Basic Tools of Play & Learning
Posted: 2014-11-18 14:16:36
By: Joanne Oppenheim
Every so often we get a note from a parent saying they bought a toy that's a total dud--"very disappointing--my child didn't know what to do with it. The toy just sat there and did nothing." But, a set of building blocks, a ball, a rattle, a doll; all of these basic toys do nothing and that is a good thing. In stacking the blocks, shaking the rattle, rolling the ball or chasing it, or talking to a doll, the child is the active player. At every age, play is a two way street. The toy is the tool--the child is the player.
For starters, parents have an important role beyond buying and unpacking the toys they bring home; they need to introduce a new plaything. For a sitting up baby, a soft fabric ball is basic gear that needs two players to connect in the very social give and take of games like roly poly: "Mommy is rolling the ball to you--oh, you got it! Now, roll the ball to Mommy!" These little back and forth games are a kind of social conversation that you share.
Similarly, a set of building bricks for toddlers needs modeling to start. "Let's make a long long road. How long can we make it? How high can we make a tower before it goes ka-boom?" Please, forget about the picture on the box. Reproducing models comes later. Building with your child gets them started. But taking over and building for you child diminishes important learning possibilities. Building develops children's dexterity, mathematical thinking, their problem solving skills, language and imagination. But first kids needs to explore how things go together. Making things that look like the picture on the box diminishes the learning possibilities that are built into construction play.
Wooden train sets with tracks are another kind of construction toy. Trying to make a roadbed of wooden tracks that connects is both the challenge and the fun. Play around together with the many ways to make a roadbed, modeling and discovering the multiple possibilities and then watch them go. Before long, you will be delighted with the kinds of flexible thinking kids are capable of using in creative ways. Forget about making a display table like the one in the store with tracks glued down. If you do that, you've lost most of the play values and learning involved in trial and error. Indeed that train will soon lose its interest.
Unfortunately, too many of the playthings made for kids do just the opposite of nothing--they do way too much with a push of a button while kids watch and the kinds of real learning that come from play are lost!
Gifts for Baby's First Holiday
Posted: 2014-10-06 09:02:23
Shopping for the newest member of the family? For babies, variety is the spice of life. Their interest in objects tends to be fleeting. Though older babies may have a special security "lovie" they cling to, for the most part babies tend to stop looking at things that are always there. Want to keep them interested? Move and or remove toys they gaze at from time to time. Similarly, for the restless baby, having a bag of tricks is your best bet for lap time. Also, keep in mind that babies learn through their senses, so you want to find toys that involve interesting sights to see, hear, touch and even taste. Of course, no single toy needs to be all of the above at once. In fact that might be a sensory overload. As baby grows from gazing to grasping to making things happen, choose toys that tool their play and change to fit their rapidly changing abilities.
You don't need to break the bank to find special playthings. Here are some small gifts that will be most welcome.
Choosing Dolls to Fit Your Child's Developmental Stage
Posted: 2014-09-19 14:46:07
By: Joanne Oppenheim
While the toy companies vie for the honor of introducing the Doll of the Year, for parents and grandparents, the best choice for that honor needs to connect to your child's age and stage. As I recall, when Stephanie, your toy guru, was a preschooler she had--click here to continue.
Toys for Kids with Special Needs
Posted: 2013-11-25 15:24:40
By: Joanne Oppenheim
Featured on NBC's TODAY Show
Posted: 2013-10-17 18:40:35
Many of the top toys of the year are not just fun, but they provide your kids with valuable play experiences that can help build their language skills, confidence, ability to weave stories, follow instructions, and stay with a challenging task. The good news is that many of these toys will not break the bank. Click here to take a look at just a few of our favorites for the year.
Choosing Their First Toys
Posted: 2013-10-04 06:43:03
If you are a new parent, grandparent, or 1st time auntie or uncle--have fun! Finding welcoming gifts for the new baby has never been easier. Quite aside from the traditional stuffed bear there are so many colorful and interesting choices that will please the littlest player. Check our infant lists by clicking on the Infant image to your left. Click here for a few of our newest favorites.
Posted: 2012-12-26 11:58:57
If you feel like you need a few more small gifts, consider some of these less pricey, but entertaining choices. Check this and scroll down to look at other lists on our front page for small but winning gifts from $10-$20. Click here
For Infants and Toddlers
Posted: 2012-11-20 14:29:21
If you have a few babies and toddlers on your list, wrap up some of these choices for $20 and under.Click here.
Posted: 2012-10-24 14:08:00
By: by Joanne Oppenheim
Dolls are classic gifts that fill a special place in the imaginary life of children. To toddlers and preschoolers, a doll or stuffed animal can be a comfort to hold onto in tight situations, or an imaginary playmate that will listen and take orders. For older children, a doll or action figure can be a far more elaborate character in their pretend play. Dolls from history, fashion figures or action heroes can be used for trying on grown up roles or making up imaginary adventures. Dolls are not one-size-fits all.
2012 SNAP AWARDS
Posted: 2012-10-25 17:04:36
By: Joanne Oppenheim
Shopping for kids with special needs can be challenging but not daunting. To simplify we look for ordinary toys that you can adapt to build skills while they are having fun. Keep in mind that kids want toys that are like their siblings and you want to bring home toys that play to their strengths. Check all of our lists. Go to Search at the top of the home page and check the SNAP box and enter the year. We have dozens of SNAP items for 2012, but check out 2011 as well. Many of our SNAP reviews have games and adaptation suggestions. Here are a handful of our favorites.