Toy Fair Trends New York 2018, Lots of Learning

What fun to step right into the parade lineup as I started my adventure through the New York Toy Fair last week! The opening ribbon cutting ceremony unleashed thousands of international buyers and press to see what’s new in the toy industry. I was pumped up with the excitement, energy, innovation, passion and fun generated by seeing the hottest new toys, games and entertainment products come to life. I loved discovering more companies intentionally building learning opportunities into their products, and calling out the skills on packaging, in lesson plans and parent guides!

After walking the nearly half million square feet, it was evident to me what was trending among products that can deliver an outstanding playful learning experience, with rich repeat play potential:

STEM +Story: STEM is STEAMing ahead with many products designed to build science, technology, engineering and math, even for babies and toddlers. What’s new is many companies are now adding a creative story element (read that “language/literacy  learning”) to their building and construction play. Build and Imagine and Wonderhood Toys have been favorite leaders in this rich pairing. Thankfully more companies have stepped up this year to deepen the learning by inviting kids to author the story as they build. Thames and Kosmos introduced Pepper Mint (“The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure”) who visits her scientist aunt in the rain forest, equipping their tree house with mechanical equipment using pulleys, winches, and gears, and even light up the jungle with a string of LED lanterns! Geomagworld engages preschoolers with their Magicubes, adding magnetic blocks to combine for people, animals and jobs, expanding mix and match story-telling opportunities.

Portable Play: After visiting companies specializing in larger play schemes, I saw an emphasis on sliding parts, and fold up play products for easy storage or take-along play. I know my Grammy friends were very interested in several of the larger pretend play toys that could be minimized for storage when the grandkids go home. One of the most innovative products I saw (and others were talking about it too) was Kangaroo’s “Pop-oh-Ver’s”  Stove and Market, a fabric stove, oven and microwave that is so cleverly designed by a mom of 7, that it fits over a chair! Talk about lots of pretend play potential that you can fold up and put away. The microwave door opens to a clear pocket to insert your bacon. So many of Simplay3’s products have design elements for take-apart packability. Their “Carry and Go Track Table” is fun ready to happen. The sturdy vehicle track has play options on both sides–race and train tracks, and an easy to carry handle. Kids bring the cars and people to the set for their own story.

Strong EQ:  EQtainment is leading the toy movement with outstanding new products every year for parents and teachers to provide excellent content for kids’ learning to name, regulate and understand emotions, while building kindness, compassion and understanding. This year’s “Moment AR App,” utilizes AR technology, helping children to identify their feelings and emotions with the use of unique 3D images of characters representing emotions, in the palm of their hand. Guidecraft’s Kai Kai and Xin Xin dolls have facial expression features to add to the face that can change the doll’s emotions, inspiring discussion about how one is feeling. Faber Castell’s “My Story Dolls Express Your Mood, “  starts with a clothespin, as kids choose a face that reflects their mood–calm, happy, sad, determined etc. and then decorate the doll with fabric clothes, tape, stickers, embroidery floss hair, and rhinestones to communicate emotions. What a creative beginning to bringing about a conversation about feelings! Hoyle’s “Super Me” memory card game teaches kids empathy, helping others and social skills as they match an emergency situation with the appropriate superhero response.

Expanded Play set Props: I am always excited to see some of my favorite toys I’ve used in therapy be surrounded by new playset props to expand and inspire story telling.  Schleich has added beautifully detailed “worlds” on the Farm and at the Horse Club, with characters, buildings and props to their collection of animals for work, play and secret getaways.  These play sets offer a starting point for kids to take off and be the director of their play, enriching the learning experience.  Planning, critical thinking, negotiating and reasoning skills are tapped as kids join together in pretend play. Corolle, known for its huggable,  sweet scented dolls, has stepped up the pretend play factor providing accessory packages for “A Day in the Life of a Toddler.”  With breakfast props (the toast pops up), and snacks, kids can exercise cognitive language skills through imitating real life. Park your car at  Plan Toys’ new “Parking Garage,” and get some extra reading and writing practice as the road surface is friendly to chalk messages. Kids can write directions, name a service or even the price to park.  Strictly Briks, is rich with new accessories to expand open-ended brick building play, from tracks, cubes, and 3D bricks including their newest “Trap & Gap Baseplates,” inspired by the CEO’s play as a child.

Games and Puzzles Rule: Games and Puzzles continue to be the fastest growing category of toys as families seek more quality time with the kids. Thinkfun’s “Shadows in the Forest” is a game played in the dark.  A team controls the movement of cute little Shadowlings who freeze when exposed to the light by the Seeker and need to be freed by collaborative effort. There has been much written lately about kids’ declining social skills due to increased time on their phones and devices rather than face to face interaction. Assembling a puzzle can be a wonderful opportunity to gather around the table and connect socially.  “Volkswagon T1 Campervan 3D puzzle by Ravensburger appeals to the adventurer and surfer dude in all of us. I can’t wait to watch and listen as some brothers work together to assemble it. The Learning Journey’s “Glow in the Dark Pirate Ship” puzzle takes you through a day in the life of a pirate with lots to talk about.

Pet Play: “Cutie Paws Puppy Stroller” by VTech is sure to be popular with the preschool set, as they take their doggie for a ride. Alex Toys’  “Snap-To-It Vet” looks like a traveling vet van that opens up to all the accessories for grooming and a good exam with props that are attached to the fabric book with button like snaps for kids to set up the scene. Folkmanis’ “3 Stages of a Frog,” will delight kids just like their caterpillar to butterfly puppet did. Perfect for learning in and outside the classroom, this 3 part puppet teaches metamorphosis from the egg to the tadpole to the frog.



Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Elementary School Age, Games, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Calling out the Learning in Toys

Those of you who know me, know that it is part of my mission to get companies to call out the learning potential in their toys and games for parents and educators. Let’s face it. This also helps sell toys and games when retailers can be helpful to customers looking for the learning in their products.

The first company I saw to do this effectively and comprehensively was ThinkFun who originally had a chart (which I helped advise on) that checked off different skills for each game. Now you go to their products and sort by skill–Word and Language skills, Logic and Problem Solving, STEM and Creative Thinking, and Visual Perception and Reasoning. Their games are loaded with fun learning and they were innovators in having a former kindergarten teacher, Charlotte Fixler,  on their staff to advise on skill building potential in products.

Brackitz has a wonderful grid broken into 13 skills, including “Representation and Storytelling.” They get it. Language is an integral skill in STEM/STEAM activities as kids are solving problems, negotiating, reasoning and often creating a story or structure for later pretend play.

So many companies fail to identify the language learning in their toys and games. Is it just too obvious? Language underlies all learning but kids are are getting less opportunity to interact face to face, practicing these social and cognitive skills as tablets and devices are stealing time from free creative play.

Educational Insights has been my go-to company for great games to use in speech therapy over the years, Their skill breakdown is evident under the “Education” category on their website. I’ve played “Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game” with kids and they loved it, while according to their website, learning:

  • Practices identifying geometric shapes
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Improves strategic thinking skills
  • Encourages social skills and turn-taking

I only wish these skills were identified for ALL of their games, not just those deemed “Educational.”

I’ll be at the International Toy Fair in New York City in a little over a week and be on the lookout for more companies making it easier for parents to find a great toy or game that can help build specific skills for kids who might need some extra practice or strengthening in an area.




Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Taking Child’s Play Seriously

There is a wonderful article on the importance of the right play for kids in the New York Times this week, “Taking Playtime Seriously.”  Not only does it emphasize the importance of a child’s play but what can threaten natural learning through play,

“But though play may be intrinsically present, and intrinsically playful, those who study its importance in children’s lives point out that it can also be threatened, either by too little attention and responsiveness from distracted adults or, in another sense, by too much attention and teaching, of the not-so-playful kind.”

I’ve spent my career coaching parents on how to play with their children to strengthen language development and talked to them about entering their child’s play to elevate language learning. That means come alongside them and follow their lead, perhaps taking a figure and entering dialogue with your child’s figure or cooperatively building a story with props. Too much attention and teaching, such as taking over the play or pushing toys or tablets that push content over interaction can be taking away important time that could be used for exploration, creation and curiosity.

The article goes on to say, “So part of encouraging play is pulling back on how much programmed goal-directed learning we expect from very young children, to leave them time for the fun of exploration, curiosity and, well, fun. But another important part may be creating environments that foster children’s play and parents’ participation and attention.

Certainly toys are not always the answer, as pots and pans, sticks, a cardboard box or even fish candies can spark imaginations and free play in kids. But when we ARE selecting toys we should be on the look out for those that can give a suggestion of pretend play or story telling without prescribing it so carefully that a child is robbed of being the creative author of their play.



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Zoo on the Loose, Perfect Language Learning Game

I love to “find” a fantastic language learning game and in this case, it was on the game shelf at my grandkids’ house and due to the kids’ excitement when  I asked about it, I knew it was loads of fun too!

“Zoo on the Loose, A Hide and Seek Animal Adventure” by Mindware is right in sync with preschoolers as they are in charge of hiding and finding animals according to directions that include plenty of concepts to process–spacial relationships, colors, shapes, and descriptors. Unfold the play zoo mat and place the 5 cuddly animals, camel, zebra, bear, whale and monkey in their zoo homes. Play cards send the animals to hide on the mat or all around the house. Our kids did both which added a memory component because when we chose a zookeeper card, we had to return all the animals to their zoo homes on the mat. We forgot the monkey was in the refrigerator, as we had “put it someplace cold!” What fun to see how the kids listened to and followed the directions, choosing a spot that matched their descriptions. “Put the camel someplace soft” directed my little friend to place it under our dog standing by!

Kids practice beginning reading skills as they repeat a phrase, “Put the___”in the yellow circle,” “by a window,” “under a tree,” or “next to the camel.” Listening and following directions is a critical skill for success in the classroom as kids practice hiding the animals “someplace quiet,” “someplace sunny,” or “someplace dry (the clothes dryer).” Teachers and therapists take note as this would be a wonderful way to engage kids physically in the classroom as well as mentally as they exercise memory, listening, vocabulary, and concept learning to build essential language skills.

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What Were Kids’ Favorite Christmas Gifts? These Ruled at our House!

  1. With the excitement of Christmas and the holidays past, it is fun to reflect on what toys, games and books were the biggest hits with the kids with lasting play value. This year I had to search a bit more for appropriate fun, learning toys for kids 12 and up as my grandkids are getting older. There is definitely less written about excellent STEM and learning kits for tweens in my opinion so it took some investigating. Here were favorites according to the kids and parents:


  1. Little Bits Droid Inventor Kit was just as much fun as expected. My 9 year-old put it together and navigated the app independently which is a plus for any parent as well as their child! He followed the building instructions and operated the droid from the app.
  2. Make Mini Piñatas by Klutz was a hit with the option to make 3 kid-sized piñatas, from a hamburger to a slice of watermelon, unicorn, emoji, robot, cactus and more. All the materials are provided except scissors and masking tape and we needed some extra glue. The cardboard forms were easy to fold into shapes and sometimes needed an extra pair of hands to tape them together. Instructions were clear visually and verbally so kids could count, measure and cut the strips of paper and “fringe” them for the piñata. Our 7 year-old chose to make the hamburger and it was so popular that it was hung on the tree and declared an annual ornament! He liked it so much he chose not to fill the trap door with candy and smash it to bits as one would traditionally do with a piñata.
  3. LeapFrog Scoop and Learn Ice Cream Cart was a hit yet again with a 3 year-old who was making ice cream cones for her grandpa. Check out my review of this PAL Award winner that keeps kids entertained and busy learning!
  4. KLUTZ  Stitch & Style Pouches are a perfect introduction to learning to use a thread and needle. My 9 year-old granddaughter learned to separate and thread floss,  remember the right and wrong side of the fabric,  and make a running and back stitch. She loves animals so these little animal pouches (you can make 7) were perfect for stashing her valuables.The kit includes zippers too to close up the pouch or make a mouth. With plenty of colored felt, heart and other shaped buttons and shapes to trace, kids can get creative making a llama, watermelon, ice cream cone or puppy to name a few. The hardest part was threading the needle so I cheated and left her with some metal and wire needle threaders we got at Walmart, so she could be self-sufficient.
  5. Soggy Doggy by Spin Master always catches kids by surprise when the shaggy dog randomly flicks water all over players when he decides to shake after his many showers!  A simple first game for preschoolers, this incorporates some pretend play with a rubbery, endearing doggy who doesn’t like to get wet.


Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Language, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddlers | Leave a comment

Best Books and Toys to Teach Animal Sounds

I get a lot of requests for ideas for toys for specific needs, some for speech therapy and some just for gifts to kids and grandchildren. Thought I’d share some ideas for books and toys that can teach animal sounds if you have a little one who is starting to talk or you want to encourage talking:


Fisher Price’s “See ‘n Say Farmer Says” is an oldie but goodie, that speech therapists have used for years to make learning animal sounds and names fun. This classic toy has been updated with a second page to turn to learn facts and have a question mode.

“John Deere Animal Sounds Hayride” is lots of fun and has 4 animals that make their sound when you put them in the wagon—I’ve used this successfully in play therapy as kids always love a vehicle and farm animals. 

The “Kidoozie Funtime Tractor” is just like the John Deere only it has 1 more animal to fit into the tractor trailer. Have fun placing one animal at a time into their matched spot and repeat their sound. As your child plays pretend with the animals, make the associated sound as they are playing with that animal to reinforce learning.

“Aurora My Barnyard Friends Baby Talk Playset” This little barn houses four animals, a pig, cow, duck and rooster. Three of them make their animal sound when squeezed and the duck is a rattle.

Books that feature animal sounds:

“Peek-a-Moo” by Marie Torres Cimarusti, This is a darling flap book that I’ve read to so many kids over the years and they love it. The animal’s sound is in the rhyme to guess the name of the animal. The big bold illustrations delight kids as they learn and listen to the clues.

“Noisy Baby Animals” (My first Touch and Feel Sound Book) by Tiger Tales—I haven’t personally used these but they get good reviews. The small board book filled with photographs of animals make it easy for your toddler to press the button and listen to their corresponding sounds.

Also “Noisy Farm” by Tiger Tales.


Posted in Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddlers, Toys | Leave a comment

Did Google Home Teach Baby First Word?

I was just getting ready to write a blog about best toys and books to teach babies animal sounds. A mom had asked me for ideas for Christmas gifts for her little one which was a good question to answer for everyone. Then I got an alert that I had been mentioned in a “Mothership” blog, “Wait, Did Google Home Teach a Baby to Talk?” Ironically the article was about a dad who credits Google Home for teaching his 19-month old son to utter his first word, “Google.” Mom and toddler were playing a game, calling out to Google to say animal sounds. This is no surprise to me, as the little boy was delayed in his language development according to the dad, and simple repetitive games that require the child to repeat a word in the same play sequence in order to get a positive response, often help elicit a word. The little boy was calling out to Google like a friend over the phone and knew that when he did, he got a positive outcome or reinforcement.

What’s funny is that I’ve been ranting about those devices that answer any question, any moment because I feel they interrupt real time conversation and encourage distractibility! I may have to re-think my position based on this little guy’s breaking through and talking for the first time. And let’s not forget to shout out a hooray for that mom who was creative in finding a way to engage her child and set up a situation that required him to talk!


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Best New Picture Books to Spark Conversation and Language Learning

I’ve promised to get out some lists of my favorites, whether tech toys, games, pretend play toys or books. Well I just love hanging out at the book store and visiting old friends and seeing new ones on the shelves. I guess if I had to analyze myself I would say that I’m attracted to picture books that have a seemingly simple story but lots of depth in terms of fantastic vocabulary, rhyme, content and/or conversation starters. AND I love illustrators that make the story come alive but leave some concepts to the imagination and room for descriptions and analysis. Here are some favorite PAL Award winners:

Double Take! A New Look at Opposites by Susan Hood and Illustrated by Jay Fleck. Double take is exactly what kids AND adults do as they read through Susan Hood’s latest picture book, packed with language learning, and clever fun! Susan Hood’s books inspire thoughtful conversation, description, comparisons and verbal perspective. Fleck’s vintage illustrations delightfully depict  opposites, some more subtle than others that kids loved to discover. Beginning with a simple in/out, asleep/awake set of opposites,  the author lets us know “while those pairs are plain as DAY and NIGHT, not every duo is so BLACK and WHITE.” The perspective changes for near/far or strong/weak, depending on what character is added to claim the title. The elephant looks strongest until the whale shows up! “Now just when you think you’ve mastered that notion, watch relative words set matters in motion.” Take a look from a different point of view, up close or far away, and see how dashes and dots become a butterfly. I loved reading this book to a 7, 9, and 11 year-old and watched them try to describe the message here. “It’s good to look in a different direction!” said the 11 year-old. Talking about perspective, point of view and comparisons was a rich exchange of ideas and could even be applied to how we view friends and classmates that might be different than we are.

Ally-Saurus & the Very Bossy Monster by Richard Torrey. I was excited to see the return of Ally-Saurus,  in Richard Torrey’s new book, “Ally-Saurus & the Very Bossy Monster,” as she was a favorite in my speech therapy sessions as kids LOVED her freedom to be creative and imaginative! Now our little girl with the dinosaur spirit picks up her play in this new story as she “stomped, roared, danced and laughed” until she and her buddies were stopped by the new girl on the block. Every activity was ruled by Maddie, precluded by “You have to…you can’t …you mustn’t,” taking the fun and spontaneity out of pretend play. Finally Ally-Saurus stood up to this bossy newcomer and set her own rules that included, “any, whatever we want, and super” as they took on their dinosaur and master of ceremonies personas to prepare for an amazing monster dance.Torrey’s newest book, again provides a wonderful story to stimulate conversation about different kinds of friends, how to deal with a bossy kid, inclusion, standing up for yourself, respecting differences and more. As a speech pathologist,I find his stories inspire conversation on many levels about how to use your words to deal with a tough situation common to kids.

What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamaka, Illustrated by Mae Besom. This is

the story of a child who wakes up one day surprised by his idea, tagging along behind him, not knowing where it came from or what to do with it. I love the beautiful descriptive vocabulary used to describe this companion as they journey through the story–strange, fragile, magical, silly, weird, waste of time, different or crazy. Each word invites a conversation about why the little boy could be thinking that. What happens throughout the story? His dream grows, they become friends, he tends to it, believes in it, and comes to love it into taking flight, to change the world! Click here

Big Words for Little Geniuses by Susan and James Patterson and illustrated by Hsinping Pan. I first learned of this book when it was being promoted on the Today Show. I loved the concept as I am tired of picture books that dumb down vocabulary for kids. This may be the opposite as it is an ABC book filled with multi-syllabic (9 syllables in the first entry for A) that have fascinating, silly and whacky definitions with playful ilustrations to get the imagination going. “Arachibutyrophobia” (spell check apparently hasn’t heard of it either) is not a word I learned in my family as we loved peanut butter so describing someone with “an alarming fear of peanut butter sticking to the top of the mouth” wasn’t necessary. At first you might think why would I want to read these long words to my kids? It’s actually a wonderfully engaging way to practice reading skills. Each word is divided by syllables of 2-4 letters with those accented in capital letters AND they are just plain fun to say! Which words sound like what they mean? “Catamampus” sounds like “tilted, diagonal, or just a little bit crooked,” right? I learned so many new words–I might just be a “Fliggertigibbet.” You’ll have to look that one up. As I progressed through the book I felt like many of the words sounded like their definition. It’s loads of fun to read with a child. Click here

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. WE start our day again in the construction site with trucks stretching and rolling out of bed to discover a task too big for the five-truck crew. “Cement Mixer is thinking fast, he gives his horn a blaring blast!” Rinker’s tight, playful rhymes generate a clear message of fun and bounce for little ones as the story adds a helpful truck to each of the starting crew. “Skid’s breaker bit blasts rocks so Dozer can make his way to clear the rocks while Excavator and Backhoe team up to dig the trench, set the pipe and cover the hole. A wonderful tale of cooperation and teamwork, this book would be a wonderful lesson to share with a class about working together, using everyone’s talents. Click here

Be Brave Little One by Marianne Richmond. What a sweet story that explores what it means to be brave, a mother’s dream for her child. Sharing the different sides of bravery, “Be brave to step up and try something new. Be brave to step out when it isn’t for you.”  I love how the author sees bravery in participating and sitting still when you’ve had enough. The contrasting messages are ripe for conversation starters with kids challenging them with all sides of bravery and to “be brave to be with your feelings, each one: the happy and sad, the silly and glum.” This book can show kids that bravery can be in the biggest most outlandish situations as well as the quiet, contemplative ones. That’s a big concept for little ones. Click here


Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Great Kids’ Tech Toys for Holiday Gifts

As you know I get excited about great toys that teach! Here are some that I have awarded with our PAL Award as well as new findings that I think would be lasting fun and educational for our kids. Several of these are on my list to give to the grandchildren ages 1-11.

LeapStart by LeapFrog. This popular kids’ interactive learning system has now expanded its content to be applicable through first grade subjects. LeapStart comes with a Preschool to First Grade Sampler Book, introducing parents and kids to all the possible learning activities to teach reading, math, problem solving and life skills. Press the magic stylus to the page and the activity comes alive with questions, naming, comments and descriptions. Books (sold separately) range from Preschool “Alphabet Adventures’ to “Kindergarten Amazing Animals” and the new “Learn to Read” series, which I’ve ordered for the twins getting ready for kindergarten. Scarlet Skunk wants to get to her picnic in the treehouse but needs to read 5 words, taking her through a river, mushroom patch and flowers on the way! Kids can opt to hear the whole page read, or just the word, hear the sound of a letter, or letter name.

Q Wunder App by EQtainment. My 4 1/2 year-old grandson wanted to keep “playing” this engaging group of videos, songs and cartoons that help kids understand important EQ concepts like empathy, point of view, flexibility, patience, helping, friendship, motivation, problem solving, focus, know yourself, grit, emotions, responsibility and manners. Kids can’t get enough of learning alongside little monkey Q, “I love this!”  Best of all, we found ourselves applying the lesson’s practical applications soon after. While waiting for me to set up a game, my friend said, “Waiting is boring!” to which I replied, “Let’s practice a little patience like Q.” So we started singing a song with hand movements, just like Sofia taught us!  What a fun way to raise our children’s awareness of their emotions, building social skills and practicing better behavior. Q Wunder app.

Bluebee Pal Parker by Kayle Concepts. Want to play and learn with a soft, cuddly monkey who can read along with your child?  Parker is the perfect learning pal.  Connect Bluebee Pals to a Bluetooth enabled phone, tablet or laptop from Apple to Android and they become a cuddly learning friend, adding a physical (think sensory plush), visual and auditory dimension to learningKids were fascinated by our pairing Parker with a reading from Winnie the Pooh’s Heffalump, with realistic mouth movements and a soothing story being told. My first grade teacher friend shared that Bluebee Pals are her kids’ first choice during their “Smart Time” each morning. She uses them to pair with educational apps and stories to be read so the students can read along. Bluebee Pals can read a story, converse by phone or lead a sing-along, making learning fun. 

Meccano Micronoid by Spinmaster. Robots are hot this season with the R added in STREAM. Meet Micronoid “Switch” and “Basher,” two of the Micronoid robot gang who were easily assembled by my 12 and 10 year-old friends, anxious to start playing with them. The three mode functions along with programming options keep play interesting, silly, entertaining and challenging. These robots love to dance to the beat of your music and even coordinate when in close proximity. The autonomous mode is just that, Switch and Bash did their own thing including giggling, babbling, dancing, sneezing and singing, all intriguing to 8 year-olds and up.  Customize their walking and turning sequence and record what you want them to say in their robot voice. These robots can draw children in for some language learning play as kids ask questions, learn some early coding,  record appropriate conversation related to movements, engage in pretend play, and sharpen listening skills.

littleBits Droid Inventor Kit. I’m a fan of littleBits, the easy-to-use color-coded, magnetic and reusable, “electronic building blocks empowering everyone to create inventions, large and small.” I just ordered this kit for my grandson who loves legos and building creatively, is crazy about Star Wars and is in love with droids. Kids build with 6 bits, droid parts and customizable stickers and then use the free droid app to take it on 16+ missions. I’ll let you know what my builder thinks but littleBits are already a go-to project in his house.

Kano Computer Kit. With all the emphasis on toys and games that teach coding, why not go right to the source and learn by building your own computer? I saw this kit recommended on the New York Times Holiday Gift Guide today and with just a little research see that it has gotten great reviews. Kids can learn how to code art, music, apps, games and more.







Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Best Water Table for Christmas

Sounds a bit like an oxymoron, water table in the winter, right? But my niece a asked my advice on the best water table for her toddler as grandma wants to give her one. When I looked up my favorite “Tropical Island Resort” by Step2, I found that it was unavailable. That’s the toy industry. Find a great toy and it runs its course and poof! It’s gone. So many kids had hours of fun with that water table, flipping characters off the diving board and sailing characters along the waterways.

With a little investigation, I found a very similar water table that can also flip kids, Splish Splash Seas Water Table by Step2. This size is accommodating to several kids as they stand around the table and coordinate pretend play, AND get a little wet which is always fun.

By the way, if you find yourself in a cold climate this winter, try putting down a shower curtain and have a little water play if you are stuck inside!!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddlers | Leave a comment