Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Mindfeed: Catalog Shopping With Children Sets the Family Up for Success

I wouldn't buy a swing like this from just anywhere but I trust Abilitations & Integrations. It costs less than $110 too.  If I only had more space in our home!!!!  This is the Superhero Swing.   photo: Abilitations & Integrations   p. 123 Fall 2012 catalog

HAT:  Catalogs From Good Stores that Sell Good Stuff
DOES:   be proactive about toy shopping WITH your child; choose from catalogs that sell things YOU like and they'll like too; give your child an opportunity to surprise you; find out what he/she wants for the holidays or birthday; cut down on computer time; cut out the pics for goal charts (prizes to earn)
INVEST: $Your.Time
TOOLS: Family Fix-its

You may have noticed that more and more good toy stores have been disappearing.   On top of this problem, you may find that the toy stores that do remain have little of what you want for your child and taking your child there because he "earned" something or even to buy a gift for his friend may turn into an agonizing exercise of saying No, No, and No.

I don't have a solution but I do have an alternative - a damn good one.

Have you ever tried shopping in a catalog for toys?   Have you ever tried doing that WITH your child?

Catalog shopping with your child may pleasantly surprise you with his choices.  Different Roads to Learning catalog where I learned that he was interested Winomino (as was I) on p. 40  which I'll be looking at very soon!!!   He ended up circling all the games on p. 40.
Science Toys, Brainteasers, and Puzzles, my son's favorite sections make up 30 percent of Mindware's catalog's pages.  That's hard to find in a mainstream toy store!!!!  Number 1 Son is reading page p. 14 where it says, "Construct a 6 Foot Tall Machine"

If you haven't tried catalog shopping with your child for toys then I ask you to consider this as a new ritual this school year.   During the school year, new challenges surface and thus new goals are created.  I use sticker charts as motivators to work on a goal by putting a photo of a toy and a chart underneath.  When all the boxes are filled with stickers, we buy the toy immediately or I hand it to him if I've already purchased it.
But the hard part of this practice is not the earning of the toy, the hard part is agreeing on something "good."  I used to let Number 1 Son choose his toys but then I realized that he just kept earning beyblades to the point where too many became too much.
Number 1 just had to have Acuity!!!!! That surprised me.  He looked at it like it was more delicious than his favorite dessert, Oreo Cookies.  p. 17, Fat Brain Toys Catalog

So how about this for a change?  Get a catalog for a specialty toy retailer.  ASTRA, America's largest association of such retailers define specialty toys as toys that "generally are designed with a focus on what the child can do, rather than what the toy can do."   Most of the products that are reviewed here at Toys are Tools can usually be found in many specialty toy stores.
I love specialty toy store catalogs.  Give me a specialty toy or special needs catalog, a cup of hot coffee and a pillow and you won't hear from me for two hours. If you've never shown one to your kids, order a few and lay them out on your coffee table.    Here are some things that you can have happen or might see happening with your kids without you saying anything to them:
Did you think you would find this in a special needs catalog?   p. 121, Abilitations & Integrations.  They have a lot more than swings.   There are so many wonderful products that calm, excite, and educate!

1.  Your kids will surprise you with their choices.  You may have never known that they were interested in certain things.  For my child, it was rocks and crystals.  Who knew he wanted a grow-your-own crystal set?

2. Your kids will see the price at the same time they see the toy.  This usually doesn't happen in a store where you need the price checker to tell you how much something is.  By the time the child has gotten to the price checker, he's already fallen in love and then you become "the bad guy" if it's too pricey.  I think understanding prices and seeing them for each toy that captures their interest will eventually help them appreciate the value of money a bit more.
3.  Decision-making skills can be practiced.   You'll see this as whining frequency diminishes.  Your discussion with your child as you scan the choices together will likely be a proactive one about how to choose which one he/she likes the most.   Moreover, the language of these catalogs will focus on what the child can do and hopefully set a mindset for the child that he/she can use a toy to entertain themselves rather than getting a toy to be entertained.  That will make the toy last longer and both of you more satisfied with the purchase.
This was probably my first purchase at Different Roads to Learning.  We used the heck out of these. It's not easy to find 1-inch colored cubes that have no other media on it.  Why the simplicity?  Look at the cards.  You can see the structure and patterns when things are simple. 1-inch cubes are hard to find too.  p. 35 in Different Roads to Learning catalog.

I suppose that there are many catalogs out there but I rely on a trusted few, here are mine in reverse alphabetical order:
  • Mindware, the makers of some awesome games and toys also have a huge online store full of exciting possibilities.  My son loves them.   The other testers and experts love them too. 
  • They have so many puzzles and brainteasers.  For brain-game addicts, you can really satisfy them here.   A lot of their workbooks and puzzles have sample pages you can download.
  • Additionally, in our Mindware packages, we received a thin workbook that had a lot of their games and activity books in samples for you to try.  I love that!  That is how our experts fell in love with a game that is on its way to our testers.  I think the experts are more excited than the kids! 
  • When people ask me, "Where do you find all of these amazing toys?"  I have to say that part of the recipe includes the Fat Brain Toys website.  They have really cool things and the stuff they invent themselves are awesome.  
  • Their summer catalog is online but last year, we thumbed through their holiday catalog at least 100 times. 

The summer Fat Brains Toys catalog is online only and that is okay because like a paper catalog, it is finite and finding something is possible within 30 minutes.   If the search lasts forever, you get tired and end up choosing just for the sake of choosing.

Different Roads to Learning:
  • This year, online retailer,  Different Roads to Learning, included editorial articles in their catalog including a Toys are Tools review!  What it means to me is that this company cares enough to look far ahead to see how you can use their product in the most optimal way possible.
  • My favorite sections include products that build time-management skills.  Their knock-out selection of timers, scheduling products, and manipulatives are among my favorites. 
  • The current Fall catalog is not huge= good for the kids.  Having a gazillion choices is tough on them.
  • There's lots of cool stuff like swings, slides, toys, balancing objects, fidgets, weighted vests
  • Therapeutic catalogs give you a chance to naturally talk about strategies for self-management and self-improvement in both home and school settings  

Number 1 points out a game that he already has and loves in the Mindware catalog.  This makes the other games appear to be in the "in crowd."  Familiarity is key for kids.

One last tip!!!   Get a gift card in advance!!!

Get a gift card and whenever your child earns something, give them the gift card and let them complete the purchase online.  It is very satisfying for them to do so and makes them feel grown-up.  It is the next best thing to handing them cash and letting them make a purchase at a register by themselves.

Disclosure: In case you are wondering..... Toys are Tools was not paid for the publication of this article.  We are just lovers of awesome catalogs!

1 comment:

  1. Great idea! My best memories are of getting the Christmas catalogue and sitting with it for days deciding what I wanted to circle!