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Encourage learning through educational toys

Like all good parents, we know the importance of mental development in our children. Children are a blank canvas, ready for input and knowledge. You have to teach your children because they do not have the ability and patience to teach themselves. The problem is not having a lot of patience if the child wants to do other things or they get distracted from the learning experience.

All children want to learn but don’t want to sit there for a long period of time. Having fun while learning will compel the child to want to learn more. Try putting a toy and some educational material next to a child. Most of the time, the child will go for the toy and won’t even care about the educational material sitting next to them. So what do you do when you try to teach your child and all they want to do is play with the toy?

Educational toys are a great way to introduce the learning material and fun of the toy at the same time. The child will think “toy”, but will be having fun learning at the same time. Toys can teach them ABC’s, 1-2-3’s, shapes, colors and other essential motor skills. They are also very helpful with mental development for the child. Educational toys bridge the gap between learning material and the fun aspect of a toy.

Tips for Easier Toy Shopping

Finding a toy for your child or a gift for another child can seem like a little bit of a hassle sometimes. Keep these five steps in mind to make your shopping experience a little easier:

  1. Age appropriate – Look at the manufacturer’s suggested age grading on the products as a starting place. This labeling is based upon developmental milestones of children. In addition, toys are tested to meet the safety standards at different age levels.
  2. Open-ended playtime – Select toys that allow for this type of play since it encourages developing imaginations. Children learn about themselves and their environment through play in general; open-ended play lets children be creative and act out various scenarios as they express themselves.
  3. Don’t give into the hype! - What’s hot now may not be hot next week so look for a toy that will engage your child. A toy, regardless if it is THE hot toy or not, is a better toy if the child’s interest is there to go get it back out of the toy box again and again.
  4. Interests – Choose toys that suit the child’s interests. Does he or she like music? Maybe a toy piano or rhythm sticks would be ideal. Does he or she like games or activities? Then how about a river-crossing jungle adventure game or a picture book with puzzles and games inside.
  5. Classic play patterns – Based upon age and interest, you can’t go wrong with a classic toy such as blocks, puzzles, dolls, cars, etc. Just remember the toys you played with when you were a kid and try to find a modern-day replacement.

Most importantly, if you still have doubts, then don’t be afraid to ask for help! When shopping at a local toy store, feel free to ask a salesperson for his or her recommendations. Even if you don’t choose the suggested product, you can discover what other children that age are enjoying and purchasing.

Remember, it’s all about LEARNING and FUN!

Tips and Toy Ideas for this 2010 Holiday Season

Looking for that perfect gift for your child this holiday season? With the holiday shopping season just a week away, there are so many places and toys to choose from, and the holidays always bring out the deals for all toys.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can bring some great toy deals. However, remember that a deal is not always the right thing for a child. Below are some tips to help with those holiday shopping choices.

Tips for Toy Buying

It’s always important for parents to remember to buy toys that are not only age appropriate, but safe, stimulating and comfortable for the child. Every child has their own rate of development, interests and imagination. Picking out a toy that is appropriate for their age and unique learning style can help your child learn, play and create in a whole new way.

Children can develop at different rates and it is best to choose a toy that best fits their enjoyment. All children are drawn to certain kinds of toys. Some enjoy quiet toys, some like ones that make a lot of noise. Every child likes or dislikes toys depending on the enjoyment and interests in that specific toy. Keep in mind that your child’s safety and educational development should be the first thing you consider when buying a toy. Simply observing and listening to how your child plays and interacts with toys should give you a great insight.

With so many toys to choose from that are expected to be on the Christmas toys list in 2010, be sure your selecting the right toy that best fits your child’s wants and needs. Below are some great educational toy brands for 2010.

Melissa and Doug Toys

Melissa and Doug Toys

Calico Critters

Calico Critters

HABA Toys

HABA Toys

The Orb Factory | Sticky Mosaics

The Orb Factory | Sticky Mosaics

Manhattan Toys

Manhattan Toys

YBike

YBike

Guidecraft

Guidecraft

Think Fun

Think Fun

Small World Toys

Small World Toys

International Playthings

International Playthings

What is a Bilibo, you ask?

Bilibo is a new kind of toy – the elementary shells leave room for the child’s imagination. Instead of imposing a specific play pattern, Bilibo is open for a wide range of interpretations and encourages children to invent their own games, to play and have fun in an active and creative way. Indoors and outdoors, in the sand-pit, at the water or even in the snow – Bilibo is full of surprises…

Bilibo is a companion for children from the first year onward and inspires a large variety of playing behaviors. According to their age and interests, children will interpret the shells in many different ways.

The soft, round shapes and strong colors stimulate the senses and the child’s innate curiosity. They beg to be touched and handled. Toddlers will move them around, fill them with objects, sand or water and empty them again.

The shells can be aligned or stacked in many ways. Like three-dimensional puzzle pieces, two shells are joined to form a sphere – a friendly face with a broad smile. Playfully the children train their sense of space as well as hand-eye coordination.

When growing older, children will discover new ways of using the shells. Rocking and spinning for instance are great fun and help develop motor skills and the child’s sense of balance.

Role-playing and make-believe games are vital for the child’s social development and powers of imagination. Again, Bilibo shines as a wonderful accessory and is swiftly turned into a cradle for puppets, a turtle shell, a drum, a cooking pot, a ship, or a hill with coves giving shelter to animals… the imagination of children knows no limits…

Invented by child development experts. For ages 2 to 7.

Winner of Dr. Toy 10 Best Active Products and Dr. Toy 100 Best Children’s Products.


When The Only Veggies They Want Are Bob And Larry…

As infants, both of my boys would suck down spoonful after spoonful of strained peas, butternut squash and mixed vegetables.  Then they hit the common (but not necessarily popular) age of “all things starchy”.  Vegetables were no longer appealing, especially when you are feeding yourself and can CHOOSE not to eat them.  In fact, it wasn’t until about six months ago that I was able to see my now 8-year-old eating green beans again.  Before then, he wouldn’t touch the juicy legumes.

So, when your child hits that picky stage, how can you make sure he or she is getting the nutrients and vitamins so wonderfully packed into nature’s garden of vegetables?  While multivitamins serve a purpose, children’s bodies don’t necessarily absorb all the “good stuff” a vitamin has to offer.  That is not to say children shouldn’t take a vitamin (because mine do), but if you can get those nutrients in them the natural way, it is so much easier on their systems. 

And, while Veggietales seems to take vegetables to a whole new level, it may not be enough to get them in your child’s mouth.  Here are some helpful hints that might make getting the “good stuff” into their diet:

  • The standard “blender” trick: One of my favorite ways to disguise the good stuff is to blend it.  This works especially well with spaghetti or other pasta-sauce dishes.  First I blend the steamed vegetables as much as possible, then I slowly add the marinara sauce, making sure there are no lumps.  My kids have never known the difference.
  • Bake it right in: I’m famous around the neighborhood for my killer zucchini bread.  I used to just shred the zucchini in my food processor, but now I puree it right into the batter.  You can do the same with corn muffin mix as well.  It also works well with cauliflower, which is chock full of all sorts of good-for-you stuff.
  • Anything goes with (macaroni and) cheese: This is probably my most favorite way to get the veggies in, especially broccoli.  After steaming a spear of broccoli, I chop it into fine pieces and mix it in with a freshly prepared bowl of macaroni and cheese.  My boys are a firm believer in cheese makes EVERYTHING better, so you can guarantee it will work with those veggies on their plate!
  • Make it fun: when we went through a “no fruit” phase (which, in hindsight, isn’t THAT bad, considering the sugar content of fruit), we turned to playing with our food.  Kebabs, making artwork (the old mashed potatoes and peas = the “mountain and trees” trick), and even simply serving it up differently sometimes made the difference.  Make a raw veggie plate, grab a skewer and get started!  Bring out the ranch dressing for a bit of dip and you have a veggie party!

Of course, the best course of action for a picky eater is to simply expose them to the “good stuff” over and over again.  While you can ensure they get some of the vegetables they need, you should also continually offer them “as is” to promote healthy eating practices.

Buckle Up – Its the Law!

There are so many changes in child safety seats nationwide that it is often difficult to know what is the “right” thing to do for your child.  Here’s a great site that shows you EXACTLY where your child should be, carseat-wise.

Visit boosterseat.gov to read the latest regulations on car safety seats.  You can even use their “quick check” on the left margin to enter your child’s age, height and weight and find the ideal seat for your child!

As it turns out, my kids are actually within the recommendations.  My son (just turned 8) is about to relinquish the booster as he is 52 inches tall and weighs over 70 pounds.  And my younger son – 2.5 years – is right at the cusp of changing into a booster seat.

Something this website does not point out is a little number called the EXPIRATION DATE.  Car seats are only rated for 5 years of use; standards change, materials change, and to keep your child the safest, it is best to heed these dates.  Pay attention to these dates (my younger son’s seat has recently expired, so thank goodness I was going to have to buy him a new one anyway for his next step up!).

Children should ALWAYS be  buckled into a car safety seat unless they are old enough and big enough to do without.  And, once they reach the point that they can leave the booster seat behind and seat in the “regular” seat, make sure they are still buckling up, as you should be, too.  In our house, the car does not leave the driveway unless all the seatbelts are buckled.  Please pay attention to the recommended seats for your children.  That’s our world’s future you’re buckling back there. 

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