The Best Advice on Children's Products

Blog

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!

judy-on-telegraph-ave_sm

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.

(more…)

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!

cover-with-border-2-sizs
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
(more…)

The Right Toys for Toddlers

toddler

 

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.

kidz2

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

drtoyblks3

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

preschoolers5
 

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

preschoolers
 

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

baby

 

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.

Madame Alexander Doll Company: Celebrating World Cultures

WITH TRAVEL FRIENDS™ – INTERNATIONAL COLLECTION

madameA_dolls

Playful, Poseable, Portable and Practical . These are the top reasons the new Travel Friends™ – International Collection of dolls being introduced by the Madame Alexander Doll Company is a must have for children this Holiday season. This new series of play dolls, celebrates world cultures. It is a first, in a new series of dolls for children ages 3+. Madame Alexander is a doll company acclaimed for their treasured collectible dolls. They have always had a rich history of designing dolls that are cherished for their beauty and craftsmanship. This new series builds on that heritage and now is a welcome addition introducing children today to a world of play dolls showcasing nine countries, encouraging children to learn about and embrace a variety of cultures from around the world. These dolls are crafted with the quality and details of each country’s cultures and costumes. They are perfectly sized for playful portability. They are poseable and fun to play with!

Each doll welcomes you into her world with a Hello! from her county and offers fun facts and highlights of interesting places to explore in her hometown. These beautiful 7” dolls are small in size, with fun features including removable outfits and accessories, they are fully bendable and have playable hair, which will keep kids entertained for hours of fun at home, in the car, on a trip. These dolls make great stocking stuffers, and are educational focused gifts that feel good to give. You just want to collect them all!

best10A winner of Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Toys of 2014, Madame Alexander Travel Friends™ have been hand selected to receive the prestigious “10 Best” award. These products are carefully selected from among many hundreds of reviews at toy fairs, catalogs and many other sources, and by using extensive criteria developed over many years. The Dr. Toy 10 Best list is chosen as a service to consumers who want to purchase safe, affordable, educationally oriented, and stimulating toys and products for children.

Upholding the Madame Alexander reputation of high-quality and craftsmanship, this age-appropriate collection illustrates that the “love is in the details.” The first collection in an ongoing series of Madame Alexander Play – Travel Friends™ Doll International Collection can be purchased at specialty stores nationwide, TOYS R US locations, and online at www.MadameAlexander.com beginning Fall 2014.

View/shop the entire Travel Friends Doll International Collection in Madame Alexander’s Folio.

The Madame Alexander Doll Company encourages girls of all ages to enjoy a lifetime of doll fun, gifting, and collecting with products that include baby dolls, play dolls, and endearing collections that are beautifully designed and age-appropriate products of quality and craftsmanship. Since the company’s inception in 1923 by Madame Beatrice Alexander, the vision of this talented and entrepreneurial woman to engage a child¹s imagination through doll play continues to be upheld by the company today inspiring girls of all ages across generations to have fun with dolls, develop, learn, and imagine and enjoy a lifetime of play.

Dr Toy’s Tips on Outdoor Play

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

Primary-SchoolerEvery day, weather permitting, children benefit from playing outside. Their fun outside involves a wide variety of play. Playtime outside depends upon where you live, access to parks or a safe yard and available supervision. Children need a wide range of activities for maximum growth.

Children like to play in different ways, from rough and tumble to gentle games of “pretend.” They like to play organized sports and activities. They like to walk and to run, skip and jump rope. They like to throw balls. They like to play with forts, they like to climb or to just sit under a tree and daydream or just read a book.

The outdoors toys that you pick for your children depend upon their age, skill level and geography. Certainly, a push/pull toy is fun to play with outdoors. Shovels and pails for water and sand are great.

You can help your child expand their fun and sense of themselves by starting with a tricycle. Tricycles can develop mobility, physical dexterity, independence and children’s feelings of pride in their new accomplishments.

Traditional products like a jump rope are great for physical skills building, both in coordination and in teamwork with other children. This is also true when you introduce a basketball, softball or other outdoor ball for play. For the very young child, just throwing the ball back and forth is a great experience.

Other activities that can be enjoyed would include binoculars and outdoor gear. This is part of observation skills building, including hobbies like bird watching. With binoculars, children can learn much about birds and other animals, which can lead to a lifetime interest.

Clubhouse activities don’t have to be elaborate; just having a space to play outdoors allows for adventure play. An outdoor playspace can be a cardboard box, a mass-produced clubhouse or a project that you and your child create together out of found of recycled materials. These kinds of outdoor activities can be lots of fun and can extend play for a long time.

Climbing equipment and other exercise toys give your children a variety of ways to develop physical dexterity and physical expression. There are climbing gyms available that are safe, colorful and fun. Selecting this equipment takes some time, but it is also time you can share with your child as you supervise them.

Cameras are very useful products for outdoors, where your children can learn to take pictures and observe more closely what they see. Encouraging a variety of interests can lead to a lifetime hobby and expand their curiosity.

Children can also paint outside. This is a fun activity on a nice day, and easels make it easier. Whatever types of toys that you select, make sure that they can hold up to the wear and tear of the outdoors. They should be easily cleaned, and they should have all safety aspects checked.

It is important to balance playtime indoors and outdoors. Outdoor play gives children extra benefits and should be encouraged as much as possible.

Follow Stevanne Auerbach on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drtoy