“Rory’s Story Cubes” by Gamewright

Kids love to roll dice–now they can toss nine picture cubes with clever images on each of the six sides and tell a story using the face up images. Set a theme ahead of time–“On our vacation we…” or just take turns adding to the story. The creative fun begins when kids choose a cube’s picture and start the story, interpreting the drawing as a concrete object or a more abstract concept. Kids chose the flashlight to continue their story on a more concrete level–“He grabbed the flashlight for the walk in the woods,” or to represent a more abstract concept–“The power went out.” The image of a hand represented “strength,” the cartoon bubble became “He had an idea,” and the eye conjured up “a three-eye alien.” There was no limit to the ingenuity that these cubes elicited. It was fun to sit back and watch childrens’ minds create. Many of the drawings are slightly obscure so a child can extrapolate as the abacus became a fence or a door and a co-centric series of arrows became a compass. With 54 possible images to use, there is unlimited potential for creative language learning with Rory’s Story Cubes. I have successfully used this storytelling game with kids younger than the recommended age of 8, and even had fun with kids on the autism spectrum as they learn to be more flexible and abstract with language.

Recommended age: 8 and up although younger  kids can play

The opinions expressed are soley those of the author. “Rory’s Story Cubes” were provided for review by Gamewright.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Elementary School Age, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Order’s Up” for Fast Food Fun

Things are hopping at the Ring-A-Ding Diner as players compete to quickly fill their orders before their opponents do. A game of fast reactions, “Order’s Up”  builds excitement as players race to ding the bell, winning the right to add a card to their array of yummy dishes. Select two guest checks,  filled with delectable delights,  like ice cream floats, spaghetti, or a banana split for you to match.  Roll the dice and follow the options to try to be the first one to cover all the food dishes on the card, filling your order. Wild cards like “Special of the Day” or “Free Entree” add to the strategy of the game. Kids hope for the dice to land on the picture of the silver bell,  so they can be the first to ring it, even if their hand gets smashed by others, competing to get there first. Language benefits include: kids learn categories of food–entrees, drinks, desserts, or breakfasts, and how to apply broader cards like “Special of the Day,” which can be hard for a child with more concrete language abilities. I have played this game with children on the autism spectrum and one little boy didn’t want to use the “Special of the Day” card because he didn’t understand its advantage. As with all games, turn taking and following directions are great skills to learn with “Orders Up.”

Recommended for ages 6 and up

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Order’s Up”was provided for review by Gamewright.

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

“Big Bubbles Friend Cow” by Little Kids

Kids and bubbles have always connected, so to speak. Summer fun includes chasing after the undulating spheres before they pop. Want a break from blowing and entertaining? Hand over this “Big Bubbles Friend Cow,” teach your child to tip his head back and watch the fun begin. As a long Moooo sounds off, a procession of giant bubbles comes streaming out of his mouth, changing direction with the wind. Kids are mesmerized with it.

Parents declared this the best toy at a family gathering since toddlers entertained themselves independently for twenty minutes. Fascinated each time by a changing stream of bubbles, kids keep tipping the cow’s head back to control the action. Recommended for ages 3 and up, this toy can certainly keep a toddler busy too.

Recommended age; 3 years and up

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Big Bubbles Friend Cow” was provided for review by “Little Kids.”

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Preschool, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | 1 Comment

Playmobil Coast Guard Boat

Every kid loves to play law enforcer so let’s set sail with the Coast Guard. This limited edition boat commands attention as it guards the seas. Kids loved to let down the anchor and hook from their cable winches to capture and rescue. Handcuffs are provided for the bad guys and life saving rings and boards help rescue a man overboard. Coast Guard workers can drive within the cabin while talking on the wall phone, or outside in the open air. With typical Playmobil attention to detail, the back cargo hatch can contain tools or an unfriendly person caught at sea. Two additional roofs are removable to sit on a bench for lunch or access the controls.

As I was launching the boat with its underwater motor at a neighbor’s pool, a friend said, “Playmobil motorized boats were my kids’ favorites. We would take them to the beach at low tide and they would motor around the pools of water–other kids would swarm around to get a chance to play.”  I think this cruiser is going to have to hit the beach tomorrow!

Ages: 4-9 years

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. The Coast Guard Boat was provided for review by Playmobil.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Preschool, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Henrietta The Pull Along Hen” by I Play

It’s hard to find toys for one to one and a half year-olds that keep their interest and teach them something too!  Your chicks will find this hen and her babies a fascinating delight as they pull mama, “Henrietta,” along by the string and watch her lay her eggs along the way.

This first pull along toy makes realistic noises as she ventures out with her babies or you press the comb on the top of her head. Kids are surprised when Henrietta’s three chicks drop out the back, one by one, as she is pulled along. Little one year-old Celeste kept saying, “Oh no!” every time a chick came out. Then she stopped to examine the hen and tried to figure out where the chick came from. Toddlers pause to figure out the cause-effect of this toy, as they experiment by putting the chicks in the mom and watching them roll out.

Any toy that stops a toddler in her tracks must be special.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Henrietta the Pull along Hen” was provided for review by International Playthings.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“My First Baby Doll” by I-Play

Toddlers can scoop up all the essentials, including the baby doll, put them in the soft, cloth bag and be ready for take-along play.

A great introduction to pretend play that follows a child’s experience, this first baby doll comes with the props to take a baby through her day. Little ones can feed their baby, offer a consoling teddy bear, pull a wipe out of the box and change her diaper, put her bib on for a meal, feed her a bottle and tuck her in to bed with a satin blanket that doubles as a changing pad.

As you play alongside your child, narrate the steps she is taking with her baby, giving her the language that goes along with her play. “Good job wiping baby’s bottom so you can put on a fresh diaper!” Follow her lead and describe the care she gives her new little one.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “My First Baby Doll” was provided for review by International Playthings.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Clap and Sing!” by Amazing Baby

Amazing Baby’s sing along board book, “Clap and Sing,” includes a bonus CD with songs of each of the nursery rhymes. Lots of repetition and beat keep your little one engaged with the music and lyrics for 30 minutes. The songs vary in style–a slow gentle lullaby to “Row Row Row your Boat,” a zippy “One Two Three Four Five” and a gospel like flow to “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Semi-circle tabs with a characters representing a rhyme on that page–dog, bear, lamb or spider–offer easy flipping of the pages with your baby. Simple, black outlined drawings complement the rhymes. “Baa Baa Black Sheep” has the face of the master, dame and little boy who lives down the lane with 3 bags to count. “Old Mac Donald Had a Farm” illustrates simple line drawings of the farmer, cow, duck, pig, dog, horse, and sheep with their corresponding sounds, each offering opportunities for your baby to learn new words in the context of a nursery rhyme.

Recommended for 6-18 months

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Amazing Baby Clap and Sing!” was provided for review by Silver Dolphin Books .

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Calico Critters Country Tree House Invites Hours of Fun

Gather your furry friends for an afternoon in the tree house. Don’t worry, there is plenty of room for everyone, big and small. With multiple play vignettes–a deck, hot tub, lake, pagoda, water slide or rooms with a view–several kids can play at once. Hop aboard the canoe to cruise the lake, drop the trap door to slip down the slide, munch on a picnic under the pagoda, or relax in the hot tub.

Add your own critter sets and furniture suites to the two monkeys and boat provided with the tree house. Plenty of stickers are included to personalize your new woodland home. Hang your pictures, stack your books, display your best dishes, and throw down the “Welcome” mat and it’s time to invite friends over for imaginary play. Once the props are assembled, kids just rotate around the circular, three dimensional play land, lost in their world of pretend.

Check out the newest family of Hedgehogs who look quite at home in the forest. Kids love their stand-out hairdos and combs to tame their locks.

Mothers told me that the tree house is best played with on a short, small table so several kids can play alongside each other, absorbed in one of the mini-scenarios. One side lended itself to outdoor play with the water slide, lake and alfresco eating areas, while the other side brought little hands indoors as they arranged and re-arranged furniture and accessories in the rooms.

Parents should be the producers of play, setting out the critters and their props, letting their child direct the action at the tree house.  Language and play skills are built and reinforced as kids are in charge of their play.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Calico Critters Country Tree house” was provided for review by International Playthings.

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

“Wildlife Care Station” by Playmobil

Introduce your child to Playmobil’s “Wildlife Care Station” and you’ll lose them to great creative play involving compassion and care for the injured animals. Two wildlife workers have the tools to round up the hurt animals in the fenced yard or padlock them into the crate for safety as they recover. With plenty of sticky bandages and re-usable casts, your little veterinarians can feed the baby leopards from a bottle or offer their parents some delicious grass or carrots. This little playhouse in the jungle offers lots of places to move the people and animals to change the action. Turn the station around and the wildlife workers tend to their paper work on the laptop computer on their desk or get a little sleep after pulling down the murphy bed from the wall. Lots of shelves can hold their supplies–rope, maps, or medicine. My little play partner spent hours spinning stories as different animals approached the station and the workers took over. The band-aids were especially interesting as the rhino ended up covered from head to toe. Apparently her recovered because today they are gone!

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Wildlife Care Station” was provided for review by Playmobil.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up | Leave a comment

Playmobil’s “Family Van and Boat With Trailer”

Summer vacation never looked so good. Load your family of four into their SUV, hook up the boat trailer, pack a picnic and grab the sand toys. This new Playmobil adventure sethighlights the company’s incredible engineering and attention to detail in their props for pretend play.

When you arrive at the beach, unwind the winch and watch the speed boat lowered off the trailer to launch into the water. Mindful of engaging accessories, the creators have provided life jackets, flip flops, hats and sunscreen for the kids, as well as a bucket, sand screener, pitcher, shovel, rake and sailboat for play. Mom and Dad have a roller suitcase to hold their belongings as well as a duffel bag. Cups and a picnic basket transport lunch on the boat. After a day on the water, just hook up the boat and watch it slide back onto the trailer.

The fun in the sun theme appeals to both girls and boys who played with this set. With each added accessory, a child’s pretend play was extended–a water bottle for a drink, a suitcase to plan packing for a trip, cups to create a meal, sand toys to cast in the beach, and a dog to add to the mix.  Kids invented rich stories with these props, and were mesmerized with each new action or participant.

We floated our boat in the water but my next move is to get the Playmobil motor to attach to the boat so we can take our story on the water.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Family Van with Boat and Trialer” was provided for review by Playmobil.

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