“Gobblet Gobblers” by Blue Orange Games


Assemble your tic-tac-toe grid and off you go with a chance to place three of your gobblers in a row to win. With each turn, players can add a new gobbler to the board or move one that is already in place. Two options–to find an empty space or “gobble up” an existing smaller piece–make this game a multi-leveled game of strategy and memory. Go ahead and move your piece already on the board but don’t forget who was under him, because the littler guy will be left behind in that space and might set up a play for your opponent. Requiring visual-spacial memory and the ability to weigh different strategic options and outcomes, “Gobblet Gobblers” stretches young minds and gets them giggling as they surprise even themselves as opportunities open up to win!

Age: 5 and up

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“ChickyBoom” by Blue Orange Games

Chickyboom by Blue Orange GamesChicks have come to roost on their favorite perch, performing a balancing act on thick bales of hay and slim wagon wheels. Plump Mom and baby chickys peer out their adorable eyes, beckoning players to take turns, skillfully plucking pieces off the teetering perch without toppling the brood. Players remove birds and their accessories, hoping to keep the remaining pieces in place. Each piece has its own point value from one to three, so after the perch is dumped, collect your pieces, add up your score and declare the winner.

A game of fine motor skill and balance, “ChickyBoom” requires slow, precise movements so as not to disturb the roosting chicks. Strategy comes into play as risk takers remove a piece of higher value that might start the gang wobbling but adds value to their winnings. Get some math practice as you add up the numbers on your pieces to reach the highest score and win the game.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Rain Forest:A Journey From the River to the Treetops,” by Silver Dolphin Books

Rain forest bookStrap on your boots and rain gear to venture through the entangled layers of the rain forest–discovering their inhabitants, habitat and prey, feeling the sheer immensity of the jungle. Clearly dividing the forest layers from the river, forest floor, understory, and canopy to the emergents, this book draws the reader up through the levels of foliage with just enough facts and lush illustrations. 

In an age where books compete with fast-paced technology for a child’s attention, “Rain Forest” reinforces the power of an engaging, interactive book. Kids explore the layers of the rain forest in five pop-up panoramas, including the transparent, three dimensional layered view of the Amazon River. Scout an animal in its natural habitat, and then check the 3-D key below to gather facts about your creature. Children I read this to were so excited by the Circle of Life that they asked to hear about the “secondary customers” (consumers) again! The grand recycling food chain gave them order in this complicated ecosystem.

With a new emphasis on encouraging elementary school children to read non-fiction, “Rain Forest” is a captivating addition to a child’s library, capturing the enormity of the jungle’s influence in intricate detail–providing a home for more than half of known animal species and stretching for over 1,400 miles on either side of the equator. This book can be read by a child to discover and learn or used by educators to encourage children to collect facts, write paragraphs, explain the interdependence of forest layers, food chains and ecosystems or answer inferential questions about what species survive where and why.

So set aside Sponge Bob and the Super Heroes for a moment and immerse a child in the teeming forest of learning about our world.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Elementary School Age, Reading, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

“Round the Farm” by Alex Jr. Toys

Take your baby on a discovery trip “Round the Farm” with this cuddly, six-sided ball. Four bright contrasting faces await your little one as she rotates the ball to meet the frog, cat, pig and dog. Each face combines contrasting patterns, textures and colors to enterain baby and invite exploration. Fuzzy protrusions, for ears, tails, or feet, are easy to grab to rotate the ball to meet a new barnyard friend. A little squeeze on the ear brings on a ribbit, meow, oink or woof, corresponding to the animal’s face. Babies love a squishy ball that they can easily grab, roll or mainipulate to hear sounds, feel texutres, see faces, or strick their finger in a fuzzy hole. An inherent preference for faces drives baby’s curiosity to explore, and eventually “speak” to a face on this delightful ball of fun.

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“Taggies Rocker” by International Playthings

Taggies RockerKids lined up for a turn on Taggies’ newest giraffe rocker, swinging a leg over his sturdy, plush back and hanging on to the handles for a lively ride. Just the right size for a one to three year-old, this playful friend is adorned with bright colors, varied textures, crinkle ears and patterned taggies to amuse the youngest ones while the older toddlers can saddle up and hang on to the mane of ribbons. A plush, huggable friend with a cock-eyed grin, this giraffe leaves the fun and creativity to your child–no batteries needed. He’s low enough to the ground but life-size for kids to invite him into their land of imagination. Don’t be surprised if he is asked to join the picnic or play house. Watching a one-year-old greet him with a morning hug, I know this giraffe can serve to expend rockin’ energy or just be a hang around pal in the playroom.

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“Taggies Go Go! Car” by International Playthings

Taggies Go Go CarCuddle up with this friendly-faced coupe, covered with soft plush and shiny geometric designed tags. A takeoff from the popular Taggies balls, this car packs more features for your baby to explore and parents to talk about, enhancing learning. Press the button on top to hear “beep, beep” and see his cheeks light up, grab the crinkly wheels, see your reflection in the mirrored bumper, play peek-a-boo with a puppy peering out the window or pull the string to start the motion. A combination of textures, vibrant colors, and sounds, this compact car is engineered to give kids plenty to investigate and parents many features to describe, feeding your child important language to encourage learning. His endearing face invites baby’s conversation, providing practice for future chats.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews | 1 Comment

“The Transporters” DVD for Children with Autism

"The Transporters" DVD to help autisitc children read facesPop in this new innovative DVD, “The Transporters” and get ready to enter a land of toy trains, cable cars, buses, ferries and other mechanical characters donning human faces, designed to teach children with autism to recognize and name emotions. 

Since children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) tend to like mechanical objects with highly predictable movement rather than faces that are constantly changing, this DVD combines both in a delightful, kid-paced series of episodes featuring eight expressive faced characters from dependable William, the Chain Ferry and Jennie the Tram who can be a bit boastful, to youthful, happy Sally, the Cable Car. Providing a comfortable context to learn a challenging concept, “The Transporters” teaches children with ASD to recognize and name emotions in different situations and on different faces.

When the little boy, Jamie, leaves for school, his toys come alive and transport the viewer to an engaging world of adventure, reactions and problem solving. The fifteen episodes graduate in theme from simpler to more complex emotions to recognize–from happy, sad and angry to proud, jealous, joking and ashamed–with quizzes following the stories to check understanding.

As I viewed the episodes, I was impressed with the care that the researchers and developers took to select words and situations that named and reinforced emotions through clear, short sentences, exercising flexibility of language. Sally’s “happy” was linked with enjoy, love, laugh, friends, favorite thing to do, get there on time, good working order, helping friends, thank, and great friends. Varied phrases described the episode that capture the resulting emotion, teaching children language in many contexts. Nigel however was “angry” linked to stop shouting, didn’t say thank you, take more time, stuck behind, and forced to go slowly. Using the vocabulary associated with situations linked to an emotion and matching it with a closeup of the facial expression is an effective teaching tool for children with ASD. Emotions are taught within social situations, with resulting reactions explained and named by the narrator. 

Backed by research, “The Transporters” has been found to be effective in teaching emotions to children with autism who viewed the DVD for just 15 minutes a day over a month period. They were able to identify and generalize what they learned. A parent whose child with autism viewed the episodes said, “My 4 year-old son, on the spectrum loved these videos from the first time he saw them. He has recognized and pointed out my facial expressions for the first time and more readily recognizes expressions in books.” An added value is that his 6 year-old typically developing brother loved them too!

Developed in the UK, “The Transporters” uses some vocabulary such as “funicular railway” for elevated train and “tram” for train which is less familiar to those of us on the other side of the Atlantic, but doesn’t detract from the learning accomplished through these episodes.

25% of the profits go to further research and autism charities. This is a win-win deal. Help your child cue into social situations by accurately reading faces and contribute to further research to help us help kids.

Appropriate for 4-8 year olds

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Autism, Book Review, Media Review, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Enhance Language | 4 Comments

“Baby, Boo!” by Amazing Baby


Research shows that babies love the human face, with all its unique angles, light and contrasting shadows, moving parts and eyes to engage.. Celebrating the simplicity of baby’s day–sleeping, kissing, giggling and  playing peek-a-boo–this delightful oversized board book, Baby, Boo! features plump baby faces to match his activities. Using rhyme, rhythm, and short text, the book introduces a playful line, “wakey, wakey, sleepy baby,” while your baby explores the matching bigger than life face. Little ones reach out to the faces as if to discover a new friend. A surprise interactive peek-a-BOO brings on the laughter as well as it’s YOU, in a kid shaped mirror at the end.

To encourage language beyond reading this book to your baby, describe the pictures using expanded vocabulary such as his eyes are shut, he stretched his arm, puckered his lips, planted a kiss, laughed, listened or hid. Imitate and describe the faces as your baby touches the pictures.

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“Five Little Ducks” by Amazing Baby


Amazing Baby, Five Little DucksFive Little Ducks disappear, one by one, ignoring mom’s call to come back to her Quack! A concise number book of subtraction, interactive touch and feel, rhythmic rhyme and bold graphics leads your baby through the circular cut-outs to reveal remaining ducks and flowers to count.  Babies follow the adorable ducks, rocking to the rhythm of the verse, soaking up the rhymes and grabbing the cutouts to turn the pages. Revealing an array of concepts, this baby book takes your little one from her earliest days as a newborn listening to the rhythm of language, through her first year and a half, hearing rhymes, counting ducks and flowers, recognizing numbers, and finishing repeated phrases. This baby book has staying power with plenty of learning for many months.

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“One” Book Review

chilren's picture book, "One"Through simple blotches of color, author-illustrator Kathryn Otoshi creates a gang of personalities cleverly tied to their hues–quiet Blue, outgoing Orange, bright Green, outgoing Purple and hot-head Red. Don’t be thrown off my the apparent simplicity of her drawings and storyline. This book is a winner, rich in language, metaphors, concepts and life lessons.

Blue is content with himself until Red comes along, announcing, “Red is hot, Blue is not.” Blue flattens into a puddle of color, feeling diminished by this bully. His friends rally around to comfort Blue, but can’t seem to step up to Red and tell her to STOP! Undaunted, Red’s blob gets bigger and bigger, picking on the whole gang as they flatten, feeling “a little blue.” The number “1” comes to their rescue and stands up to Red, refusing to back down, demonstrating the courage to face a bully. His bravery was contagious as each color declared their intent to stand up to Red, and became a tinted number. Each colored number wanted to count against Red, who started to diminish as his bravado was challenged. In a final twist of kindness, the gang called out to Red and invited him to “count” too, coming full circle into a heartwarming tale of inclusion.

This clever book can entertain and teach at many levels and ages. To the young preschooler, the story line reinforces colors and numbers, while to the older child, it launches a discussion of intimidation, resolving problems, and inclusion. Recognizing metaphors, discussing the use of size and shapes to represent concepts (sad, defeated, bossy, etc,) and relating the story to a child’s experience are recognized using this story to start the discussion.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Autism, Babies, Bi-lingual, Birth-3 year-olds, Blogroll, Book Review, Books, Preschool, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers | Leave a comment