Game Review: “Animal Soup” by Briarpatch Ages 5 and up

Animal Soup Game

Kids beg to play Animal Soup again and again. It’s a game of match as players race to find their animal dressed in different garb—a lei, scarf, baseball hat or tiara—on the game board. The winner collects an animal disc from the soup bowl! See my full review at Parents’ Choice website.

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Game Review: “Clothespins! Game” by Briarpatch Ages 5 and up

Clothespins Game

Clothespins!, This game of strategy requires the player to collect items of clothing by pattern—polka dots, stripes or wiggly lines, or by type—pants, tops or shorts. Finish three laundry lines with three matching articles of clothing and you win. But don’t let the bird steal your laundry! See my full review at Parents’ Choice website.

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Toy Review: “Taggies! First Touch Ball” all ages

Taggie Ball

Taggies! First Touch Ball, this newest member of the taggie ball family, is a soft, cuddly soccer ball, covered with the smooth tags that attract kids. Great for rolling and retrieving, the ball inspires a new crawler to take off. For my full review see Parents’ Choice website.

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Book Review: A First Guide to Baby Signing by Amazing Baby


When I was at the International Toy Fair in New York City in February, I stopped in at Dolphin Books and was introduced to their new book on baby signs,  A First Guide to Baby Signing. I was impressed because it was authored by a professional who actually works with sign language, Katie Mayne, a teacher of the deaf.

Parents are increasingly interested in teaching sign language to their babies. Sign language provides babies with a way to communicate with hand movements long before their vocal mechanism is ready to say words. Allowing babies and toddlers to express their needs and wants earlier, relieves frustration and gives us a peek into their thoughts and desires.

The author’s expertise accounts for the simple but accurate information and inclusion of important tips such as making sure family members and care givers can recognize and use signs too since the purpose is to provide a means for your child to communicate. Her tip to keep background noise to a minimum correlates with research that says babies learn language better in a quiet environment, since they have a harder time distinguishing foreground and background sounds.

The yummy colors and kid-friendly graphics surround captivating pictures of babies and moms signing 44 basic words divided into ten categories from “starter signs” relating to your child’s basic needs of hunger and thirst, to “indoor”, “outdoor” and “evening” signs. The categories of signs as well as the sequence in which they are introduced are based on language learning while individual signs were chosen to link to earliest speech sounds and words spoken. Step-by-step photographs make learning easy and fun.

Grab this inviting  manual and start signing with your child. Your reward will be a gesture of “I love you” far before your child can say the words.


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18 Months Old: Best Developmental Toys and Books to Encourage Language

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6 Months Old: Best Developmental Toys and Books to Encourage Language

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At six months of age, your baby can understand a few words she hears frequently, is babbling to herself and others, experimenting with her mouth and vocal system much to her delight! She might start a conversation with a yell, or laugh when something strikes her fancy. This is a time to continue to talk and read to your baby as she is listening to differences in sound combinations and words. Chose interesting toys and books to match her growing listening and talking skills:

Manhattan Toy Put and Peek Birdhouse is one of my personal favorites and kids love it too. You can open, close, take in and out,look through and in the birdhouse to gather up the four amusing birds. Each one is different enough for you to describe their textures, colors, shape, sounds and patterns to provide lots of vocabulary for your baby.

Lamaze Trotter the Pony has some pretty wobbly legs that you can tug on to show long and short. Each hoof makes a different sound to describe and he iscovered with varied textures–bumpy corduroy, shiny smooth tail, slick rings, fuzzy face and slippery feet. Babies love his curly hair atop his head and smile in response to his face.

Melissa and Doug Deluxe Candy Jar Fill and Spill is filled with goodies that all have a face–giving your baby someone to converse with–whether it’s a wrapped candy, lollipop or gingerbread man. These soft candies are the right size to shake and chew on and later take in and out of the candy jar. The clear plastic allows you to see and talk about all the goodies inside.

Tiny Love Activity Ball is constant entertainment to your little one as he starts to sit up and swat the bulgy eyed ball to get it to move. Every swipe at it evokes a noise to teach cause and effect. Describe all the parts on him–bumpy rings, patterned arms and legs and pull the lets and head out for fun. Kids love to chew on his antennae.

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3 Months Old: Best Developmental Toys and Books to Encourage Language

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At three months of age, your baby shows excitement when a toy or book is placed in front of her. Now she can move her eye muscles to examine things of interest, identify most adult colors and is generally interested in looking at a toy or book. Language enhancing toys for this age have lots to talk about as you describe the toy, read the book or talk about the illustrations. Therefore chose toys that have contrasts in color and pattern, texture, and sound as well as flexibility in movement so you have opportunities to describe using varied and rich vocabulary.

Freddy the Firefly, My Friend Emily the doll, and Pupsqueak the dog by Lamaze all meet these requirements for multiple opportunities for description. As your baby looks at the toys, give her words for the various characteristics like smooth, rough, bumpy corduroy, or blue, orange, red and yellow tummy, or crinkly, rattle, or squeak. Each little square of fabric around Emily’s skirt provides the opportunity to talk about different shapes, textures and sounds. Each toy has an opportunity for movement or change that you can describe: lift up Freddy’s wing for peek-boo or go flying, take Emily for a walk or sit down, and feed Pupsqueak his bone. Research shows that the more you talk to your baby, the better it is for her language development. So having toys that are stimulating on many levels, builds her language. That being said, don’t forget to have breaks too! No one likes continuous talk.

Whoozit by Manhattan Toy: is a baby’s favorite with varied black and white contrasting patterns on the back and a smiling face on the front with seven appendages to flog and rattle to keep your little one entertained.Many variations have been introduced like Baby Whoozit and Baby Tizoo who sports pink for the girls. Lots of textures and shapes to describe, this toy even has a peek-a-boo nose.

Tug and Hug Horse by Sassy: has plenty to entertain your baby too. With some hard surfaces to plunk as the horse trots off, this toy has stripes, polka dots and bright contrasting colors. Just press his saddle for a trot, a neigh and clearing his nose! Pull on his legs and describe long and short, in and out. His friendly face invites conversation and attracts your baby to stimulate talking. Babies are attracted to faces and talk more to a face, especially a familiar one. Always look for toys with a face to encourage language.

Taggies Look at Me! Activity Mirror: is angled for your baby’s best viewing and engages your child with eight faces on one side that they can manipulate as they get older–feel the fuzzy bear, flip back the giraffe and pull on the hippo. Lights and sounds can be activated but aren’t necessary for the fun. Flip it over when baby is bored and you have the three pigs to put in their numbered houses and the cow to jump over the moon.

Play With Me! Activity Bumpers: by International Playthings has stimulating action on both sides, first a black, white and red penguin and zebra with clever tags to play with in a mane or hand, and then a multi-colored side bursting with a cow jumping over the moon, a pig peek-a-boom, a fuzzy lamp to pull up and down and a taggie rainbow in the stars.

Peek-a Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti: This clever, bright contrasting flap book engages babies every time I read it. It has all the components for a perfect read-aloud for your baby–rhythm, bounce, fun, rhyme, bright contrasting pictures and fun animals. Just as your baby is looking at the picture and listening to the rhyme, you flip down the flap to reveal the cute animal face and say its sound.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr/Eric Carle: This book is a crowd pleaser for babies to kindergartners. I have never read this to a 3 month old who didn’t look enthralled as I read the text. The bright, beautiful collage illustrations of the individual animals are exciting and the repetition of the “What do you see?” promotes learning and gives comfort to a child over repeated readings.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney: There is no end to the love a mother has for her baby as this mama bunny and her baby try to one-up each other in the breadth and depth of their love for each other. The intricate drawing and soft colors match the lovely story.

Baby Talk by DK: At 3 months, your baby will enjoy listening to you say baby’s first words and flipping the flaps but as she gets older she will enjoy becoming active in the reading process. Babies love to look at other baby’s faces and these will capture your baby’s attention as they reveal some first words that babies speak like “yum-yum” or “hee-hee” or “boo-hoo.”

Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star by Rosemary Wells: As part of Wells’ Read to Your Bunny, Very First Library, this book is a song put to pictures. Each page has a stanza from the song, a constellation in the sky for mom and dad, and a beautifully illustrated sequence of mama bunny getting her baby ready for bed including her bath, pajamas, a cup of milk, a story and lights out.

Butterfly Kisses by Sandra Magsamen: This is part of a new series, the Snuggle-me stories which include a little finger puppet of a butterfly whose purpose is to give kisses at the end. What parent doesn’t want to “tickle, giggle and play?”

Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton: A perfect beginning Boynton book, this tale is about the farm animals and the sounds they make. Everything is fine until the pigs say “la la la.” Boynton’s humor keeps parents and kids coming back for more! She has lots of fun, goofy sounding words that promote listening skills and teach kids that sounds are fun like “snort,” “snuff,” and “ruff.”

Fuzzy Bee and Friends by Priddy: Cloth books are perfect for little hand to grab as your baby approaches 6 months and wants to put everything in her mouth! The problem is that many of the cloth books don’t have strong contrasts in colors like the board books for have a good tale to tell. This book and its series has clever rhymes about Sally Spider, the dragonfly, beetle, worm and others. Kids love the shiny and textured fabrics used on the bugs.

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Game Review: Froggy Boogie by Blue Orange Toys, Ages 4-6


Ages 4-6

Grab your kiddie frog for a boogie around the lily pads. The trick is that you can’t be “seen” by the googly eyes of the adult frogs or your froggie is frozen in place, unable to advance toward the finish. What kid doesn’t enjoy sneaking past his parents’ watchful eyes?

Each adult frog, painted two delightful colors, lies waiting in the middle of the pond. Roll the dice of colors, match the two colors that come up to the adult frog and pick up one of his bulbous eyes to reveal if he has “seen” you–a green stamp of the frog lets you know “yes” and a blank means “no.” Let’s hope it is blank and you can sneak on past the adults to the next lily pad.

Although this is a game of visual memory, kids love the suspense of taking a peek under the eyes to see if they are caught. In addition, Froggy Boogie is a game of counting, visual discrimination and matching with colors, and requires no reading so the whole family beginning at 4 years can play. I’ve seen families of siblings up to 7 years giggle their way through this game together. Language is enhanced as the players discuss strategy, offer help, figure out whose turn it is and negotiate.

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Toy Review: “Funny Bunny” by Ravensburger, Great Gift

21duvgyvol_aa165_.jpg Grab your four bunnies and take off on the path to be the first to capture the carrot. Oops, it’s not that easy. Take your turn, pick a card and see if you advance 1, 2 or 3 spaces unless you get the “click the carrot” card. Then you get to turn the carrot until it clicks and the bottom drops out from under a space on the path. It’s a good thing that you have four bunnies in case you lose one through the hole. Believe it or not, kids love to pick the carrot card, even though they might lose a bunny and definitely don’t advance. It’s just plain fun to click that carrot and see who might drop off the game! Strategy comes into play when a risk-taker advances just one bunny while another child will play it safe and keep several bunnies on the path in case one is clicked off.Fun, engaging games, like Funny Bunny, encourage lots of social language, as kids discuss strategy, cope with winning and losing, explain to others how to play the game and learn to take turns and negotiate.

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Toy Review: “Three Little Pigs Play Set” by Melissa and Doug


51s1v8oensl_aa280_.jpgStep back in time with this classic, the Three Pigs, and bring on the fun! The chubby pigs are the perfect size for a toddler’s hand to squeeze and let out a squeak. They can hide in their color-matched soft homes with plenty of doors and windows to open and close to teach early prepositions like “in,” out,” “ back” and “front.” Kids love to stuff the big bad wolf (and all the pigs for that matter) down the chimney and watch him magically appear inside the house. Carry on little conversations with your pigs as your toddler chooses one to speak for too.

Language enhancing toys have lots to describe. Babies and toddlers’ receptive language (understanding) has been outpacing their expressive language (actually saying words) as they hear and store new vocabulary words. But at 1 ½ years, they are entering the stage of their “vocabulary explosion” when they can actually learn several new words a day. As you are playing with your child and describing her action with the toy, your job is a lot easier when there is a lot to describe in terms of texture, sounds, color, size, and shape. Point out the straw, stick and brick houses, shiny, smooth and soft surfaces, big, little and medium—sized houses, match the colored houses to the pigs and talk about shapes.


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