Later School Years

New Reviews and Articles

 
The Magic Number $19.99 & under
Posted: 2014-12-09 12:48:47

For several seasons now toymakers have created an impressive selection of interesting toys for $19.99 and less. Good news if you are shopping for multiple gifts for all those nieces and nephews. We found a number of our top picks of the year in this price range. You can use our search engine at the top of our home page; just enter the year 2014 and 19.99 to find dozens of winning choices, including many picture books as well as toys. Here are some of our favorites that won't break the bank for each age group :

How-To Hands-On Reading and Doing
Posted: 2014-12-09 11:35:18


School aged kids enjoy trying new crafts if the how-to directions are clear and come with the materials they need. With the holiday vacation days on the horizon, these are activity books that will keep kids engaged and using their reading comprehension skills along with their creativity. These are mostly for the 8-12 age group, kids who like making end-products they can display or use with pride. Here are a few 2014 books that do exactly that.

Today Show and toyportfolio.com Toy Review
Tags: Today Show, best toys, High Tech, tablets, activity watches, family games
Posted: 2014-12-09 11:36:27 By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim

We finish off the TODAY Show/toyportfolio.com 2014 Toy Review with a look at Hot Tech Toys for Kids and Family Games. We had over 215 children (incuding seven sets of twins) from 24 states including Hawaii and Alaska participate with their families to review the top new toys for 2014. Many of the toys have been heavily hyped. We wanted to know how those toys stacked up with our reviewers.  Click here to see the results.

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Top Toys for Tweens
Tags: Today Show, best toys, Tweens, toyportfolio.com
Posted: 2014-12-04 10:27:34 By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On day four of our TODAY Show/toyportfolio.com 2014 Toy Review we're looking at toys for tweens (9-12). We had over 215 children (incuding seven sets of twins) from 24 states including Hawaii and Alaska participate with their families to review the top new toys for 2014. Many of the toys have been heavily hyped. We wanted to know how those toys stacked up with our reviewers.  

Click here to read the results for Tweens.

Top Toys for Early School Aged Kids
Tags: Today Show, Best Toys for Early School Aged Children, toyportfolio.com
Posted: 2014-12-09 12:49:56 By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim

As the second part of our TODAY Show/toyportfolio.com 2014 Toy Review we focused on the best toys for early school aged kids. We had over 215 children (incuding seven sets of twins) from 24 states including Hawaii and Alaska participate with their families to review the top new toys for 2014. Many of the toys have been heavily hyped. We wanted to know how those toys stacked up with our reviewers.  

Click here to read the results for toys for Early School Years.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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!

Choices That May Outplay the Big Box Treats
Posted: 2014-11-13 10:36:09

Is your mailbox full of catalogs? Have you noticed the holiday gift wrap, cards, and candy canes displays are full? While the kids are doing their lists, now is the time to look for small surprises they might not put on the wish list—things that are not necessarily being plugged on TV. Often the smaller treats have more play value than the big box hot toys of the season. Many of these will fit in a stocking or be the right scale for the many nights of Hanukkah or Kwanza.  Click here to find some good choices.

Putting the Pieces Together
Tags: puzzles
Posted: 2014-10-28 11:31:59 By: by Joanne Oppenheim

In a world full of toys that talk, walk and practically stand on their heads to amuse, the idea of puzzles may seem a bit dull or old fashioned. What does it do? Nothing? No, look again. Puzzles are brain and finger food. They challenge kids to see parts of an image that fit together to form a whole image. Puzzles require patience, thought, and dexterity as well--important skills that are also needed to read, write and solve problems. Whether you are shopping for preschoolers or tweens, add some puzzles to the mix. In fact, with older kids, why not clear a table and create a family puzzle spot that everyone can work on as they have a few moments. Young children like to work their puzzles more than once. Keep it simple for building a sense of success. One piece puzzles teach toddlers about having to turn the pieces to fit them into the slot. Two-piece puzzles teach them about part/whole relationships. Giving preschoolers strategies such as looking for the straight sides to make a frame, looking for parts that connect a figure, using the image on the box to find clues--all of these are teachable moments that help kids get it together. Here are some of our top picks from this season and a few from years past, as well.

Posted: 2014-11-20 12:29:48 By: by Stephanie and Joanne Oppenheim

School's back in full swing and you may be tempted to grab some flash cards...but wait, don't do it. We have much more playful ways to engage your kids in skills they need for school. Read the article here. Watch Stephanie's segment from the TODAY Show with Matt Lauer here:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Posted: 2014-09-19 12:04:00

A preview of great toys...

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