Toolbox Compartments

One of things that I'm most proud of is my magnetic chalkboard wall.  I love chalk.  I don't care about the dust.  I can't believe how easy and affordable it was to do this at home.  
Toys are Tools understands that most toy stores categorize toys differently than we do.   You've seen it before, Action Figures, Pretend Play, Building Sets, Musical Instruments, and you may even find a category entitled "Learning" or "Educational."  That one always brings a chuckle because we think all toys have some learning value and the view of "learning" should not be limited to learning reading and math.  Likewise, the above named categories could probably all fall under the category of "Pretend Play" too.

We are doing something different here.  We think it is more helpful to parents and educators to look at toys in the way that it is most impactful to a child's life.  There are many uses for toys.  Toys are things we give to kids to encourage more exercise, to help them practice building and creating something in their minds, and/or help them connect with others.  Thus Toys are Tools categorizes the toys just as you categorize a toolbox, that is, we divide them up to show how it serves you and your child.  You will see that most toys have more than one feature and so you may find the same toy under different categories.

I can't believe how handy my husband is.  He bought the desk and plastic compartments at Home Depot.  I bought the chair online.  This is actually a closet in their room!  It took him less than one day and cost us less than 70 dollars.

Toys are Tools' Compartments:

NEW! Compartment- Like An Executive: Change is good, right? I have been focusing on what Executive Functioning skills are since the latter half of 2013.  In a nutshell, EF skills are things that hinder success of many bright children today.  The issues include: Organizing, Prioritizing, Getting Started, Shifting Focus When Needed, Sustaining Effort, Managing Frustration, Using Working Memory, and Monitoring One-Self.  In a sense they encompass other tools that I have written about in the past- namely Remember to Learn and I Can Take of Myself

I Can Take Care of Myself:  I find teaching this trait to children increasingly challenging as our lives become busier with afterschool classes, homework, and  meetings with families and friends.  I find myself too much in a hurry sometimes to teach very basic self-help skills, especially if they are having trouble with it.  Sometimes kids get these skills by osmosis but if they don't, consider toys in this category to be your assistants.  It is worth your while.  I used to work with teenagers who sometimes couldn't figure out that using an alarm clock would help them get to school on time.

Remember to Learn: We don't want to just memorize facts for tests.  Memory is here to help us learn about what we're working on in class, to help us remember to not tell the same person the same story for the umpteenth time, remember to get the salt and pepper because that is the reason you walked into the kitchen in the first place, remember the rules at school and home because it's been told to you and you're expected to know it, remember to use a timer because you will burn the chicken like last time, remember to finish what you've been asked to do by your mother.... remembering isn't just for filling in the blanks, remembering helps us to learn.

Kids need help self-regulating sometimes.  Tools can help them become more self-reliant so they can be more independent.  Check out the Peapod as written in my article about executive functioning.

Flexibility is My Superpower:  We don't want our kids to not be themselves anymore but we want them to know there is more than one way of getting the job done.   This is a lifetime skill that even grown-ups have trouble with but if a toy can help us practice flexibility without losing sight of the goals then let us at it.  This is a skill that is useful in academic learning as well as in making and sustaining relationships.

Work Experience:  I am still figuring out this feature but truth be told, my child learns great when he's working and sometimes toys or toy-like things involves hard work!   You can liken it to volunteer work which is something not mandatory, definitely not play, and yet very rewarding.  Some may call at least one aspect of this kind of education, kinesthetic learning.  I wonder if that has anything to do with how we'll never forget our first slow dance because every point on our bodies registered information and so your brain recalls it to you with all those facets in mind.

Family Fix-it: This section I reserve for gadgets and techniques that I have found that help us with things like tackling behavior quirks (theirs or ours).  This is also the area to describe things that help make teaching and parenting easier.  In general, they are all fuss-reducers.

Some games are so much fun, you don't care if you win. (TENZI) Toolbox Category: Lose and Win Gracefully

Lose and Win Gracefully: Practicing good sportsmanship is sometimes easier with these games and toys under this listing.  If a child has challenges in this area, you can start here and work your way up to games are for some reason, tougher for a child to lose.

Think Like a Scientist/Engineer: We undervalue science education these days. I think that this is huge mistake and you are hearing this from a person who barely passed high school chemistry.  However, Number 1 loves this compartment and so thanks to him, I have found some of the most creative, well-constructed, challenging toys out there in the market.   These toys will be great for the child who likes learning by trial-and-error, experimenting, and tinkering. Some of these builder kids are said to have high visual-spatial intelligence.  You might also find that they like to break stuff "just to see how it works."  This kind of makes me crazy but I try to remember that kids don't get to exercise these skills enough in school.  I'm not sure why but it's not fair and so I'm going to encourage him to tinker away but not break anymore things.  Additionally, Toys are Tools believes that this compartment is also great for children who have difficulty in this area as long as the child is receiving supportive and knowledgeable guidance while playing with this toy.

My Body Needs to Move: These tools are for kids that need to move around more just as much it is for kids who have to get their energy out.  They are fun and easy ways to help kids burn some fuel.  These toys will focus on lots of areas like keeping fit, being balanced, and being coordinated (is your little one a little klutzy?). This category may likely morph into one or more categories later.

Social Scene Helpers: I rather be the host or helper at a party than just go as a guest.  This doesn't mean that I can't enjoy myself as a guest but I find myself stuck with a bit of social anxiety right before I go to a place where I am talking to people for open-ended goals like "mingling" or "catching-up" - it's just so scary! Sometimes it helps if I have a job or a prop (like a dog, a new bag, etc.)  For kids, I think it's the same and so this is quite likely my favorite category.  You will often find me at a playground with Number 2 toting a bag of props on hand.  They can help Number 2 make friends because it gives him the opportunity to hold something and feel less vulnerable in an intimidating setting.  It also acts as a conversation piece and gives him the opportunity to share it too.

It's not enough to have waterproof paper in the tub!  Oh no!  I had to use it as an opportunity to leave messages for my kids.  I don't want to be bathing them forever!  Toolbox category: I Can Take Care of Myself

Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy:  I find that it is hard to teach these things but for my kids, I need to make sure they really get this because it will help them build self-esteem and good relationships.  Toys that fall in this category will hope to act as catalysts in learning these traits and values.

More Make Believe Please: I've seen Number 1 and Number 2 really struggle in this area even if they have a real talent for it.  It's hard to explain but regardless, most if not all experts can't stress enough the value of pretend play.  To be sure, we agree that it helps kids with skills in problem-solving, sharing attention with other children, self-reflection, and expression.


Foment the Love of Language: This feature is one I often practice with Number 1 who is experiencing some reading and writing challenges.  Sometimes, we just need some more motivation and inspiration.  Some kids will trudge through something hard with patience and some do it kicking and screaming all the way to the finish line.   For the latter, we say, we get you.  This is your category.

People are People: My kids sometimes do not understand how the world works.   I know they are just kids and it is a learning process but with that said, we do have the ability to make "Social Studies" more fun.  It is frequently a yawner for so many schoolkids and it really doesn't have to be.   Here we say that kids who understand how a community functions and beyond have a greater capacity for leadership.  (and yes, this compartment name is inspired by Depeche Mode)

Express Yourself:  We all want to show what is in our hearts and mind.  These tools will help us bring them out.
We will never have enough of these guys. Squigz is a great Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner

Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner

Let's face it.  When we buy a toy for someone else, we have a price range in mind.  That is not a terrible thing but when it comes to building blocks and track sets, we find it hard to purchase large sets off the bat but then find it so costly to buy the starter sets (more $$ by the piece).  While the large sets of  blocks and tracks are more economical by the piece, they may still be too expensive as a gift or even when YOU are doing the purchasing. (What if she doesn't like it, then I'm stuck with all the pieces.....)  You could try to get folks to chip in for a mega-set but not everyone can have this conversation. 

 So I am thinking this: go ahead, by the "starter set" yourself.  This is your first "investment."   After you buy it, then your friends and family will know that you already started it off and so to purchase another small set  or add-on sets is great for them ( fits budget, saves time, prevents stress), and most importantly, it's what you and your child really want!  (If the starter set really did end up working out)

A Note about Tools........
We understand that many folks here are seeking to work on children's skills.  Some children may be learning at a different pace and some children learn differently.   Although we speak with experts here for many of our toy reviews, we urge anyone who is concerned about their child's development to seek further assistance (school, health professional, mental health professional).   Toys are tools definitely but none of us here would ever want toys to take the place of professional guidance and support.