Saturday, March 30, 2013

Toy Revival 101: Share Your Wisdom and Win Awesome Fine Motor Chopsticks!

Occupational Therapist Aimee Prainito loves these.  It builds your fine motor skills and can help kids find eating more fun!   Leftee or Rightee?   Don't worry! BTW, I know you can't read this but they are definitely Edison...

Readers often ask me for ideas on how to get their  kids to continue playing with the awesome toys that they have.  I completely understand.   Make no mistake.  It is Ninjago that rules this home. Video games are huge here despite this site being big on educational toys.  My household as well as those of the testers are having the same problems with some variations of course (too much of something... ie. video games, t.v., even reading....) Based on my conversations with them, as well as other parents and specialists, I have come up with the following list of tips.  Some will fit your family and some may not...

This isn't the best example but they should be able to see what they have and put it back somewhat easily.

1.  Give Them Mental "Commas"

You don't want your toy shelves to look like a hidden pictures puzzle.  If  it does, don't blame your kids if they don't play with their toys. Just like a jam-packed refrigerator doesn't give you inspiration to cook, you have to have some space in between the compartments so that when they see the toys, they have a mental "comma" to have a thought or an idea.

This is one of the "Toy Menus" we have.  It has to be updated once in a while.

Sometimes making things accessible means getting them outside (this requires your participation, unfortunately... sorry)

2. Make Your Investments More Accessible
Their organizational skills are still emerging.  My suggestion is to organize toys in a way that makes sense to them and you.  If you have too much stuff and can't let go, consider a Toy Menu.  I know it sounds ridiculous but it gives you an opportunity to sort your toys differently and that could make a huge difference.   Think of your recipe collections... do you sort by type of meat? how much time it takes? appetizers, entrees, desserts?  Your list must be functional for the user.

Making toys accessible is key.  Making it easy to store afterwards is important for future play.  The original box for this broke so we decided to  just put it in another box along with the rest of the games. I kept the labels. 

This photo always makes me laugh. Pictured: Number 1 when he was a toddler and watching Teletubbies with un-named grown-up.

3. Are you a good model?

What do you do in your down time?  Are you staring at a screen too? Are you reading? Do they know that if you are staring at a screen? Sure you are not an elementary school student and they know that we have "important work" we have to do but they really don't have a clue what that is.  We looked relaxed and engaged when we are on our smartphones so I'm sure they think we aren't doing anything too important. Sometimes, when I am working at the computer, I tell them, "I am buying your gluten-free groceries right now, give your mother a minute."  Or, "I am reading this really great book right now," and keep laughing away all by yourself.

If you want them to keep playing, do you have to buy more? Yeah, sometimes but....

 But sometimes you can jazz it up with something different.  For example, this year Q-BA-Maze launched the Zoom Stunt Set and Bounce Stunt Set.

4. Add-Ons, Even Small Ones Can Help

Sometimes, they just need more.  For example, with building blocks, sometimes they just need more because they need the challenge.  Sometimes, they just need as little as one new piece to breath new life into it.  For the magnetic toys, I find that by adding wheels to the mix, the game changes and the toys get new jobs as pretend play props.  Once my kids decided their dollhouse was interesting again after getting a little bit of fashion tape.  Do not feel like a sell out if you add to your child's collection.  There are some toys worth investing in and others, definitely not.  For the collectibles, I tend to stay away... the thrill is gone as fast a bubble gum loses its flavor but toys that allow for new creations are worth the investment.

Number 1 learns how to make a "birdhouse."

5. Play with them... Yes, I know you are tired... I am too....

Where you spend your time is the greatest PR campaign for the toys that you consider as educational investments.  But be strategic.  Promise to play with "their favorite" toy (even if you hate it) after they play with your choice.  With any luck, they will forget about what they wanted to play because chances are... your choice will allow for more creative fun.

If I want them to try to play with Plus Plus more often, I give it "floor space" meaning,- I don't put it away and I leave it in a clear box.    The box has to be big so that they don't feel the need to demolish what they worked so hard on.

6. Give Them a Deadline

Sometimes, when they come up to be with an "I'm bored."  First I try not to become furious because they have about 98 times more toys than I did when I was their age.  Then, I just say, "Oh, well, I guess we should give away the toys you have."  Usually, their boredom ceases immediately.

Still sometimes they need to get rid of stuff.  Give them a deadline.  Stick an "expiration date" on that toy and see if it gets used by the date.  If it didn't, donate it.

Remember the last Toy Story- Andy didn't want to give away Woody?  We must celebrate that our kids can be attached to something so much.  That probably means that you spent good money on that toy, even if they don't play with it anymore.  I think it is a great exercise in maturity when you encourage your child to give it to a younger cousin or donate it to a clinic or school.  Let them be the one to do it.  That is the icing on the cake.

Love what you see?  If you are thinking of buying them, try my Amazon links and support Toys are Tools!!!! 

Here's YOUR Chance to ENTER and WIN your very own pair of Edison Chopsticks.  Righty or Lefty?  We got you covered.  I know you can't read the writing but I can.  These chopsticks are definitely Edison and they totally awesome.  I've tried different brands of these fine motor helpers and I really like the Edison brand.  This will be shipped to the U.S. only.  (Also, depending on timing, I may be able to send you the one for ages 3+ instead)

Just leave a comment in a Facebook* box below about how you get your kids to keep playing with the toys that they have.  Have you ever seen these chopsticks before?  I'd love to know! Don't forget to use Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are some links for the chopsticks too.  A lot of you asked me for them.  Please beware that there are right handed one and left handed ones.  The rings should be removable as you build more competence.  I think the "2nd stage" one are good for age 6 and up.  When I bought my Edison chopsticks, I bought it for $9.99 in a Korean grocery in NYC.  I think that is on the high side but probably just by a couple of dollars.

Disclosure: Some of the toys mentioned here were purchased by me.  Some were sent here to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. Giveaway prize is being purchased by Jenn.

If you don't do Facebook, then use the Disqus comment thingy but if you do, please try Facebook.  I'm testing out how Facebook influences TAT readers. 


  1. Try putting stuff away for a few months and cycling items around so they don't have too many items at once.

  2. I tell them that I am going to give it away and miraculously they LOVE that toy again.

  3. me too. I do this too! I feel a little evil because I don't want to give it away. for me, it also helps to have other tester children. my kids know about them and know that the other children will get them if they show little interest. you're right, it's just a miracle.

  4. I am glad that it isn't just me. I do feel a little guilty sometimes but it works. I have tried to have them trade toys with cousins but that caused too many problems (they are all young boys). Sometimes I feel that I am too attached to their toys :)