The Best Advice on Children's Products

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Dr. Toy’s Best Gifts to Launch STEM Learning

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by Stevanne Auerbach, P.D. “Dr. Toy”

As a parent you can help encourage and support educational play every day and help your child to be a more productive learner at home and in the classroom. While your child’s world expands you can help your child to be ready, and to grow, learn and develop to his or her fullest potential. An important part of the parent’s role is to guide, teach and encourage children to make the most of their after school and playtime hours.

The latest most important learning initiative involves STEM! That is education that supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to expand national awareness and improve abilities in these areas in schools, homes and workplaces. There is a growing support for more focus on STEM as an important area for improvement of students and for teachers and parents to also become better prepared and expand their knowledge in these essential areas.

We want to assist parents to know more about some of the best and most useful play products they can easily obtain to help their children gain more confidence and experience in these areas, and increase their skills for school now and improve future earnings. Many of these products have been developed in the Bay Area (see BA in the descriptions) and several of the products are made in America (see MA).

These are some of the latest and best products for a full range of STEM experiences. Download PDF

Dr. Toy’s Best Tech Toy Gift Round-Up

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by Stevanne Auerbach, P.D. “Dr. Toy”

Dr. Toy selected an excellent array of tech products that offer interactive learning, skill building, and encourage activity. The balance of time spent learning, play and tech is essential for children’s maximum development.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, American children spend an average of “almost 40 hours a week (equivalent to a full-time job) consuming media outside of school – including television, computers, radio, phones, and electronic games.” Most children have TVs, computers, phones, and game consoles readily available. They are exposed to advertising as they browse the Internet, play online games, and watch TV. Parents’ responsibilities are more challenging than ever.

Adults must find the right balance in children’s activities, and help them to not spend all day being sedentary playing on an app, video game, or other electronic products. We want, for many important health and social reasons, to encourage more active and open ended play for children. Children need a balance of reading books, building with construction toys, playing with board games, puzzles and being out of doors playing with friends, creative activities and following hobbies and interests.

Play is essential for everyone from the one-year-old baby to the one-hundred-year-old senior. How are you creating more varied playtime in your life, with your family?

The selected tech products offer many good choices for tech interaction, learning and great benefits if used wisely. Download PDF

Folkmanis Puppets: 35 Years and Going Strong!

Folkmanis® Puppets believes imagination is the key to a healthy childhood, encouraging play and discovery to develop the skills necessary in life. The company has been making the most innovative and engaging specialty puppets in the world since 1976, delighting imaginations and winning nearly every industry, child development, and kid-tested award, many repeatedly.

35 Years and Growing!

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Conceived as a “cottage industry” business in Watertown, MA., in the late 1960’s and nurtured among the street vendors lining Berkeley’s famed Telegraph Avenue, Folkmanis® Puppets are the expression of Judy Folkmanis’ active imagination, sewing wizardry, and love of nature.

Creating her first animal puppets to entertain her own children, Judy was astounded when her unsung, but cuddly, creations began attracting a growing group of paying customers. Most often these were other parents who sought high play value from their toy purchases and an appreciation of the natural world for their children.

Joined in the burgeoning endeavor in 1976 by her Ph.D. husband Atis—who happily abandoned a career in biochemistry for pattern-cutting—the couple realized that launching a menagerie of carefully detailed and realistic animal puppets was their “right livelihood.” They hired several seamstresses and never looked back. The rest, as they say, is toy industry history – as Folkmanis’ line and renown grew by leaps and bounds.

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Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/Smart Toys

Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Select and Use the Best Toys & GamesFourth Edition on Sale Now!

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A child’s ability to play is more than fun and diversion; play is critical for his or her emotional, physical, creative, and intellectual growth, and teaches everything from social skills to critical thinking. For the developing mind, learning to play is paramount — but is your child getting the most from playtime? Learn to expand your child’s ability to be playful, and increase PQ.

Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, affectionately known as Dr. Toy, has dedicated a lifetime to the importance of play, and evaluating toys, games and children’s products. She offers special advice on which types of toys and games to buy for baby to older children and how to best use them. She also provides play pointers, child development principles, and many useful resources.

 

You’ll learn:

  • How to be your child’s “Play Guide.”
  • How play can strengthen confidence, maturity levels, and thinking.
  • Benefits of play with toys, games, and many other objects to expand playfulness.
  • Criteria for selecting the right playthings to match each child’s needs.

You’ll get practical advice:

  • Evaluating toys and games to select those most beneficial.
  • Supplies to always have available to encourage play.
  • Selecting principles based on Dr. Toy’s Best Children’s Toys and Products.
  • 200 invaluable suggested playtime activities for fun over a lifetime!

drtoyauerbachStevanne Auerbach, PhD, author of 15 books, evaluates toys, games and children’s products for the original, popular, award-winning website, Dr. Toy’s Guide (this website).

Published by Regent Press, Berkeley, California
Distributed by Ingram and Baker & Taylor
Available online: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et. al.
Customized Edition available:
Contact Mark Weiman, Regent Press, regentpress@nullmindspring.com 510-845-1196
Paperback / $19.95 / ISBN 978-1-58790-275-8
E-book / $9.95 / ISBN 978-1-58790
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The Right Toys for Toddlers

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by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Toddlers actively explore their world and want to touch, smell and taste everything. Watch carefully and “child proof” your home and the child’s playspace.

This is a great time for lots of good, safe toys that offer varied play experiences. The right toys help your toddler learn about color, shape, size and weight.

Constantly check things out so they match your child’s growing interests and responses. Play will help develop better coordination, strong muscles and inquisitive minds.

With blocks the child gains small muscle strength and counting skills. It’s fun to build up, take down and rebuild. Plus, children learn a lot as they create.

Toddlers enjoy a range of toys that include a soft doll, pail, shovel, push-pull toy, jack-in-the-box, bubble pipe, pounding set, ring stack, puzzle, pounding set, books and tapes.

Toddlers love to play with household objects such as plastic dishes, pots, pans and cups. A small broom will give the child a chance to sweep.

When selecting toddler toys consider:
• Is it durable?
• How long will the toy last under “toddler testing”?
• Is it childproof?

A product should be long-lasting, substantial and made of good, strong materials.

Stuffed toys must be hygienic, washable and not have any fluff that could be pulled off and put in the mouth.

Protect the child from small parts or anything tiny that could cause choking. All products must be non-toxic.

Toddlers play with or near other children, at their own pace. Contact with other children is important, so playgroups are a great way for them to socialize, learn to take turns and engage with others.

Observe how the children interact with people and objects. This is the time to build self-esteem.

Notice the way children feel about themselves and how it affects physical, emotional, and mental growth.

Picking Perfect Toys for Children of Any Age

Dr. Toy has assembled a series of articles, re-posted from the Huffington Post, to help you decide what to get your little loved ones.

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Picking Perfect Baby Gifts

The Right Toys for Toddlers

Best Toys for Preschoolers

Best Toys for Children in Primary Grades

Best Toys for Older Children

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Best Toys for Older Children

 

by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Parents want to know more about play for children between age 9 and 12. During this period of development, children experience rapid social maturation and physical growth. They are in transition.

No longer so young, their interests grow more sophisticated. Despite the many changes, they still benefit by having a good balance of activities at home, at school and at playtime.

Children will expand their talents and interests if they are encouraged. So, this is a great opportunity for parents to introduce new hobbies, as well as a range of activities and experiences, to their children.

At this age, friends are a significant influence on a child. However, with your support and encouragement, their individual talents and interests will also expand. The older child likes to make things, work on projects and see results.

Gift ideas include interesting hobbies, crafts or construction sets. They also like computers, cameras and scientific materials. Other possible gifts include sports, creative arts equipment, stuffed animals and also the introduction to or support for special collections.

Also consider assorted books, board and video games, a camera or video camera, and the newest hand-held technology.

This is a good time for children to discover and expand their interests and unique talents. They can also be encouraged to pursue music, art, dance, drama and writing.

Your child’s ability to concentrate for longer periods of time at this age will be reflected in what they pursue and how much they develop their interests after-school. Provide time for them to spend alone to find their own interests and enjoy being productive.

Children appreciate knowing about different alternatives and having the opportunity to make selections based on their interests and curiosity. When children are constructively occupied, they are happier, more satisfied and more productive at home and in school.

Reading, playing games, flying a kite, throwing a Frisbee, putting a puzzle together and having a hobby can all help to make children more focused, smarter, social and self-confident.

Just as friends and individual pursuits are important, as they grow older, children need to also interact with their parents. So find some fun group activities to do together that allow everyone to win.

Play is the smart way to learn.

Best Toys for Children in Primary Grades

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by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Children enrolled in the primary grades are actively involved in friendships, interested in learning, happily engaged in outdoor play, rapidly gaining skills, and expanding a wide variety of interests.

Peers are very important as are their activities and a range of toys, especially the products their friends play with. Children of this age express their ideas, creativity, feelings, abilities, and personality while they are engaged in play. They share the give and take, conflicts, and challenges of getting along.

Encourage play with both younger and older children to offer a full range of social experiences, which benefits all children.

You can choose among many useful play products for children from five- to eight-years-old.

Active toys develop their large and small muscles. Consider skates, jump ropes, construction, and a variety of role playing and adventure type toys.

Creative toys develop imagination. Explore musical instruments, varied art supplies, crafts, puppets, a dollhouse (one they can decorate is enjoyable), or train layout.

Educational toys enhance reading, writing, math, science, or geography. They stimulate mental abilities, challenge thinking, and help them problem-solve with a chess set, strategy board game, science project, telescope, or beginning a hobby.

Create a special place for child to study and organize playthings. Your child needs easy access to the wonderful products you purchase. Find new ways to store playthings so your child can take responsibility for putting things away.

Some useful ways to handle organizing includes:

• Shelving makes storage easy.
• Boxes or bags can hold a lot.
• Shoe boxes are useful for tapes, small pieces, and art supplies.
• Large boxes can be decorated.
• A hammock is a good way to store stuffed and soft toys or dolls.
• A toy chest must have safety hinges.

Take some time each day to play a board game, building, or doing a craft with your child.
Quality time means having fun together.

Best Toys for Preschoolers

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by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Preschool children are curious, inquisitive and have a lot of energy. Everything around them is of interest. Their vocabulary, self-expression and imagination is rapidly expanding. Their play is dramatic, creative and active.

Preschool is an important, fun, learning opportunity where your child expands social skills and practices communication skills. Observe the toys your child plays with at preschool. You can learn a lot by observing your child during play.

Take your child to your local toy store. S/he will be excited. Listen to your child as they create a “Wish List.”

To select what’s best for your child look at toys that have plenty of play value. Choose durable, long-lasting products that provide hours of fun like wooden blocks, construction playsets and puzzles.

Look for various textures, shapes, sizes and colors. Consider the materials.

• Imagine your child playing with the toy.
• Study age labeling on packaging for appropriateness.
• Children have short attention spans, even the best toy will be used only for a short time.
• Recycle toys to make the most of them.
• Products too complex are frustrating and those too easy are boring.
• Show the child how to use the product only if he needs help. It’s best to allow the child to discover.
• Toys offer the child many forms of self-expression.

If angry, your child can use a foam bat and ball, a bop bag or hand-puppets to safely express feelings and release emotions.

For creativity, s/he will benefit from clay, finger paints and crafts.

For learning, sorting shapes, sizes and weights, books and tapes are excellent.

Eye-hand skills will improve with ring toss, bean bags and different construction products.

For active play, your child will enjoy a trike and outdoor play equipment.

For indoors, select a good mix of art supplies, playsets, books and tapes.

Remember your child learns through play, so encourage lots of fun playtime and discovery,. Find enjoyable things together like games, creative and building projects.

Picking Perfect Baby Gifts

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by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Anytime of the year is the right time to find a great gift for a child, or for an adult who enjoys “the child within.”

How do you go about finding that special gift of a toy, plaything or game?

Children and adults love bears, stuffed animals, dolls, board games, recorded sounds and fun gadgets. Ask about their favorite objects, and you are certain to find something that they will enjoy.

But what about the buying gifts for babies? Those precious, new people in your life who cannot tell you what they want, but who will definitely show you what they think about your presents, either with cute gurgles and happy smiles, or with complete indifference to that hard-won gift you survived traffic and shopping malls to acquire?

For baby, a special teddy or stuffed animal is always fun to look at; many special objects provide stimulation and others are interesting to watch and respond to.

As the baby grows, the most stimulating toys will still be played with, and perhaps carried around from room to room.

Consider a nice mobile for visual stimulation. Look for one with music, or buy a mobile and a recorder with an assortment of good musical selections.

Music helps with auditory stimulation, so another choice might be a music box. They are so much fun to listen to, and so very soothing.

Mobiles might be best for active babies who need something to occupy their time, and music boxes might work best for cranky babies who need some help falling asleep.

Look for a crib mirror, which is perfect for observation and interaction. Baby will enjoy looking and talking to his or her image. Soft toys can be perfect for entertaining the baby at about three months.

Music is not the only sound that a baby will like; look for interesting rattles that offer clutching and shaking sounds. Babies find them not only fun to listen to and to watch, but also great to chew on when teething. You can find a variety of specific and recommend shapes, textures and styles for different functions.

Some rattles make the best noises. Some shapes are better for teething babies. You can choose between a variety of soft shapes and different textures and styles. You can make a selection based on what you like and the features that your baby is ready for.

Play games with your baby to expand its enjoyment of interacting, laughing and being playful.

There are also many different “peek-a-boo” objects, moving and hiding toys and other fun products that you can use to stimulate and support the mental and social development of babies.

This is a good time to remind you of some safety tips for all young children.

Make sure the product package clearly states the age range so that you do not give a child a product that is not appropriate for its developmental level.

Watch out for small objects that are left around by accident, as babies can pick them up easily. We don’t want any accidents, so avoiding these ahead of time is the best way to “child proof” your home or wherever you travel.