discovery toys blog of billie elias
Tips for parents who play with their children or who want stay-at-home income.
Toys for special need, autism, gifted and typical kids.

July 06, 2013

A trip to the New York Public Library's Children's Books exhibit

A trip to this magnificent edifice (now named after financier Stephen A. Schwarzman) has always been special, but never more significant to me than when it involves children and reading.  Some of my fondest memories are of my mother reading to me and the pleasurable hours I spent snuggled up with and reading to my own child. Although we visited our local branch often, our visit to the 42nd Street library was mainly to visit the map room, one of the most visually interesting rooms for a child in that building.  If you haven't been to the main library recently, I highly recommend you go see the current exhibit.
From now until March 23, 2014 the library has on display a sympathetic exhibit...a comprehensive homage to children's books. On display are many of the books that you or your children read while growing up, along with photographs of some of the authors or their subjects, personal letters, interactive touch screens and plenty of loose books or comics that you can pick up and read.  Here you'll find Mary Poppins, a video of Eric Carle showing how he made "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "Fun with Dick and Jane," "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," a sky-high tower of books (including Anne Frank's diary) that were once censored,  Edward Stratemeyer's Bobbsey Twins/Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys, L. Frank Baum's Oz series, "Charlotte's Web," Peter Rabbit/Beatrix Potter, "Goodnight, Moon" (which has a life-sized replica of the great green room from the book, seen below).

Take a random walk through the interesting arrangement of galleries.  Each book or genre or famous author has its own vignette of a space.  One of my personal favorites was a gigantic gift box that you can enter, with a single book prominently displayed: a Little Golden Book that was, in fact, given to my son as a gift -- "The Poky Little Puppy."

Although I visit the Bank Street College of Education several days a year (to display Discovery Toys), I had no idea how influential it was in the early days of picture books. Its founder, Lucy Sprague Mitchell observed that children live in a world largely based on their immediate surroundings and their development as healthy, socially and emotionally secure "whole children" was fundamental.  Books like "Goodnight Moon" and the Steichen's "The First Picture Book" are based on that.

Below the set of unit blocks is a photograph by Edward Steichen's based on those blocks.  The card next to the blocks explains that nearly 100 years ago Caroline Pratt, founder of City and Country School in Greenwich Village (and collaborator with Lucy Sprague Mitchell in the Bureau of Educational Experiences), invented unit blocks like these to provide "open-ended play." (Incidentally, that's the term Lane Nemeth used for her Discovery Toys...meaning there's no right way or wrong way to play with these materials, and no age limit: as a child ages they find new uses.) This same concept inspired him to leave the left-hand page blank so grown-up and child together could fill in their own dialogue.


In the 1940s Pooh author A. A. Milne donated the collection of original Winnie-the-Pooh dolls (including Pooh's friends Kanga, Eeyore, Tigger and Piglet) to the American publisher E. P. Dutton. The dolls were then donated to the library in 1988 and were displayed behind bulletproof glass in the Children’s Reading Room at the Donnell branch in Rockefeller Center.

If you've been wondering what happened to the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh dolls since the Donnell Library Center closed in August 2008, you have a chance to see them again in this exhibit.

Before you go, I highly recommend reading Edward Rothstein's review,"Bedtime With Puritans and Wild Things--Public Library’s ‘ABC of It’ Looks at Children’s Books."

September 08, 2012

All-natural hand sanitizer recipe

You can whip up your own chemical-free hand sanitizer, courtesy of Lawrence Rosen, an expert in pediatric integrative medicine:

3 oz. filtered water
1 tsp. aloe vera gel
10 drops cinnamon essential oil
10 drops clove essential oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
20 drops lemon oil

Mix ingredients in a 4-oz. spray dispenser and shake gently.  Spray on children's hands and teach them to massage the spray into their hands for 30 seconds.

July 19, 2012

Test takers or Innovators?

Young children are at their most formative before they even begin school. This is when good parenting (and good toys, books, games, puzzles ) can really make a difference. But, more and more, we rely on our child's earliest teachers, to inspire a love of learning and creativity that will lead some children to become our next great innovators.  Will "teaching to the test" foster that?

A first grade teacher is called upon to teach a variety of subjects: reading, writing, arithmetic. It used to be acceptable if she was somewhat familiar with each. Today, she may be faced with a student who's less phobic about math than she is. What a breakthrough it would be to revamp how math and science are taught -- if children could be inspired, not by generalists, but by someone with a genuine passion for the subject!

Our current system neglects to isolate high achievers who might be the future entrepreneurs. Instead of stretching their minds, they are drilled ad nauseum and asked to review material they have already mastered, all in an effort to raise test scores. Keeping bright children unengaged in the classroom makes them dislike school, when in fact, wouldn't we want our top students to have a sense of joy about coming to school every day?

As a parent, I was astonished to hear a teacher tell me, "I teach to the middle" of the class. It would seem to make more sense for those students who show greater ability to receive enrichment and not be made to suffer environments that neglect to foster their curiosity and growth to the fullest extent. Conversely, the students who need extra help should receive it. Twenty-first century technology should be in use in our classrooms to create independent learning environments tailored to each student.

I realize this approach may be costly, but it pales in comparison to the cost of being debt-ridden in a never-ending recession.

July 05, 2012

"If you want your children to turn out well....

 spend twice as much time with them and half as much money."
~Abigail Van Buren

April 17, 2012

SCIENCE OBSERVATION KIT using styrofoam packing material

Discovery Toys proudly packs shipments in environmentally friendly packing peanuts made from corn starch.  These dissolve easily in water.  They are great for hands-on activities in solubility, Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy, adhesion, cohesion, & more!   

Some suggested observations are:  
  •  *How long does it take for a peanut to dissolve in water?  
  •  *How long if you stir it?   
  • *Does it make a difference if you use hot or cold water?    
  • *How long with another liquid such as shampoo or oil?   
  • *Try to write on a peanut with a marker.  What happens?  Do different markers cause different reactions?   
  • *What about gluing peanuts?  Does this work?                                             Courtesy of C. Sutter

September 01, 2011

Frank Gehry ~ "License to Play"

"My grandparents had a wood stove, and I'd go with her to shops around the neighborhood where we'd buy burlap sacks filled with small, leftover wood pieces. When we got home, she'd open one of the sacks and . . . we'd sit on the floor together and make things out of them -- cities, bridges, buildings. . . . Years later, I realized it was a license to play. That was important to me, because when you start out in architecture, or in any of the arts, the baby steps you take are scary. By the time you get there, you've been through a school system that tries to make everything rational, mathematical, and logical and all of a sudden you're confronted with something that's emotional and intuitive. You look for anchors, and my anchor was this memory of my grandmother."
~ Frank Gehry, Pritzker Prize-winning architect

P.S. Your child deserves wooden building blocks, too.

August 07, 2011

Discovery Toys Back-to-School Sale 2011

Shop the sale between August 8 and 21.
14 Products at 20% off, some only while supplies last. See flyer below.
Shop at
Get these products :   Glove Story, Wiggle Jingle & Roll, Story Stacker, Sounds Like Learning, Zingo,
Giant Pegboard cards, Discovery Fun Play House, Word Match First Words, Letter Fun Lotto, Measure Up Balance, Playful Patterns, A to Z Jr. and Zip Track cars

July 16, 2011

Shop for the holidays in July

It may only be July, but starting your holiday shopping now, a little at a time
(rather than doing all of your gift buying in one month) can be a good strategy. Not only will you be able to spread your expenditures out over a period of time, but you'll free up your winter calendar to go to parties and enjoy the festive season without fighting the crowds. Why not reduce the last minute stress so many people experience in November and December? Take advantage of our summer sale - extended to end of July - to get you started!

July 12, 2011

Lullabies around the World CD

Item # 1097    Orig $15 SALE $7.50
Expand Baby's worldview while never leaving the nursery. Musical CD presents 11 sweet and peaceful songs sung in their native languages, mixed with their English translations. Lyrics sung in Italian, Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, Mandarin, Yiddish, and more. Includes 11 additional instrumental versions.
from birth to toddler

Order Lullabies Around the World

July 09, 2011

One week only sale July 12-18, 2011

click on image to enlarge

Tactico can be enjoyed by adults.  My son came up with some enhancements to the rules that Discovery Toys provides for younger players.  For example, turn the numbered side of each game piece up, initially, and try to remember where you saw the smallest numbers. Then turn all pieces over.  Now you have a memory game as well as a strategy game.  Leave low numbers for your opponent to pick up last, giving them a low score. 

July 03, 2011

"Are we there yet?" summer travel toys

Summer is here and vacations are planned, so you are likely to hear these words uttered more than once as you travel.

Discovery Toys has the answer with some terrific books, games and CDs on sale to help kids stay busy in the car or on the plane. Save money and shop for the perfect travel products with our SUMMER SALE!
Tips for Stress-Free Travel with Kids

Here are 5 good tips for parents to keep in mind whether traveling by car, plane, train or ship this summer:

1. Allow more time than usual. Even the best laid plans can hit a snafu, so allow extra time to pack up and get where you are going.

2. Pack an activity bag. Bring lots of things to do. A short drive can feel like an eternity to a child. Don't forget to pack lots of snacks (too much is better than too little) and some relaxing music to play when things get rowdy. Take a look at the PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT above for some Discovery Toys products that will work great on your trip! And check out my recommendations listed below.

3. Get a good nights sleep. A well rested child is a happy child.

4. Pack an emergency kit. Include medications and ointments you might need, as well as baby wipes. Throw in a small sized bucket and a towel in case of motion sickness.

5. Relax and have fun! You're on vacation, enjoy yourself! Relax, slow down, and savor the moment.

Family Vacation
Discovery Toys' products are perfect for your travel needs. I recommend:


Peek-A-Boo Cube
Monkey See Monkey Do
Sounds Like Learning CD
Animal Lullabies Book & CD
Glove Story Puppet
Baby Grooves
Boomering Links
Baby Moves Collection
Place & Trace
Geo Cubes


Word Match (First Words & Colors/Shapes)
Build-A-Story Books
Sounds Like Phonics Games
ABC & 123 Wipe Clean Books
It's A Match
Busy Bugs & Busy Farm

School Age

From Time to Time
Tricky Fingers
Speed Wiz
Wiz Kids
Mosaic Mysteries
Think-It-Through Tiles
Space Exploration Set

To shop the SUMMER SALE, and our entire catalog, visit my website at"

June 26, 2011

Online Toy Fundraisers for your school or charity

Last week I blogged about online fundraisers, but I should have specifically mentioned online TOY fundraising.

By organizing a fundraiser for your school, you are doing more than just helping families acquire award-winning toys for their own personal use (so much healthier than candy drives! and more beneficial to their play-learning experience than wrapping paper). You are also helping children to develop important skills they can use now and in the future: critical business, financial and life skills such as money-management, customer service, goal setting and decision-making. Your school can take their rewards in toys or in cash.

Charities can also utilize online Toy fundraising.  In particular, children's charities can take advantage of earning FREE TOYS in lieu of cash.  Those toys can be shipped directly to the agenc(ies) you choose, saving you the time and effort.  (With gasoline prices mounting,  you can save a bundle by letting UPS do the work.  It's also a way of reducing your carbon footprint, as that UPS truck is already making the rounds. Go green!)

Learn more at Toy Fundraisers.

June 19, 2011

Organize an online fundraiser for your favorite cause

Technology is changing the way many direct sales companies are doing business. Free e-vites are rapidly replacing post card invitations sent by costly snail mail.

Some reps are filming their parties and making them available on You Tube to people who cannot attend in person.  Others are asking people to "Skype"-in to interact with the live party and its guests.

Some companies already have the technology to do virtual parties. Hostesses can invite their guests to enter their order, right online.  It's great for charities and fundraisers, too, as all the orders can be aggregated and the hostess/school/institution will receive the hostess rewards based on that total.

You no longer need to jump in your car and drive 20 miles to your friend's house (with gasoline at $4/gallon, or more, this is a relief).  Now you can sit in the comfort of your living room and the party hostess still gets all the benefits of you having attended her party.

Let me organize an on-line fundraiser for your school or any charity that benefits children.  In addition to the generous Discovery Toys hostess rewards, I will add an extra 5% for any Discovery Toys "party" booked  through me at I Shop at Home.

On top of that, I Shop at Home has extended a special offer to the first hostess who organizes a benefit that supports the double cause of Children and Ronald McDonald House.  They will donate Fifty Dollars {$50} to that cause.  In other words, any Juvenile Cancer-Related Cause {Treatment, Research, Quality of Life, etc.} will get loads of free Discovery Toys if you host a Discovery Toys party or fundraiser for them.

June 02, 2011

Discovery Toys 2011 Summer Sale

From now until June 30, catch these great items at up to 50% off.

May 07, 2011

Pre-K graduation decorations

Q: What decorations can I use as centerpieces for my child's pre-k graduation?

A: Purchase an age-appropriate educational toy from and use the toy as the centerpiece.
Our toys are really colorful and fun and make darling centerpieces. You could arrange them in a basket or simply add a balloon.

Consider raffling the toys off to cover your cost,  have a drawing with all the families entered, or you could even donate the toys to the school.
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