Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Select and Use the Best Toys & GamesFourth Edition on Sale Now!
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.
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!
Stevanne 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, firstname.lastname@example.org 510-845-1196
Paperback / $19.95 / ISBN 978-1-58790-275-8
E-book / $9.95 / ISBN 978-1-58790 (more…)
Every 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.
Wishbone balance bikes were destined to be different from the start. The first prototype was sketched out and then lovingly handmade in the cramped bathroom of industrial designer and stay at home dad Richard Latham’s 20th floor New York City Apartment. Over the course of several weeks he snuck tools and lumber past the building’s doorman and went to work perfecting a balance bike that could help young son Noah keep up on their daily brisk walks around Central Park.
“At first we were just problem solving for our family,” says Richard Latham, Wishbone. “But we’re designers as well as practical parents, so the first Wishbone had to look as good as it performed. When parents started coming up to me in the park and asking where I bought it, we knew we were on to something bigger.”
Fast forward a few years to today and that something is now the family-run Wishbone Design Studio, co-founded by Latham and wife Jenny McIver, former lawyer and diplomat. While Richard designs and continually improves the studio’s selective line of balance bikes and other transformational products for young children, Jenny manages worldwide marketing, strategy and sales. The combination of sustainable materials, eco-friendly production values, an impeccable, urban-chic aesthetic and the couple’s focus on the joy of childhood means Wishbone is now a firm family favourite in more than 23 countries.
Every product by Wishbone is designed to do two things: to help change the way kids play and to grow and transform with the child.
“We’re really trying to create bikes and toys that have enduring value,” says McIver. “An heirloom that parents can hand down to their kids and their kids. Something that creates memories for families and becomes a more important part of family life and fun the more it’s used. A new classic if you will.”
The first Wishbone bike was designed to grow with the child: starting as a three wheeled trike, then morphing into a pedal-less bike to teach balance and confidence. Then finally by flipping the frame and adjusting the seat it becomes a fun scoot bike for kids up to five. That focus on adaptable design is now baked into every product Wishbone creates.
At Wishbone Design Studio, the design process never stops. New introductions now include the Wishbone RE Bike, made entirely from reclaimed and recycled resdential American carpet fibres, and the Wishbone Wagon, a stunning mid-century inspired pull along wagon that transforms into a peddalless car for toddlers.
“We’re having a lot of fun doing what we’re doing,” adds McIver. “We’re hoping that’s true of our customers too.”
Just the Facts, Mom
Wishbone bikes transform with growing kids
Sustainable, European birchwood and eco-friendly production
Recycled, chlorine free packaging materials, non toxic-inks
Winner of multiple international design awards, including TIME Style & Design Award for influential design
Compliant with all appropriate international safety standards
Additional Limited Edition Specials each year celebrating important environmental or educational causes
Jensen Wheeler Wolfe, a Manhattan mom and yoga instructor, was teaching a pre-K yoga class at her daughter’s school. Her pint size yoginis were doing some poses but also running amuck. She wanted to tame the chaos. She thought mats would help.
That evening Jensen and her husband Gregory pulled out the extra mats she stashed for her students who didn’t have mats and cut them to custom fit toddlers. She didn’t need many. One adult mat became 4 mini mats. Jensen brought the 20 mats to school the next day and gave one to each student. The teacher helped her fan them out in a circle for class. The kids loved them. The teacher loved how they organized the class and gave each child a safe zone: their mat. The class was no longer chaotic.
Mats went home with each child and parents started calling Jensen, wanting to place orders. When Gregory walked to school with their two-year old daughter, who proudly carried the yoga mat tucked under her arm, she was stopped on the sidewalk and asked, “Where did you get that adorable mat?” At this point, Jensen’s husband called her and said “have you thought about this as a business?”
Jensen’s background as a researcher helped her at this point. She jumped online and started investigating the idea and seeing what other mats were out there. She’d also been looking for a niche in the field of yoga; a world she’d been part of for 15 years as a teacher and loved so much. A way to leave her day job as a magazine fact-checker and do work that mattered to her.
Jensen couldn’t find any yoga mats for the pre-school market online or in stores but what she did find was that yoga for small children was becoming a staple in preschools around the country. Schools were finding that the practice was helping kids cope with stress and find balance. Children learned to take time to breathe, focus and yoga strengthened their bodies. She knew already that kids classes are also playful and stir the imagination. It’s a practice that children can carry into adult hood. City children in particular are exposed to a barrage of stimuli and it’s easy for kids to overload. Yoga can help. Doing yoga with your child can also be a nice bonding experience. She read that research was proving that boys and girls who practice yoga were more self-confident and better able to focus in school. What parent wouldn’t want that?
This had an organic beginning she trusted and a concept she could get behind. The reason was clear but the how to was not. Having never manufactured a product or started a business Jensen spent the next two years in research and development. She found a designer, started corresponding with a mat factory and putting all the other pieces together to create a company.
Because her target age was so young (0-4) she wanted to create an eco-safe mat that was hypoallergenic, biodegradable and recyclable. A clean sustainable product that hip stylish parents would appreciate. Also important was a good grip, cushion-y texture, and extra thickness.
The design needed to be about yoga and nature driven. Jensen’s designer, also a yogi, created two designs based on yoga poses: lotus and sun.
LOTUS, the national flower of India, grows in mud and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. The lotus flower represents long life, health, honor and good luck.
SUN salutations are a sequence, typically performed in the morning, to greet each new day and give thanks for the sun’s offerings of light, heat and life.
Jensen settled on TPE (an eco-friendly foam like material) and soy-based inks.
The momentum has been steady. Sales have doubled every year and currently the mats sell in 150 stores nationwide + a few studios and shops internationally. “I knew the mats worked in a class room setting” says Jensen “but didn’t realize how happy kids would be to have a mat that’s just their size. I hear stories of tots teaching their parent’s yoga, doing it side by side and independently pulling their mat out and striking a few poses. They send me photos!”
Not only did Jensen stock preschools and yoga studios, she also sold to toy stores, baby shops, and department stores. Pediatricians bought them to sell in their offices as tummy time mats. It became a mat for naps, play and yoga. Something she hadn’t envisioned.
It helped that the industry was growing steadily too. According to a Yoga in America market study, yogis and yoga parents spent $10.3 billion on yoga apparel and classes in 2012. Twice as much as they did in 2008. “It’s considered one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and the latest trend is an increase in the number of pint size practitioners,” said Jensen.
Marketing for The Little Yoga Mat has been mostly grass roots and relying on Jensen’s skill set. As a fact-checker at Glamour magazine for 10 years, she knew how to pitch to magazines and write her own PR. Jensen also personally knew editors and writers at other magazines who were rooting for her product. Friends at Redbook, Parenting, O, The Oprah Magazine, In Style and Cool Mom Picks wrote articles.
As a former stage actress she was not shy about TV appearances or radio spots. Alibaba.com shot a video about her entrepreneurial success story, Ebru TV and Josh Smith of Biz Talk Radio followed.
The Little Yoga Mat won numerous awards and most recently the prestigious Dr. Toy’s Best Green Toy of 2014.
Plans to add another mat design and jump up a size (for ages 5-10) are in the works. Also some teaching tools: a yoga game for toddlers and quite possibly an app. Although she’s had offers, Jensen has been able to keep the business running without the help of investors or bank loans. “It means slow growth, but the independence is worth it,” says Jensen. “I have help, but still do the bulk of the work. I look forward to handing off more day-to-day responsibilities as we grow, but it’s difficult. People still like to see and talk to me – the face of the company.”
“The best part is that all these kids are learning yoga and I’m so happy to be a part of that. My mat is just a tool. It’s the journey on the mat that’s important. The magic carpet ride. I tell my daughter, now eight years old, that it’s possible to have an idea and not know how you will make it happen but believe in your ability to figure it out and you will. I did.”
Why Curiositoys? As an artist and designer, Dave Berglund understands that curiosity is essential to the creative process. That’s why his award-winning toys use three-dimensional shapes and open, white space to spark kids’ curiosity and inspire the creative play that’s essential to their healthy development.
Children are naturally driven by their curiosity to explore, imagine and create. Berglund, founder of Metamorphic Toys, witnessed this firsthand when he began to design toys for his two-year-old daughter using recycled corrugated cardboard. He discovered that the unique, open-space toys sparked her imagination and inspired her to invent her own personal play activities. Suddenly, she began playing, exploring, and creating in ways she hadn’t before.
Pure Three-Dimensional Forms
After witnessing the joy his daughter experienced playing with these toys and the pride of her creations, Berglund set out to share his toys with as many children as possible, and launched Metamorphic Toys in 2011.
Berglund quickly discovered that the toys inspired other children to express themselves in unique ways, each one turning the uncluttered, three-dimensional forms into the personal creations they wanted them to be.
Metamorphic’s Everythingland Mailbox and Silly Signs went on to win numerous accolades and awards from teachers and toy experts, but Berglund knew the best was yet to come. Curiositoys takes his original concept a step further, with toys that are more abstract, more curious, more open-ended, and even more inspiring and fun.
Curiositoys Curio Pod
Numerous families have tested the Curiositoys Curio Pod, Berglund’s latest design, and they are amazed at the level of engagement children have with the toy, and how deeply attached their kids are to it. Despite its abstract shape and form, children become connected to these personal creations like they do a Teddy bear.
For Berglund, it’s exciting to see the growing success of his unique vision. “I see parents able to relax as their kids stay engaged with the toy for long periods of time,” he says. “And I am thrilled that children can benefit from creative imaginative play that is critical to healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development. This Curiositoys vision is why I created these toys.”
Whoever said the journey is half the fun, must have shopped at TravelKiddy!
Traveling with kids is always an adventure but keeping them busy on the journey is a challenge no parent should face alone. That’s where TravelKiddy can help! TravelKiddy has scoured the toy and game universe to bring you only the best games, brain-teasers, exclusive activity kits, and travel toys that are ready to go on adventures around the world or around the block.
What makes TravelKiddy different?
They’ve been there, done that! All products are selected and tested by an experienced panel of experts – including kids, parents and educators – that have thousands of family travel miles under their belts. From road trips to long hauls, they have been in the trenches and survived to tell the tale and share the products that made the journey fun!
Travel time is the ideal time to unplug and reconnect as a family. TravelKiddy gives you the tools needed to balance electronics, solo play and interactive activities while traveling.
TravelKiddy recognizes that kids are entertained for longer when you give them games and toys that are challenging and fun. That’s why they look for products and design activity kits that :
• Encourage creativity
• Develop fine motor skills
• Challenge curious minds
• Spark the imagination, and
• Foster learning.
Toddlers developing skills such as grasping and stacking will love our mini puzzles and stacking cups. Older kids are entertained a unique selection of games, puzzles, brain-teasers and educational. (more…)
Renewable energy sources and green technologies will play a major role in children’s lives for everything from using wind or solar power generated on site in their homes, to driving alternative fuel vehicles, or embarking on a career in one of America’s future “green” technology jobs.
With alternative energy playing such a pivotal role, there is no better time than now to start children on the path to learning basic concepts behind these technologies.
Fortunately, educational, fun – age-appropriate toys are available to parents and educators designed to teach children about alternative energy concepts. Educational toys have many advantages as a learning tool. Simply sitting a child down and teaching them about alternative energy will not necessarily ignite their enthusiasm or interest in the topic. Nor will having them read, when many are reluctant, struggling readers, or kinesthetic learners. Although science kits are helpful, they often depend on expert guidance and have limited play value which is a tough sell especially when parents and educators are competing with TV, video games, the Internet, and a host of other modern distractions. Instead, a host of science-based, interactive children’s toys on the market are being used to teach children about alternative energy concepts like solar, wind, and “green” vehicles, in a fun, hands-on way.
Because solar power converts energy from the sun into electricity or heat, it can replace facilities powered by oil, coal, and other non-renewable fuels. Solar panels, used to capture the energy in sunlight are becoming an increasingly common sight on rooftops, calculators, and of course toys. Some solar powered toys, particularly those children can build themselves, provide an ideal mix of creative, active learning.
In 2009, the award-winning 6-in-1 Educational Solar Kitfrom OWI, for example, allows children to snap together 21 parts to create six different working models including an airboat, windmill, puppy, and two different planes. Or in 2013, the 14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot Kitallows for two levels was introduced. Level one includes: Turtle-bot, Beetle-bot, Quadru-bot, Boat-bot, Walker-bot, Dog-bot, and Wheel-bot. After they amuse themselves with the entry level, one can challenge their manipulative skills with the second level: Roly Poly-bot, Auto-bot, Slither-bot, surf-bot, Zombie-bot, Crab-bot, and Row-bot. Each completed model is powered by a mini solar panel using sunlight or indoor halogen lighting that literally brings the toy to life. As children watch the toy they built move around and speed up or slow down depending on the intensity of the light, they’re not only learning and experimenting with solar power but also having fun with it. The 6-in-1 kit is so popular it was named one of Dr. Toy’s “100 Best Children’s Products”, and “10 Best Educational Products” for 2009.
Stevanne Auerbach,PhD also acknowledged OWI’s commitment to producing long-lasting, educational, creative, and eco-friendly products by selecting 14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot Kitas the recipient of the “Best Green Products” for 2013. (more…)
Dr. Toy announces the opening of Magic Toy Box – a virtual toy museum and marketplace for children and adults alike, powered by super-mart emergent technology. In the magical world that is Magic Toy Box, you can learn about your favorite toys, discover new ones, share with your friends and loved ones through social media, and shop for and purchase quality and award-winning children’s products that meet our high standards. Visit Magic Toy Box.
Magic Toy Box: the newest project of Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., “Dr. Toy”
Imagine a magical children’s universe and marketplace – all existing inside of a toy box that is presented online, around the globe and around the clock. Carnival, the digital ambassador of Magic Toy Box, is like a concierge of children’s products that are presented within Magic Toy Box. Carnival both features and links to an expanding and seemingly limitless bnak of information about Toys, including video, social media, biographical information and a buy-now link for each product.
In 1986, Dr. Auerbach founded and served as director of the San Francisco International Toy Museum, the world’s first interactive toy museum. More than 50,000 children visited the museum between 1986 and 1990, when the Loma Prieta earthquake forced it to shut its doors. New toys and products, as well as historical collectibles, were a mainstay of this unique “hands on” museum: Children could not only look at the eclecting sampling of toys, but they touch, climb on and hug most of them to their heart’s content! Dr. Toy, Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, has been for many years one of the nation’s and world’s leading experts on play, toys, and children’s products. With 30 years of direct experience, Dr. Auerbach includes educationally oriented, developmental and skill building products from the best large and small companies in her four annual award programs. Many parents, teachers and toy buyers use Dr. Toy’s guidance in making selections. Magic Toy Box is created in the spirit of the San Francisco International Toy Museum, and follows in its footsteps.
Jon Capriola is taking on a toy Goliath by making a run at Lego with his own line of buildable bricks and construction toys.
The Sarasota entrepreneur’s Laser Pegs toys started as an idea in Capriola’s garage and, a decade later, his company has become one of the fastest-growing toy brands on retail shelves.
The concept — a hybrid of Lego blocks and Lite-Brite pegs — has caught the attention of some of the world’s biggest merchants.
Dovetailing with that growing interest, Capriola is rolling out new product lines with licensing ties to professional sports leagues, and he is also in the early stages of developing a cartoon series based on his toys — intended to further lift his multimillion-dollar business into the kid of prominence enjoyed by Lego’s $4 billion empire.
“The toy business really is not about success, it’s about your significance,” Capriola said from Laser Peg’s 29,000-square-foot headquarters on Fruitville Road in East Sarasota. “How do you stay significant? You have to be accepted by the masses and offer a product that’s pretty unique.”
Laser Pegs are stackable blocks that are compatible with Lego, but unlike the European toy, Laser Pegs are battery-powered and illuminated with low-voltage LED lights. The toy comes in more than 100 kits — ranging in price from $19.99 to $299.99 — and allow children to build everything from helicopters to dinosaurs.
Capriola began developing the concept nearly six years ago in his garage, building the first prototype from a cardboard box and a few stickers.
Less than three years since its official launch, Laser Pegs can now be found in more than 6,000 stores in 33 countries. It’s the No. 1 selling technology toy at Target, where it has a seven-foot section on the toy shelf.
The product also is sold at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Costco, Home Goods, the gift shop at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and on QVC, among outlets.
Laser Pegs uses the same nub patterns as Lego blocks — because the design of the latter are no longer protected by patents — so the two toy brands can be built with interchangeable pieces. Laser Pegs now has several patents of its own.
“At the end of the day, kids love the product,” Capriola said. “You can do or build almost anything with Laser Pegs. You get a very intense play pattern.”
Some of the most popular robotic kits are also the friendliest towards the environment. Current solar technology has allowed kit designers to include solar panels to replace batteries that would eventually end up in landfills. Solar-powered robots can range from simple to complex, and they can be an excellent way for beginners to learn exactly how this alternative energy source works. Attaching and charging a robot’s solar panel is a perfect hands-on way for builders of all ages to explore the applications of this clean-energy technology.
What is Solar Power?
Solar power refers to the conversion of sunlight into electricity by a direct process called the photovoltaic effect. This technology relies on a semiconductor to pull radiation from the sun’s rays and convert it into a direct electrical current. Another type is known as concentrated solar power, which relies on a system of reflective lenses or mirrors to generate an indirect electrical current when exposed to strong sunlight.
The direct method with photovoltaics is used for both large and small-scale solar panels made with a specific number of solar cells. Some of the first devices to use this technology were single-cell solar-powered calculators. The modern solar robot is powered with the same basic technology, though sometimes with more than one cell.
How to Use Solar Power to Drive a Robot’s Motor
A robot kit’s motor works with a direct electrical current that comes from at least one charged solar cell. Depending on the complexity and difficulty level of a robot kit, the builder will need to attach each of the cells to the robot either by epoxy gluing or by soldering for more advanced kits. Solar robot cells act as receptacles for sunlight, and different robot motors require solar cells that can be charged to a certain voltage. The needed number of volts typically depends on the size of the robot, its number of moving parts and the electric power required to fuel them. Many robot kit solar cells attach to the motor with simple wires by soldering or with locking connectors found in some beginning level kits.
Solar Robot Kits Available from OWI
A number of OWI’s most popular solar robot kits provide young builders a challenging but fun project that teaches some fundamentals of science and engineering. Assembling an environmentally friendly robot will demonstrate the benefits and possibilities of solar power as an emissions-free power source. For beginning to intermediate robot kit enthusiasts, some favorites include:
6-in-1 Educational Solar Kit. This robot kit is designed for beginners and does not require seperate tools to attach the parts together. Options include building a small solar-powered windmill or one of two toy airplanes.
7-in-1 Rechargeable Solar Transformers. Robot builders can put together several different toy vehicles with this beginner-friendly kit. One big selling point is its high-caliber solar cell that recharges to full power in only minutes.
The Solar System was featured in Educational Dealer Magazine as “one of the items most ordered at the NSSEA show…Great New Products from Ed Expo.”
Solar robot kits are a fun, educational and creative means of learning about this type of energy-efficient technology. Here’s a video of OWI’s products featured on The Late Show with David Letterman. Note for impatient souls: skip to 1 minute into the video.
Dr. Toy, Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, is one of the world’s leading experts on play, toys, and children’s products. With 30 years of direct experience, Dr. Auerbach includes educationally oriented, developmental and skill building products from the best large and small companies in her four annual award programs. Many parents, teachers and toy buyers use Dr. Toy’s guidance in making selections. Continue reading...