Of course, whenever a big brown box with daddy’s name on it appears, we all get excited. Even I couldn’t remember what package I was expecting, then I opened it to realize the product I was going to review for a company called “Buzzplant” must have sent me a couple other things to check out with it. Sounds fun, so here we go….
The products all come from a company called “Hotline to God”, who I’d never heard of before. .
The primary product I was asked to talk about were “Story Stix”. You know those kids’ books at Wal-Mart that have a thing on the side where you can press buttons that make fun noises to go along with the story you’re reading? Now imagine instead of a book attached, they’ve just taken that strip of buttons and thrown all the text into there. Then have the text recorded by a well-spoken, but not very soft voice of an older male. There ya’ go.
They sent me four different stories, and our daughters played with them for a few minutes. Maybe if we were in a car on a long journey, it would have lasted longer. They pretty much wanted to hear each button once, and then once they heard the story they moved on to the next thing. Granted, I gave them to my 5 & 6 year olds. The “Story Stix” say “For ages 3 and up”. Maybe a 3 year old would cling longer? I listened to each story with them, and thought they were okay. The buttons each held only a short summary of that part of the story, so that kids wouldn’t completely walk away from the man talking. I realize it’s Biblical, and so they probably put a lot of work/thought into having some great God-like male orator record the stories…but I feel a softer male (think Morgan Freeman), or a friendly female voice would help the product. Then it might feel less like listening to a lecture, and more like story-time.
Still, our 5 year old has a toy Disney cat (you know the one that says something different every time you push the button). She’s memorized not only everything the cat says, but the order of the sayings. This makes me realize that having something Biblical at push-button response could be a great idea. But maybe a story-telling Grandpa Turtle, or Grandma Camel, or something like that…rather than a “Stix”…so that kids want to play with them more.
As in the next product I reviewed…the actual “Hotline to God”. Apparently the company’s flagship product.
I laughed as soon as I saw it. It’s an actual model of an old-school rotary phone, with gold trim on the receiver, and says “Hotline to God” in the middle of where the numbers would be. Immediately, my girls wanted to play with this one (and eventually asked if it could become part of their “play house”). Pressing the button plays one of 25 pre-recorded Bible verses. Same voice as the Story Stix, but it’s okay this time, because it’s supposed to be portions of scripture from God. I still think a softer voice would help, but at least it wasn’t King James. Side note: Turning the volume all the way up, the phone becomes loud enough for the whole room to hear. My kids loved playing with this one, and I was even asked to leave the room when asked a question, because I was “interrupting God”. Again here, it’d be kinda cool if our daughters ended up memorizing scripture simply because they played often with this pretend phone. Although I might recommend a product re-naming. Something like “Bible Phone”, instead of implying this is a special “Hotline to God”, but all God wants to do is recite random scriptures at them. “Hotline to God” might be more fun to use phrases of encouragement/love from scripture….places where God or Jesus actually says things to his people.
They also snuck one last product into the box. Something for the adults to enjoy, since the first two were obviously going to be played with by the kids. It was a “Serenity Prayer Keychain”. No frills here, just a little white square with a “praying hands” symbol on it, and a button. Push the button, hear the Serenity Prayer. Guess what? Same voice as the Story Stix and Hotline to God. Either they really love his voice, paid a lot of money to get him to narrate, or he’s the owner of the company. It was loud enough to be a bit awkward anywhere you might play the prayer audibly around others. But I imagine if someone’s got a really big rage problem, it could be a good button to try before pummeling someone. In any case….this made a great gag gift to a friend for his birthday.
So would I buy any of these products myself? I doubt it. The Story Stix are $10 each, Hotline to God is $25, and the Keychains are $9. These are the kind of thing and older person from our church might buy our kids as a gift, and we’d smile and say thank you. I could see Grandparents whose children don’t attend church giving these gifts to their grandkids, hoping it will sneak God into their lives. But even that would be a lame substitute for grandparents actually spending time reading Bible stories to their grandchildren. The phone is the coolest thing they’ve got going here, but it needs new recordings.
I will admit…we had a giant birthday party with tons of friends/kids over yesterday, and my daughters shared around the Story Stix and Hotline to God. Story Stix seemed to grab a child’s attention long enough to push each button once. The Hotline to God garnered a sort of “Really? This exists?” response from parents. Main conclusion here? Spend much less money on an actual Bible. Read it to your children. Then buy them a toy rotary phone….cause they love playing with that. Might even consider the “Hotline to God”, because there aren’t many toy rotary phones out there without red receivers and moving eyes.