Saturday, December 31, 2011

Keep Your Games Forever

We can't even close it anymore so now it sits way on top of the bookcase placing it out of the kids' reach

DOES: Protects the shape and outer layer of the boxes that hold your games
INVEST: $3.99 per roll (less if you buy more)
TOOLS: Family Fix-it, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Alternate Way of Displaying Creativity

Puzzle-making is a great way to be creative if you prefer puzzles more than open-ended toys like building blocks.

WHAT: Rush Hour Traffic Jam Jr. by ThinkFun
DOES:  Allows you to solve 40 fun puzzles, with one puzzle represented on each of the cards.  Cards are numbered thus as a child completes a puzzle, he moves onto to a slightly harder puzzle. Added surprise: this puzzle allows your child to create his own puzzle easily.
INVEST: $14- $18
TOOLS: Express Yourself, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Work Experience

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Making Toys is Just as Fun as Opening New Ones

Making toy accessories is always a lot of fun.
WHAT: Train Display Rack Made by husband of Toys are Tools' editor and Father of Numbers 1 and 2
DOES:  Allows child to see all his trains and not stuff them in a box on the floor, encourages dusting
INVEST: (Half a day's work with the wife watching the kids, actually no one watched the kids because they were playing with the new toys they got on Christmas) + $3 at hardware store + $4 worth of blocks from a large set of colored 1" cubes (costs of NYC subway trains are not included here but they generally cost about $11 per train)
TOOLS: Parent models the following skills and traits: Express Yourself, Family Fix-its, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brain Sharpening Series: Part 3 - The "Side Effects" of Memory Games

My favorite card is Myanmar.  He looks the coolest. 
WHAT: I Never Forget a Face Matching Game by eeBoo
DOES:  allows you to exercise memory skills by matching faces of children from different parts of the world, use with younger kids with less cards, use more cards as they get older
INVEST: $12-15
TOOLS: Remember to Learn, People are People, Social Scene Helper (if you have an awesome memory and need to feel confident around new people)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last Minute Gift Idea - Brain Sharpening Games: Part 2

Being able to shuffle cubes is surprisingly more fun than just pressing buttons
DOES:  features 4 games including a visual memory game played by pressing buttons to repeat a sequence a player sees on the cubes; another memory game asks you to line up cubes to show the sequence of colors given to you, the other 2 games are more puzzle-like and require shuffling too.
INVEST: $17- $30 (last minute gift? see idea for how to get it fast by mail)*
TOOLS:  Remember to Learn, Social Scene Helper, Lose and Win Gracefully

Monday, December 19, 2011

Brain Sharpening Games: Part 1

You get help when recreating what you saw but don't be fooled, it's not easy!

WHAT: ThinkFun's Cartoon It!
DOES: allows you to work on your "working memory" (the memory that you use to complete tasks and more), lets you exercise your drawing abilities
INVEST: $19.99 ($17.50 on Amazon today)
TOOLS: Remember to Learn (if your memory is so-so); Social Scene Helper (if you're shy but can draw a little and you have an awesome memory)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pencils on Ice

Smoother writing means faster writing (and drawing) and less tired hands

WHAT: Bazic Pencils #2B
DOES: Let's you write more smoothly, less tiring to your hand, good for drawing too
INVEST: $4- $5 for a pack of 12 pencils
TOOLS: Express Yourself; Foment the Love of Language

Learn to Love Pencils Again: Doodle 101

Ed Emberley teaches you how to draw everything in the world (almost)

WHAT: Make A World by Ed Emberley
DOES: Give step-by-step instructions on how to draw just about everything.
INVEST: $6-$7
TOOLS: Express Yourself, People are People, More Make Believe Please

Click onto Pencils on Ice to read about on how we are using this book right now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Telephones that Help You Read and Speak Socially - First Toys Are Tools Giveaway

DOES: helps you listen to yourself and your friend more clearly as you read to each other, choral reading helps you remember what you've read, lets your child pretend to order room service  or a gluten-free pizza with fresh basil and soy mozzarella cheese
INVEST: $16-$17
TOOLS: Remember to Learn (new), Foment the Love of Language, More Make-Believe Please

Express Train to Your Brain

listening to yourself with more clarity and less outside noise does wonders!  photo courtesy: Harebrain Inc.

WHAT: Whisperphone
DOES: helps you listen to yourself as you read or speak new words; reduces noise in the classroom for kids who need to read this way in class, look cool at the same time
INVEST: Solo $8.99; Solo XL $9.99 (for bigger kids and grown-ups)
TOOLS: Remember to Learn (new), Foment the Love of Language, More Make-Believe Please

Friday, December 9, 2011

Painting for Kids on the Run

each child had his own try but later would share to get more colors

WHAT: Chennille Kraft Paint Rollers with Paint Trays
DOES: a more active way to paint, sometimes less threatening to those who avoid mess on their hands, can be a very social way to make art.
INVEST: around $11
TOOLS: My Body Needs to Move, Express Yourself (new), Social Scene Helper

Monday, December 5, 2011

Puzzles For Train Lovers -Subway Series Part 2

A goes to D, then back to A, then A, then B- but no unnatural turns!

WHAT: Metroville *     
DOES: a challenging puzzle that requires a child to create a path from point A to point B by turning tracks around to path. Great for subway lovers and puzzle lovers alike.
INVEST: $12.73 (most recent check on Amazon listed)
TOOLS: Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Family Fix-it

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is it a Book or Is it a Train? - Subway Series Part 1

If you've ridden one of these trains then chances are, you are really old

WHAT: New York City Subway Trains: 12 Punch and Build Trains
DOES: Paper dolls for boys!  Punch out paper trains, fold them into their train shape, and then play! You can also read about NYC's subway history.   Trains themselves are a visual display of how trains have modernized over time.
INVEST: $13-16
TOOLS: More Make-Believe Please, Social Scene Helper, Foment Love of Language, Think Like A Scientist/Engineer? Actually no, it's more like People are People

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toy(box) for Overshadowed and Overwhelmed Sibs- Part 2

A real-live human performed this sorting job. Do you think it's mildly insane?
WHAT: Glis Box with Lid (by Ikea)
DOES: Stackable & compartmentalized storage box for loose pieces of building sets like Lego, K'nex, and Erector; excellent way to surprise any Lego fan
INVEST: $3.99 per box
TOOLS: Think Like A Scientist/Engineer, Social Scene Helper, Family Fix-it, More Make Believe Please

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Toys for Overshadowed and Overwhelmed Younger Sibs- Part 1

A toy replica of a New York City bus crashes into a "blockade"*

WHAT: Hot Wheels Radical Roadway  by Mattel
DOES: A simple car and track playset that is easy to build, complete with traffic light, launcher, gas station, ramps, with one open end of the road to invite more play scenarios
INVEST: $14 approximately, prices may vary
TOOLS: Family Fix-it, Think Like A Scientist/Engineer, More Make Believe Please, Social Scene Helper

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Should Boys Play with Dolls? Black Friday Find and Grab

These little bots can accomplish big things!
WHAT: Zibits
DOES: Move little robots via remote control, endless play scenarios
INVEST: $10-$18 for one robot, play sets costs more
TOOLS: More Make-Believe Please, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Free Your Family from Holiday Frenzy -Part 2

To see information about this toy for both your child and his pet, see below.

WHAT: New way to reduce holiday chaos surrounding toys
DOES: Reduces anger, frustration, toy breakage, boo-boos and big accidents, arguments, and other things that ruin holidays.
INVEST: Your time (medium-expensive $$)
TOOLS: Family Fix-it

(See 2 other toys below)  Here is the 2nd part of surviving holiday-related toy frenzy. First article was out yesterday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Free Your Family from Holiday Frenzy

Our Hamtrac is a reminder to model patience this season.*
WHAT: New Way to Shop This Season
DOES: Frees you to buy toys and products judiciously with sales in mind, model good consumerism and patience, invites children to self-advocate effectively after doing research
INVEST: Some time spent thinking (with clarity) and maybe walking into a store and a little gas possibly
TOOLS: Family Fix-it, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, Foment Love of Language, Work Experience

Everyone is telling me that my kids are lucky because this site will bring me free toys but I have a feeling other toy review folks know that free or not, it is not easy to have a parade of toys coming through your house.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Books Puts Words In Their Mouths

Two pages from the classic, No! David, a book by David Shannon, I first bought this book hoping to correct Number 1's world-class impulsivity
WHAT: Wordless and Almost Wordless Books
DOES:  Helps children work on various language skills including making longer and grammatically correct sentences.
INVEST:  most books are $10-$15
TOOLS: Foment Love of Language

How do you read a book that doesn't have any words?   Do you just look at it and marvel at the art or would you just pass it over because there aren't any words to read?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Can Very Easy be Very Fun?

I can play air hockey at home without a basement! And it's not so "mini"
NASCAR® Licensed Air Powered Hockey Table
play a good game of air hockey at home even if you don't have tons of space or money
approximately $60-80 dollars  (see links at end of post)*
Social Scene Helper, Lose and Win Gracefully, My Body Needs to Move

I am not into competitive sports.  I kind of hate it.  When I think about school sports, I think about a very chubby and clumsy girl who was good at nothing.

For example, I think I have anxiety about tracking a ball back and forth so I still sucked after two summers of missing balls thrown to me by the nice camp counselors at the Frank Brennan Tennis Academy. I suppose that is called poor hand-eye coordination.  Whatever, I sucked.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Best Starter Pets

Gerbil 1 and Gerbil 2.. Can you guess which one was sick?*
WHAT: Gerbils (not a toy)
DOES: Watch and raise cute little animals that eat, sleep, and play in a tank and can come out to play with you too.
INVEST:   2 gerbil pups+ starter 10 gallon tank + screen + bedding+ food+water bottle = almost $100 dollars
TOOLS: Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesty, Excuses for Learning Disliked Subjects, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Work Experience

Several months ago we brought home two gerbils.  They are great because they are small. They don't smell too bad either (just don't stick your face in the tank). They are active and always need to be with other gerbils (at least one other).  I am told they make great "starter pets" and I agree.   While we couldn't have a dog (building rules) or cat (I'm allergic) in our home, I do love animals and thought the gerbils would help my children in a variety of ways.

For one, the gerbils can have a nice calming effect on Number 1.  They are also amusing because by nature they are pretty active.  If you give them an empty toilet-paper roll, they shred them in minutes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Can Beyblades be Educational?

WHAT: Beyblades
DOES: Game of metal spinning tops launched to spin and bump into other tops.  Last top spinning wins.
INVEST: $8 and more for related products
TOOLS: Social Scene Helper, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, More Make-Believe Please, Lose and Win Gracefully

Number 1 gets paid a little money now and then for doing chores. He also gets the loose change piles that are everywhere around the house.  That probably doesn't help motivate him for chore work but I have to get rid of the piles.  In the end, I know we will take all of it to the bank to exchange it for bills.  That practice has become a favorite ritual in our household because after we get the bills, we go straight to the toy store.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall "Friendmaker" for the Playground

Hover Disc in action.  No, it won't fly away.  I promise.

WHAT: Hover Disc
DOES: fill a large pita-shaped balloon with helium or air and toss it around with friends, doesn't pop easily
INVEST:  $7-8 not including shipping
TOOLS: My Body Needs to Move, Social Scene Helper

Unusual Door Blocks Opens the Way for New Play

Additions from other toy sets make these special blocks even more fun*
Giant Window and Door Blocks
Sturdy and aethestically pleasing wooden blocks have windows and doors that open and close
More Make Believe Please, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer

I love toys that have doors.  I don't know why.  I suppose it is because it makes it more "real."  As the years go by and I play with my kids and try to model great ways to play, I have realized that I really stink at pretend play.  I would like to say it has something to do with growing up in a family that was struggling financially when I was very young.  Therefore, we didn't have many toys but I am not so sure that is correct.   All I know is that I like play that looks a little real, even if we are supposed to be pretending.

The "ADD TO CART" Addiction

Love to see my boxes come in but hubby does not
I often struggle with this in my life especially now that I work from home.   I see something online or in a store and immediately, I want it.

I want it because I can visualize my child playing with it and growing and learning as a result.  It is a kind of dream that you have with anything that might be a "want" and not a basic necessity such as a new scarf, a new car, a new phone, or even a new vacuum cleaner.

Enter unhappy husband whose face crinkles as he sees yet another pile of cardboard boxes when he comes home.  I think back to the old days when evidence of excessive shopping was seen by the number of large paper shopping bags from the mall.  I could fold those and tuck them away.. Now, for us, it is all cardboard shipping boxes which is so much more in-your-face-obvious.  However, I do try to explain that I make less trips to stores and so I should be saving some time and gas money (weak).  But truth be told, I do make mistake purchases or purchases where I expect too much, even from toys.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Brush 'em If You Wanna Keep 'em

Green and red flashing lights get the message across easily
Intellitec Mini LED Wash and Brush Timer
Timer to help children know how long to wash hands and brush teeth
approximately $7 dollars
I Can Take Care of Myself, Family Fix-it