Toy Blog - Toys, Parenting, and Kids

Educational Resources for Your Back-to-School List

It is that time of year again! While kids are preparing for the transition from enjoying summer break to heading back to school, parents are out running around trying to complete this year’s school supplies list that seems to get longer and longer with each passing year. And while buying all of the pencils, backpacks, folders and binders is important to help make sure your child is ready for the upcoming school year, it is also important to remember those educational resources that you won’t find on the teacher’s checklist.

What educational resources are we talking about? From books to science kits to math CDs, WonderBrains has what you need to give your child that extra boost heading into the upcoming school year. Here are a few examples:

English/Language Arts - If your child is struggling with a specific aspect in reading or writing, or just wanting to get some extra practice to hone his or her grammar skills, then our line of activity books by Remedia Publications is the perfect resource to help out. The writing activity books focus on specific areas of the English language, from sentence comprehension to vocabulary, and serve as an activity that is both fun and educational for your child. Remedia also features a High-Interest Reading line of books that focus on subjects that will keep your child interested while also helping them improve their reading skills. And if you think you may have a budding writer on your hands? The Mechanics of Poetry is a great resource for any creative child who wants to learn the basic concepts of writing poetry.

Science – If your child has more of a scientific mind, there are plenty of options available to peak his or her interests. The Science Wiz line explores the different aspects of science and features experiments to teach your child with a hands-on approach rather than just reading out of a textbook. The Ein-O line by TEDCO features various science kits and models that are good for use both inside and outside the classroom. And for the more advanced child scientists out there (ages 12 and up), Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies makes fuel cell cars, hydrocars and renewable energy sets for a unique way to teach your child about new-age scientific ideas.

Math - If your child likes working with numbers, or you want to improve his or her math skills, there are plenty of options to explore in this area. The Backpack Math set, available in both addition and division, are an upgrade on the traditional flashcards you are probably used to. These sets allow the child to write down the problem and answers themselves with a dry erase pen and can clip to a backpack for an on-the-go learning tool. What about multiplication? This Math Keyboard by Small World Toys is a great way for a child to practice the multiplication tables. And for the beginner math student, the Number Bean Bags by Educational Insights help teach your child number identification, counting and simple addition and subtraction skills.

Music – And finally, if your child has taken an interest in music, there are beginner musical instruments available to help spark that interest. The Woodstock Pennywhistle by Woodstock Percussion is the perfect starter instrument because it is easy to play and encourages musical appreciation and creativity. And the Learn-To-Play Piano from Melissa & Doug is another great beginner musician tool to help teach your child the keys on a piano and the notes that make up the scales.

If you have any questions on any of these products, or if you want some recommendations on other products that may help get your child into “back to school” mode, please feel free to contact one of our customer service representatives at 866-UBRAINS.

Giving the Perfect Gift: A Guide to Buying the Right Toy

For parents and grandparents, buying toys for their child or grandchild is a pretty simple process. They already know what kinds of toys their child likes and dislikes, and therefore have a pretty good idea as to what to look for when they begin the shopping process. But for those of you out there who don’t have kids of your own, the process may not be so simple.

Let’s face it – at some point in almost everyone’s life, they will have to buy a gift for a child. Maybe you are a first-time aunt or uncle, or perhaps one of your good friends just had a baby. Whatever the case may be, the easiest solution for buying gifts for children is and always will be buying them a toy. But there’s a simpler way to find the right toy for a child than aimlessly walking down the aisles of a toy store and picking out something you “hope” the child will like. Here are a few simple steps to follow to make sure you are buying a gift that both the child (and his or her parents) will enjoy.

First off, determine if the gift will be for a boy or girl. This may seem like a no-brainer, and in many ways it is. Obviously you don’t want to buy a doll for a boy or a model train set for a girl. But there are a lot of toys on the market these days that can be considered “gender ambiguous”, or in other words, an option for either a boy or a girl. How can you determine if these toys are a good option for the child you are buying a gift for? Many toy websites will categorize toys by their popularity amongst boys and girls, and give you a list of options to choose from.

Next, you want to be sure you pick out an age-appropriate toy. As children continue to grow, their minds become more developed and they are able to comprehend more complex toys as they get older. Again, start by selecting the boy or girl option on the website. Then you can filter the selections down even more by selecting a specific age group. Let’s say you are shopping for a 3-year-old girl. In that case, you might want to look here. But if it’s a 12-year-old boy you are shopping for, here would be a good place to start. If you want to keep your options open and shop for both boys and girls at a specific age group, you can do that as well by selecting the Shop by Age feature.

Now if you’ve really done your homework and you have a specific genre of toy in mind, you might try searching toys by their category. For example, if you are buying for a child who really enjoys music, you might start your search in the Music and Video Toys section. Or if you happen to be shopping for an aspiring artist, the Arts and Crafts Toys section would probably be a great place to look first. Or let’s say you get a recommendation from a savvy toy-buying parent who likes a particular line of toys.  You can search by specific toy brands by clicking the Shop by Brand feature.

Hopefully these helpful steps will make the toy-buying process a lot easier for you in the future. There are few better feelings than seeing the excited look on a child’s face when you’ve bought him or her the perfect toy as a gift. And the more educational the gift is, the happier the parents will be too!

 

Keep Your Kids from Summer Boredom

The month of June is fast approaching, which of course means that school years are winding down and summer is just around the corner. And even with all the family vacations, summer camps and various other activities you have planned, your kids will still have a lot of free time this summer.

But a lot of free time doesn’t have to turn into a lot of boredom for your kids. Here are a few suggestions on activities your kids can do to help pass the time.

1. Reading – One of the more common concerns a parent has for their child during the summer is that he or she won’t learn anything while away from the classroom. One easy way to make sure your child isn’t falling into that trap is by making sure they have things to read. Reading is a great way to keep a child’s mind learning and taking in new information. Summer Bridge Reading workbooks are designed specifically for this purpose, and to provide a “bridge” from the reading your child just did in his or her previous grade level and the reading that will be coming at the next grade level.

2. Other School-Related Activities – Outside of just reading, there are other workbooks available to keep your child sharp heading into the next school year. Summer Bridge Math workbooks are perfect for a child who enjoys working with numbers, while Summer Bridge Activities workbooks take a more all-around approach in helping your child improve reading, writing, math and language skills heading into the following grade level.

3. Spend Time in the Water – Chances are your child will be spending some time this summer around a pool, lake or ocean. And even a simple trip to the pool can become a learning experience with the proper water-themed toys. Ein-O’s Aquatic Explorer is a great kit to take along with you to help teach your child facts about water while also providing fun toys to play with in the water. If your child is more of the scientific type, this Watery Science kit provides 4 different experiments that all have to do with water.

4. Go Bug Hunting – A favorite childhood pastime for many generations, hunting for bugs is a great way for kids to spend some time outdoors. Toys like the Bug Biter are perfect for catching bugs in a safe and humane manner, and if your child wants to keep a couple bugs for further observation, a Bug Jug will provide a good home for the bugs and allow your child to observe their behavior.

5. Go on a Bike Ride – If your kids are a bit older, riding bikes is probably something they will already be doing this summer. But even if your child is a bit too young to ride a regular bike, you can still take them out and teach them on a YBIKE. The YBIKE, which was awarded the prestigious Oppenheim Toy of the Year Award in 2010, helps teach young children the skills, balance and coordination to ride a “big-kid bike” in the near future.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you come up with some activities for your children that are both fun and educational this summer. If you’d like additional ideas on summer activities and toys for your children or if you have questions on any of the products that WonderBrains has to offer, please feel free to contact their friendly customer service team at 866-UBRAINS.

 

Starting your Ant Farm: What About the Ants?

We get calls all the time from people who are interested in starting an ant farm for their child. Some of their questions have to do with the features of the ant farms themselves, such as, “Do you think the ants would prefer a more traditional home, or would they like to live in something a bit more colorful?” But far and away, the most common question we get asked is, “How do I get the ants that go in the ant farm?”

First and foremost, always remember that the ants will never come in the same package as the ant farm itself. Simply put, they wouldn’t survive the shipping process in that kind of environment. All of the ants will be sent to you separately and in a safe manner directly from the ant farm manufacturers themselves.

While this may seem like a bit of a process just to set up your child’s ant farm, it really is a pretty simple and painless experience. Here are five easy steps to help you out in getting your child set up to own and operate his or her own working ant farm!

1. Purchase one of our Ant Farms. In the package with the ant farm, you will receive a mail-in coupon to order the live ants.

2. Fill out the coupon form with your name and address to where you want your ants sent.

3. Mail the coupon to the address listed on the coupon where your ants are located. You will have to pay a small shipping and handling fee (no more than $5.00, depending on the style of ant farm you purchase). Your ants should arrive at your location within 4 weeks of you mailing in the coupon.

4. When your ants do arrive, they are going to be pretty angry. (Imagine if you spent a few days shoved in a box traveling across the country and how you would feel!). Don’t worry - you can calm them down by doing one simple task. Put them in a refrigerator or some kind of colder environment for approximately 15 minutes. The cooler temperature will calm them down and make it safe for you to put them into the ant farm. It is important that you follow that step though. If you try to put them in right away upon receiving them, there is a chance of getting bitten by an angry ant!

5. Spend some time with your child watching the ants interact with each other in their new home!

Ant farms are a great way to teach your child about the underground world that ants live in and how they live and work together to form a colony. Perfect for any child with an interest in science or animals, the ant farm is a toy children of almost all ages can enjoy and can be fun for the whole family too!

If you have any other questions on the Ant Farms or any of our other products, please feel free to contact us at 1-866-UBRAINS or e-mail us at info@wonderbrains.com.

Are kids these days getting bored?

Are kids these days getting bored? Is the real world moving too fast and causing them to lose focus? In our daily lives, we have lots of projects to get done and deadlines to meet. There’s a rush to get your children to practice and there’s birthday parties to plan or attend. Even getting your child to school can be a rush. A child’s life is affected by all the things going on in our lives and theirs as well. It’s no wonder that they can’t pay attention or get bored easily. They are also affected by the school, toys, video games and TV that they watch. With the loss of focus and detail because of everything going on around them, can we use educational toys to help gain that focus back?

Can toys bring focus and a sense of accomplishment to a child? Of course they can! Toys can teach a child to slow down and follow through with the goal. Puzzles are a great example because children have to slow down, match like pieces and connect the pieces together. How about construction toys? Building with blocks and other shapes takes time and patience to construct a tower, castle or even a rocket ship to go to the moon. Even art can help children to focus by using a slow and steady hand to make that next great work of art.

All children learn in different ways and at different paces. But there are general skill areas that are more ideal for one age than for another. On the following links, you can find information for each age along with key developmental categories and product recommendations for each. Keep in mind that good, quality products will carry over from skill to skill and age to age; our recommendations are for a general range.

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