Toy Blog - Toys, Parenting, and Kids


One of the most frustrating things for me about this time of year as a parent is guessing which toys my kids will “dig” and which ones won’t be worth the packaging they came in.  My boys are influenced by television and friends – seeing toys and products that they just HAVE to have (I’m sure you’ve heard the whining yourself at some point).  With holiday budgets being cinched and the need to keep the charge cards down, I am very wary of any purchase I make for my boys for the holidays.  I am looking for quality merchandise, and not some flimsy product that will break within the first day of use.

I can always be assured, though, that products I choose from WonderBrains have gone through a careful check for quality of their products.  Each toy and item is described in detail and categorized according to Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, insuring myself, as a consumer, that I am purchasing something that my child loves and enjoys.  There are too many products to count on here that have won awards or been recognized for outstanding quality and craftsmanship.  I know that what I purchase to come into my home will be something my boys will enjoy and use for a good, long while.

Put your mind at ease and shop a bit this week around the store.  There is something for every child, of all ages, at WonderBrains!

Why WonderBrains Is Here…

Besides being an awesome place to find cool and unique products for ever-growing minds, WonderBrains has embraced a learning philosophy unlike most others.  Products at WonderBrains are centered around an educational idea called Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  Peter, one of the co-creators of WonderBrains, has a wonderful article on the site that explains in depth what Gardner’s theory is all about.

I recently attended a teacher training session specifically geared to enlightening early childhood teachers in this theory.  While most of us associate intelligence with either verbal, mathematical or logical astuteness, there are other categories to consider.  While many of these are difficult, if not impossible to measure in the “standard” sense, they are valid areas of intelligence.  Read through a few of these, and see if you can identify any of these areas in your child or even yourself.

One of the most prevalent areas of intelligence is the Logical/Reasoning or mathematical area.  Individuals that excel here are good at puzzles, games such as Sudoku, scientific thinking and deductive reasoning.  This is an easily measurable area of intelligence as it usually involves calculations, number theory, logic, classification and critical thinking.

Another area of intelligence is the Linguistic area.  This is your verbal or word-sense area.  These individuals are excellent speakers and writers.  They enjoy telling and creating stories and soak up the written word.  Again, this is an intelligence that is easily measured or tested, which is why it is so dominant on IQ tests and aptitude testing.

Kinesthetic is another area of intelligence that Gardner theorizes.  People who are gifted in this area are typically athletic, though not entirely so.  They are hands-on learners, they excel at role-playing and fine motor skills.  Surgeons are typically highly acute in the Kinesthetic area, and comedians typically excel here as well.

Spatial Aptitude is the ability to make judgements based on visual cues.  These people are graphically drawn to situations, thriving with charts and puzzles.  They typically have excellent eye-hand coordination.  Many artistic people fall into the area of spatial intelligence, especially those who are involved in physical creation of a craft, such as sculpture.

Many individuals can be categorized as being musically intelligent.  These people typically have an acute sense of hearing and are highly aware of rhythm, not just in music but in speaking and words as well.  They can be highly sensitive to noise, too and often look for patterns in any auditory stimulation.

People who are gifted in Interpersonal skills are great communicators.  They thrive on interaction with other people.  They enjoy cooperative efforts, whether in school or the workplace. 

A seventh area of intelligence is Intrapersonal skills.  These individuals are quite introverted, but they have a keen self-awareness.  They are typically masters of manipulation, highly emotional and live with a feeling of perfectionism.

Gardner identified an eighth area of intelligence that isn’t as readily accepted by the general population of followers of his theory.  However, it is becoming more and more common in discussions of his theory as time goes on.  The naturalistic intelligence seems to focus on a nurturing behavior.  These individuals tend to grasp an understanding of nature and the outdoors and a need to care for the environment.

The important thing to remember with Gardner’s Theory is that, with young children, all these areas can be fostered and developed.  Looking for products and tools that promote growth in these areas will only strengthen your child’s learning experiences as they grow up.  In fact, Gardner’s idea is that we all possess these areas of intelligence; it is up to us and our teachers/parents to foster growth in each of these areas.

Check Out What’s New – Alpharings!

As a preschool teacher to four year-olds, I’m intrigued with one of Wonderbrains’ new products, Alpharings.  Alpharings are designed by Educational Insights, an educational product company that has a 50 year history of providing hands-on activities to reinforce early learning skills.  Alpharings come with 130 adjustable plastic illustrated rings (five of each letter) and an instructional guide.

So, my first question was, why so many rings?  Well, each letter is represented by five different illustrated rings to give the child five different relationships with the letter.  A child can find all the letter “Cc” rings, for example, and place one on each digit of a hand.  It is a great way to integrate sorting and classifying with the alphabet, and these are important pre-math skills as well. 

This set is also wonderful for children who tend to reverse certain letter pairs, such as p and q or b and d.  Children can easily compare the two letters in the pair by putting them on each hand.  The full-color illustrations on each ring are easily recognizable for each letter, so being able to identify b and d is a snap.

As children progress with their learning, these rings become excellent tools for working on word-building skills.  With the availability of multiples of each letter, words such as “tot” and “moo” can be built.  As children work on longer words, such as “letter” or “school”, these rings can be a great tool.  Older children will enjoy working on spelling activities with Alpharings.  They are a concrete tool that can be utilized in a number of ways over a wide range of age and development.

Alpharings retails for $19.99 and is a bargain at that for the variety of activities and age span that can appreciate and benefit from this product. 

Butterfly, Butterfly, Fly Away Home

butterfly garden

Yesterday, we set our Painted Lady butterflies free.  It has been a wonderful few weeks with them, but it was time.  The new caterpillars will be here in a couple of days, and we need to get the “garden” ready for them!

The Butterfly Garden kit comes with everything you need to successfully raise caterpillars to butterflies, including a postcard to send off for your caterpillars (paid for by the cost of the kit).  It took about a week for our caterpillars to reach us, and once they did, the fun began.

The instructions are really simple: place the cup where you can observe the caterpillars, but don’t open it or disturb it.  Once all the caterpillars hang upside down (about a week to 10 days out), then transfer them to the “garden”.  I really thought that would be the hard part, but it was really simple.  When you open the cup, all the caterpillars are suspended from a thin paper layer on top of the cup (similar to onion skin paper).  Simply tape the paper to the side of the garden and wait a few days.

We kept our butterflies for about a week.  We found that orange slices were the best things to feed them.  We would simply wedge about half an orange a day and slip it into the garden.  They were a lot of fun to watch for my little guy.  The entire process was relatively quick, and he never lost interest in watching them go from caterpillar to butterfly.  My older son created a journal and spent a good deal of time each day, writing and drawing his observations.  He even took his journal to school to share with his teacher.

We were sad to say goodbye to our little friends, but the weather is warm, flowers are blooming, and it was time.  We’ll start the whole process over again next week when our new buddies arrive.

Bubbles, Bubbles, Everywhere!

My younger son was the proud recipient of a bubble machine for Christmas.  I’m not big on bubbles, mainly because of the mess.  We learned early on what bubble solution will do to carpet (acts as a dirt magnet and leaves polka-dots all over the place!), children WILL spill the bottle (I think it is a requirement for childhood), and of course, the drips from the dipstick leave a lovely, slick track of solution wherever you are.  Then there’s the whole “blowing” issue – I just about pass out after a dozen blows on the wand (because my three year old hasn’t figured out how to blow on the stick himself!).  Sure, my kids love bubbles, but I don’t necessarily share in their enthusiasm.

The bubble machine we bought through Wonderbrains this past Christmas solves the whole passing-out issue.  Put in a couple of batteries, flip the switch and watch tons of bubbles come spewing from the machine!  The kids are able to run it themselves and it has proved to be quite durable.  We keep it on the back porch because bubble solution, whether in a machine or manually blown, is still a mess.  That will never change!  It works with regular bubble solution (don’t use the cool new bubble solution that makes the bubbles that “stay” – it is quite a bit thicker and may clog the machine).

And, bubbles are really quite pretty, when you’re not passing out.  I now enjoy watching the kids play in the bubbles as opposed to trying to catch my breath every five minutes or so!  It is totally worth every penny I paid for it and then some!

bubble machine

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