educational toys

Today’s kids probably aren’t familiar with Dexter, the bespectacled boy-genius that called Cartoon Network (and his laboratory) his home more than a decade ago. And it’s a shame, too, because his creative spirit day in and day out was something to be admired. Ah, what a fine day for science!

Dr. Eureka, from Blue Orange Games, is the science-inspired logic game that gets competition cooking. Designed for up to four players ages 8 and up, Dr. Eureka teaches kids the process of pattern building as they help a brilliant scientist solve complex scientific formulas. The game includes 54 challenge cards, 24 balls (AKA molecules), 12 test tubes, and an illustrated instruction booklet. The object of Dr. Eureka is simple: kids must solve the scientific formulas by moving their different colored molecules from tube to tube without touching them with their bare hands. While Dr. Eureka’s objective may be clear, the process of getting there definitely requires some problem-solving skills.

STEM ToysLike any experiment, preparation is key. Before kids can start mixing molecules, they’ll need to gather their supplies. Each player first gets three test tubes and then places two balls of the same color in each one. The test tubes are made of plastic, and the molecules feel like lightweight marbles and bear a striking resemblance to gum balls, so adults will want to keep an eye on any younger kids with a curious tongue. That’s pretty much all kids will need to get started, but a lab coat and goggles would certainly add to the fun.

Once the first challenge card is flipped over, young chemists must race to arrange their molecules in the same order displayed on the card by transferring them from one tube to the next. If a ball drops, that player is out for that round. The first player to correctly arrange his or her molecules and shout “Eureka!” wins a point for that round. The game instructions state that five points wins the game, but kids are free to pick their own magic number. If this all sounds easy, just know that I assumed the same and was quickly reminded of what happens when you assume. The balls slide around in the tube with ease, and one slight misstep can send two balls into a tube you only intended to receive one. Kids that can keep a steady hand in the heat of the moment will certainly find themselves at an advantage.

STEM ToysThe challenge cards are great because they provide a lot of different combinations that put kids’ minds to work. Some cards, for example, force players to distribute their molecules into two tubes, while other cards force them to distribute them into three. And when there are fewer players involved and some extra tubes to spare, kids can even explore combination patterns involving four tubes if they so choose. The instruction booklet also suggests two more “official” game modes, including puzzle mode and an expert mode with the added challenge of keeping all three test tubes off the table during each round.

Dr. Eureka offers fast-paced gameplay that strengthens sequencing, fine motor, and visual perception skills, but that will all go unnoticed by kids as they immerse themselves in the thrill of the competition. And when the family’s not around, young scientists can play the game solo and use it as their own personal puzzle. It won’t take long for kids to realize that it’s going to take a little brainpower to prove they’re the smartest scientist in the lab.