A serious business
Playing with toys isn't all fun and games for young Jahkeal Evalu - it's a job he takes quite seriously.
The 7-year-old is one of four toy testers recruited by The Warehouse for their knowledge of toys and games.
The Flat Bush youngster receives a parcel of new toys every month and gets to try them out before anyone else in the country.
He was selected for the role after he entered a video competition run by the store.
His video was filmed in Barry Curtis Park and Dawson Park and shows him having a Nerf gun fight with his uncle.
The Nerf is fun to play with because it has great sound effects and "will scare away dinosaurs from eating your eggs", he explains in the clip.
Dunedin girl Maya Satake and Wellington youngsters Frances Williams and Casper Prescott are the other members of the national toy-testing team.
Jahkeal was overjoyed when he heard he'd been selected.
"I started to shout and I felt really excited," he says.
"I just wish I got toys every week and I could fill up the whole house."
The Chapel Downs Primary School student has spent hours testing games and now has a few ideas for parents looking for cool Christmas gifts for their kids.
Disney Infinity, a console game featuring Disney characters, is "really fun to play", he says.
Also on his list are Hot Wheels Wall Tracks and a video game called Skylanders, which interacts with figurines by reading their movements electronically.
Jahkeal's mum Glorya says her son's new job keeps him pretty busy. As well as testing the toys, he has to fill out spreadsheets, write reviews and make short videos demonstrating how to use them.
He's flourished in the role because of his strong communication skills, Mrs Evalu says.
"If something's fragile he'll say ‘no, that's no good because it breaks easily'.
"It's really good to see him in his element at this stage in his life."
Jahkeal's new job has also had some unexpected benefits.
"He's not allowed to play with his toys until he's done all his chores so he'll do them really well because he's wanting to go and play."
Mrs Evalu says it's great to see her son succeeding on the national stage.
"We're very proud Otarians," she says.
The prize also includes a $15,000 trip to Disneyland, which the family of four will visit in May.
Jahkeal says he'd like to be a toy maker one day but for now he's happy testing out other people's inventions.
And what sort of toys will he make?
"I don't know. The future is still coming."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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