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10 Tips for Selecting Great Games

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

Playing games is a perfect way for your child to learn and have fun. Games offer many benefits including challenge, communication, and creativity. Games are enjoyed with friends, siblings, parents, and grandparents.

Many games are useful and adaptable for a wide range of ages and abilities. I suggest before you purchase you read information about the game so you know if it will fit your family’s interests.

Make sure to read directions out loud so everyone knows how to play. Most of all have fun and have good times when playing together so your child wants to play again and as often as possible.
 

Before you buy a new game consider these ten tips to help you make the best selection.

  1. Learning – Playing games helps to build cognitive skills for children and also helps seniors to keep mentally active. When children play games they are also practicing reading skills, and related skills like eye-hand coordination, patterning, sequencing, and visual discrimination. Seniors benefit from interaction and cognitive stimulation.
  2. Challenging – Games that have the most benefit offer to each player a range of complexity from easy to more challenging so each player gains more proficiency, and also enjoys reaching the next levels of play.
  3. Simplicity – Each game offers its own basic aspects for play. The theme or type should be clear to each player. Games should be easy for anyone to learn how to play, offer a range of skills for all players, and be engaging.
  4. Multi-generational – Games should be flexible so as to match interests of parent and child. Every player should enjoy the game and remain interested in the continuity of play.
  5. Laughter – One of the great reasons for playing is to generate fun and laughter. Playing a game is a great way to stimulate laughter, and is a perfect way to generate more self expression, reduce stress, and help to support each player. Each player’s feelings should be respected.
  6. Fantasy – Playing games stimulates fantasy, and is a perfect way to step outside of the every day pressures of school and work. Playing supports language for each player during the game, and stimulates children to chat later about their experiences.
  7. Uniqueness – Each game is different and should not be like another one. Each one offers a set of activities that provides a new and worthwhile experience that equals and exceeds the cost of the game, and is an activity all players want to repeat.
  8. Value – Each game offers something that is enjoyable for each player whether playing as an individual or in a group. Everyone should have fun, want to play, and look forward to the time spent in playing a good game as a group.
  9. Quality – The game itself should be made of quality materials that are made to last over time and hold up with plenty of use. The pieces should have passed testing standards. The elements of the game should be well constructed and be durable.
  10. Applicability – Games should be well tested before they come to market so they play well among different ages and abilities.

Having fun comes easily from playing good games.

Be sure to put the game box away safely each time so all pieces are secured and easily accessible. I suggest you store game pieces using containers or plastic bags.

Your games collection is a family treasure chest that offers great fun, and should be ready to play anytime your family wants to get together around a game, enjoy each other’s company, and confront the challenge of a good game.

Laser Pegs: Building With Light

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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.”

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View Laser Pegs’ entire product folio.

Laser Pegs Ventures LLC is a proud Dr. Toy Alumni member.

OWI Robotics: Solar-Powered Genius

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Solar Power and Robotics

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.

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View OWI Robotics entire product folio.

OWI Robotics is a proud Dr. Toy’s Alumni Member.

Metamorphic Toys Powered by the Imagination of Children

The daughter of a product designer and artist inspired the founding of Metamorphic Toys with her creative imagination. As Dave Berglund observed how his daughter and her friends played with the toys he made it was clear that kids are hungry for these kinds of creative simple toys that put them and their incredible imaginations in charge.

Instead of imposing the designers’ imagination on the child, the idea is to let children imprint their imaginations on the toy. By doing this, children create a toy that is personal and important to them. Play that centers on such a toy springs completely from the child’s own imagination.

The Mailbox and Silly Signs are an art project and pretend play toy in one.
Creative expression and imaginative pretend play directed by the child is critical to healthy child development, but it also happens to be incredibly FUN! It is naturally instinctive behavior for children to learn and process the world through creativity and their imaginations. Our toys give kids this opportunity by engaging them with elegant geometric designs that also serve to add structural integrity to the toys.

There is something about three-dimensional objects that kids love to explore. Providing such an object that kids are allowed to experiment with by coloring, gluing, carrying around and playing with is very exciting for them. The Everythingland™ Mailbox, Silly Signs and Eco-Art U-Stick’ems are these kinds of toys.

Metamorphic Toys believes in doing what’s right for children, for our community and the environment. That’s why we are committed to making open-ended toys right here in America using materials and processes that are kind to the environment. (more…)

Stacking up some fun with Gibout Toys!

 
Remember when your mom asked you to clean your room before company came over? This usually meant shoving your unsightly toys into the closet and hoping no one would open the door. That’s about to change…

We’re excited to introduce a toy that inspires creativity, exercises the imagination and best of all adds room aesthetic instead of clutter. Our deluxe version of a classic stacking toy features some of finest and softest, minky fabric you can find. At 11.5″ each, they stack up as one of the largest plush blocks your children will get their little hands on. Moms love them because they save wear and tear on the couch cushions and provide a safe outlet for pent up energy. Not to mention they stack easily and quickly in the corner of a room avoiding any threat of a toy avalanche in the closet.

Whether you are looking for a unique addition to your nursery decor, or something your child will love to play with for years to come, these blocks have it all.

- Safe for all ages.
- Creativity enhancing.
- Easy to store by stacking nicely in a corner.
- Flexibility to build houses, play games, gets out nervous energy.
- Quiet and doesn’t require batteries or instruction.
- Instant exercise — you can always find something to do with them, whether it’s stacking, building forts, hiding, climbing, throwing, or knocking them down.
- A style mom will love and kids will play with.
- Good for siblings to have constructive, competitive play without fighting or hurting each other.
- A toy that will grow with your child as they find new ways to play with them. (more…)

Dr. Toy Announces New iPhone App

Looking for the perfect toy or children’s gift? Use Dr. Toy’s app to narrow down the search!

Dr. Toy, Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, is one of the world’s leading experts on play, toys, and children’s products. With 30 years of experience, her annual awards recognize the best in educational, developmental and skill building products on offer from large and small companies alike; now they’re available for you to take on the go.

Browse by award, skill, type, age or price, to find the ideal toy you’re looking for. Every product featured in this app has attained an award of excellence, making shopping for the right toy or gift a breeze!

View on iTunes

Dr. Toy Presents Best Toys Made by Bay Area Toy Companies

Dr Toy visited KRON Ch 4 on 12 17 11 to talk with co-hosts Marty Gonzalez and Ysabel Doron about Best Bay Area’s Toy Companies. Dr Stevanne Auerbach (Dr. Toy) author of Smart Play/ Smart Toys hared highlights of varied products suitable for all ages.

12 Bay Area Toy and Game Companies and Products include:

  1. Blue Orange Games – Spot It!  www.blueorangegames.com
  2. Green Toys – Green Toys School Bus  www.greentoys.com
  3. Folkmanis – White Mouse Puppet  www.folkmanis.com
  4. ImagAbility – WEDGiTS™ Starter Set  www.wedgits.com
  5. Infinitoy – Zoob  www.infinitoy.com
  6. LeapFrog –Tag Solar System Adventure Pack  www.leapfrog.com
  7. Peaceable Kingdom — Hoot Owl Hoot! Cooperative Board Game  www.peaceablekingdom.com
  8. Plushy Feely Corp –KimochisToys With Feelings Inside  www.kimochis.com
  9. Tangle Creations – Hairy Tangle Jr  www.tanglecreations.com
  10. Timeless Toys – Sootheze Waddles Duck  www.timelesstoys.com
  11. Tot Talk – Sports Placemats  www.tottalk.com
  12. University Games/Colorforms- Magic Fashion Show  http://www.ugames.com/ and  www.colorforms.com

Creating Products for Success

by Deb de Sherbinin, KidSmart

Can you answer these 10 key questions about your hot new product concept?


An amazing number—85%—of all new products fail in the marketplace. How
can you maximize your chances beating the odds? A good place to start is by
developing an understanding of the 10 key factors that contribute to product
success.

Bringing a new product to market requires a significant investment of
both time and financial resources, and shortcuts almost always compromise
the likelihood of doing so successfully. Spending the time and resources “up
front” to develop the answers to the following questions is best thought of
as cheap insurance that will minimize the chances of being included in the
statistic noted above.

Before bringing your product to market, can you answer the following questions with confidence?

  1. How is your product concept unique? Does it:
    • offer a new or better form of entertainment?
    • present a better price/value equation?
    • leverage a unique design?
    • build upon a hot new trend?
    • utilize a unique technology or popular license?
    • educate in a engaging way?
  2. Who are the primary target users and purchasers of your product
    concept?
  3. Is the product designed to be appropriate for the age and ability of
    the user?
  4. How does the product concept measure up to competitors in the
    marketplace?
  5. Does the design of the product and packaging appeal to the target?
  6. Can your product be designed and manufactured at a competitive
    retail price point?
  7. Through what channel(s) will you distribute your product and how
    will it be merchandised at point of sales?
  8. Is your sales goal realistic and will yield profits?
  9. How will you gain attention for your product and communicate its
    uniqueness?
  10. How will you launch your product, through what communications, and
    how will you sustain awareness and interest with your target audience?

From selecting or developing a unique new product concept to designing, refining, manufacturing, distributing and marketing it, it is a real challenge to maintain objectivity and consistently listen to what the market tells you.

Common mistakes along the product development timeline include falling in love with a product and not investing the time and effort to evaluate the item carefully, taking shortcuts in determining its appeal to the target buyer and user, and being unrealistic about how well it measures up to the competition.

The challenges of successfully launching a new product are such that the investment of time and resources should be taken to assure that the product is unique in the marketplace, has consumer interest-value, can be developed and manufactured at a cost that will meet a competitive price point and has a marketing roadmap that leads to awareness, preference and purchase. As should be clear by now, having an “idea” is just the first step in creating
a product that will lead to success in the marketplace.
___________

Deb de Sherbinin is the founder and president of Kidsmart. Founded in 1993, KidSmart is a product and marketing consultancy that provides services that help companies successfully identify, develop and market products that entertain kids of all ages.

Hanlip Toy Company Publishes Latest Book by Children’s Play Expert ‘Dr. Toy’

Smart Play Smart Toys gives parents and teachers new advice on using playtime for learning development.

Hanlip Toys has partnered with renowned international toy expert and child development specialist Dr. Stevanne Auerbach, better known as ‘Dr. Toy,’ to publish the newly revised and updated book title Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High PQ.

This comprehensive guide helps parents and teachers select the best toys and games for developing “Play Quotient” (PQ), the extent to which a child plays.

“Many people think play is trivial, but it isn’t,” said Dr. Toy. “Play is vital for the developing mind because it allows children to extend their imagination, resourcefulness, social interaction, problem-solving skills and resilience.”

The book helps parents navigate the thousands of toy and play options available, offers tips on how to evaluate toy safety, and provides 160 activities that enhance PQ. In addition, it identifies gender-specific and age-appropriate toys, important craft supplies for playtime and hundreds of ways to make play a life-long and nurturing experience.

According to President of Hanlip Toys “Effective play produces a well-rounded child, ready to take on further learning challenges. We are very pleased to be involved in spreading the very popular and practical advice for which Dr. Toy is so well known.”

About Dr. Toy

Trained in education, psychology, and special education, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. has spent more than 30 years working in toys and children’s services. She writes a syndicated column, ‘Dr. Toy.’ Her “Best Products” awards for the best educational, developmentally appropriate toys and children’s products and other features are online at drtoy.com.

About Hanlip Toys

Hanlip Toys is a company dedicated to creating a wide range of products for children in classrooms and homes. Educational toys and games, teaching aids, exploration materials, and digital devices provide educators and parents with affordable learning tools for children. Hanlip Toys products are widely available everywhere. For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.hanliptoy.co.kr.

Train Adventures

by Stevanne Auerbach, Dr. Toy

Trains have always fascinated children. Playing with trains offers a lot of learning. Children like to read about and play with small trains. The real ones are exciting to watch. Take a trip on a train so that your child can expand their experiences of travel and appreciation of the train.

This hobby can last a lifetime. Train collecting is one of the biggest hobbies. There are some train museums and many train clubs put on exhibits of miniature trains and layouts. Go to a miniature train store to see the variety and find out additional information. You and your child will be fascinated.

Trains have found their way into children’s literature and toys. There are good videos about trains that provide lots of information Thomas the Tank Engine is a big favorite for TV, videos, books and miniature sets. Find some books in the library on trains so your child can learn more. Read a train story to your child.

Combine arts and crafts with your child’s train hobby. They can draw and paint scenery for their train layouts. Older children can use paper maché. They can also create play buildings from paper and cardboard to go with other small structures on their play train layouts.

Two great train sets to appeal to your train enthusiast were selected from among Dr. Toy’s Best Children’s Products:

LGB of America
Fantasy Train

7-12 yrs.
$199.95
1-800-669-0607
Enter the world of trains with this high quality G scale toy train set that can be set up to cover 4 1/2 feet of track. This starter set includes everything the young train collector will want and there is plenty to learn as the child’s fantasy play continues.

Strombecker/Tootsietoy
Sesame Street Wooden Railway

3-6 yrs.
$49.99
1-800-944-TOYS / 1-800-944-8697
This is a great product and one that Cookie Monster would love to show off. Included is a suspension bridge, train and tracks, signs plus your child’s favorite Sesame Street characters. Compatible with Brio train tracks and other playsets, the child can build a whole town around the tracks. The train cars hold together with magnets.

Dr. Toy responds to grandparent who is visiting grandchild for the first time and wants to bring practical gift. Dr. Toy suggests you find out what is on the new baby’s wish list by asking parents. If they do not have a musical mobile for the crib you might start with that, or a tape recorder and a selection of baby song tapes. Another great choice is the first teddy bear, washable, soft, a perfect touch. Just being loving grandparents is the baby’s greatest gift.

Let’s Play!