesterday, we had some of the wee ones’ friends over to play. We received a set of Hexbug Nanos (hereafter primarily referred to as Hexbugs) from MomSelect to host a party, and oh did we have fun. In fact, the wee ones played with them until bedtime last night, and the first question this morning (before they were even dressed) was when they could play with the Hexbugs again. Mean Mommy, I made them wait until after school after they’d put away their backpacks.
I’d heard of Hexbugs before. Our local Learning Express carries them, and I’ve seen them dancing in little containers in the store. I’d somewhat written them off though, figuring they were a short term entertainment and something that would quickly get lost. For those who aren’t familiar with them, Hexbugs are a little battery-operated creature that looks something like a large computer chip with tentacles. Kinda. They vibrate when turned on and move all around, including being able to flip themselves back over when turned on their backs.
The Hexbugs world is much larger than I’d anticipated, however. To start, they come in little test tube containers reminiscent of the bug in The Matrix. I had a lot of trouble opening some containers, while Little Miss was easily able to open others – the tops of the tubes just pop off, but the stickers around the edges was stuck to that top a little more on some, apparently. Once you get the test tubes open, there is also a code to an online world in addition to the bug itself. We haven’t yet explored online, but we will soon, especially since it includes learning about science. I’ve heard good things about it from some of the moms who were there yesterday.
Once we got the bugs out, we quickly learned that they won’t work on carpeting, but any other surface appears to be fair game. One friend placed his Hexbugs in the tray of our easel where they happily skittered around; ditto with Little Miss who made an obstacle course in the wagon that contains our building blocks. The Hexbugs now have “habitats” that they can explore. The white octagons connect easily with each other and the trail pieces (curved, straight, and spiral). The wee ones and their friends were easily able to assemble a massive obstacle course that took up the entire room. With the spirals and some of the other pieces, you can have the Hexbugs move from one level to another, adding a new dimension of fun to the games – in addition to simply having a raised habitat using the pegs that insert into any piece. We only had one child who had difficulty figuring out how to use the pegs, and he was able to figure it out once I showed him.
The habitats also have special bridges and other more unique connectors and parts to them that add to the variety of play. While they may not be necessary to enjoy the bugs, they are a nice addition to the sets. The bridge battle set allowed bugs to enter the center “arena” and try to knock each other off the bridge, with the surviving bug being dubbed the winner. This can also be used simply as a bridge byway by changing the direction the entry doors are set. There was a bit of discussion at the end of the party about who would get to take these home. There is also a stop and go door for the bugs to go through. That was one part that confused me a bit, as the stop side doesn’t keep the bugs from going through – at least it didn’t the way we figured out how to put it together.
I like these toys because they don’t require a ton of assembly and work on my part, making them a toy that encourages independence in the wee ones. I’ve had other toys that take me an hour or more to put together and get ready. I assembled a decent obstacle course (without reading the instructions that weren’t very descriptive to begin with – one little nit) in under twenty minutes. While the bugs can “fight” that hasn’t been the focus of the wee ones as yet. Instead, they treat them more like a giant ant hill, and I’m ok with that since I’m not voluntarily allowing any real bugs into my house.
We played several games, although the kids would have been just as happy without any intervention from me. Since I’d prepared a shoebox for a game by cutting special holes in it, I did make sure they played that one at least. Once we got going, they all loved it – seeing which bug would get out of the box first and from what hole. I also had them do an actual race through the obstacle course that was less successful – while the kids enjoyed creating the obstacle course, few of them actually wanted to do the race in it. After that, I let them simply play on their own – and on one was ready to leave when it was time to go, even knowing they were taking home the habitat and their bugs.
The kids all did want to make sure they took their bugs home. They chose their favorite bugs, and they immediately assigned name and personalities to the bug from “Intelligence Ignite” (yes, that would be Mister Man) to “Spaghetti and Meatballs” to “Bananas” and more. I love how they assigned personalities to the bugs and really had a connection to them. The bugs weren’t just appealing to boys, as I was somewhat expecting when I first heard about the party. There were bugs that were purple and pink, red and black, green and black, yellow and blue, and other color combinations that were appealing to Little Miss (and Violet who was at our house this afternoon playing with them).
My only complaint about the habitats is that the doors that close off the sides of the octagon (every side has a door to allow for flexible configurations) to keep the bugs from escaping aren’t as easy to close as I would like. It takes quite a bit of finger strength (and some fingernails) to get them to pop up to be able to close them. Once they’re closed, they’re easy enough to open again. The configuration of the habitats was changed around significantly yesterday – and again today – meaning that my assistance was required to close many of the doors. I’m hoping that they become easier to manipulate as everyone uses them more, but it would be nice if they came easier to use.
All in all, this is a popular new toy in our house, and I think it is in the houses of the kids who joined us yesterday, too. They aren’t super cheap (a single Hexbug Nano in the tube costs $9.99, the Hexbug Nano habitat set with a three octagon pieces, three straight pieces, and four curves cost $34.99 (with two rare Hexbug Nanos), while the battle bridge habitat (that also comes with two rare Hexbug Nanos) costs $39.99 and will be available as of October 15. As more and more children we know get older and already have more toys than they need, I think this is going to become one of our go to birthday presents. The kids definitely had more fun the more bugs were running through the habitat.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with Hexbugs and habitats for a party with the wee ones and friends by MomSelect. The bugs and the majority of the habitats were given away to the attendees of the party. I received no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.