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.

October 20, 2009

Once Upon a Time

Beware! If your child comes home telling you
where T=time, stands for "once upon a time," he may have played with too many Discovery Toys! Take a look at the time pieces my son identified:

Mathematical Clocks

Okay, this is scary!

October 18, 2009

Literacy for children

What is literacy?

It's the ability to communicate in a variety of forms: reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking.

Many parents don't realize that when a child works a puzzle or assembles a sequence of parts, he's learning visual discrimination (how things look alike or different), a fundamental concept in being able to differentiate one string of letters (a word) from another.

Stacking toys, like Measure Up Cups, or My Busy Day teach about sequencing...a progression from small to large.

Lacing/threading toys like Giant Pegboard or Shapes and Laces, work on fine motor skills that build the muscles that will soon develop the ability to hold a pencil.

Sorting toys like Sunshine Market or Place and Trace also help with eye-hand coordination, how the eyes and hands work together.

Patterning toys like Playful Patterns help children recognize and analyze patterns in words like endings or prefixes.

All of this will be helpful to a child learning to read.

It's never too soon to get started. Even holding the youngest child on your lap for a short reading session sets up a positive association with being read to. They can learn about how a book opens, that it must be held right side up, that we read from left to right, that the symbols on the page have a meaning.

You will probably want to have a home library, one that includes a variety of genres, from rhyming books to picture books, to activity books, story books, reference books. There should be a range of authors with different writing styles and an array of illustrators. Even the font styles should vary so that g is still recognized as g.

Baby board books like Frog's Friends, Ladybug's Lesson and Baby Bear's Bedtime, and soft books like Animal Baby and Busy Baby, have interesting textures to hold baby's attention.

Once Upon a Time and My First Fairy Tales are two storybooks, and there's the What am I? series of non-fiction with interesting die-cut pages in our reference section.

We also have CDs to cultivate good listening skills, like Sounds Like Fun and Bilingual Songs -English/Spanish.

Refer to my prior article on reading aloud to your child for 15 minutes a day. It is one of the best things you can do for your child.

October 14, 2009

Mother's Guilt

This summer I had the privilege of meeting Suze Orman at the Discovery Toys convention. She admonished me, and many of the other women in the audience, about not putting ourselves first, taking care of our own well-being before children, spouse or aging parents. She reminded us about what the flight attendants tell us on airplanes, "In the event that oxygen masks drop down, please adjust yours first, then help your child." You may find yourself feeling less guilty when you realize if you burn out, you won't be able to be there at all for the people you love.

October 05, 2009

OHNY: It's Time to Play

This weekend marks the return of openhousenewyork for its 7th year of free access to NYC's best architecture and design venues. There are many kid-centered activities, but as your toy lady, I'm most interested in telling you about "It's Time to Play" at the Queens King Manor Museum on Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street where kids will be able to play games from the 18th & 19th centuries. Subway: E, J or Z train to Jamaica Center or F to Parsons Blvd. AirTrain to Jamaica Station, walk one block north to Jamaica Ave. 4 blocks east to 150th St. Visit for more info.

Oh, and after you're done playing old-fashioned games, step back into the 21st century and try our new board games: Friendship Island, Play to be Safe or Labyrinth.

Halloween Fun

October 03, 2009

Out with bake sales!

Yahoo! New York City schools have outlawed most bake sales! That's a million kids who won't be raising funds in an unhealthy way anymore.

The New York Times recently reported that the Department of Ed will use a variety of ways to limit how much sugar and fat students consume while they're at school. Not only are bake sales out, but vending machines that have sugar-laden drinks and high fat snacks will also be swapped out for those carrying low-sugar granola bars.

It never made sense to me that parents would bring in doughnuts and muffins at 9 am for kids to celebrate a class book reading party or completion of a project. Have you ever seen the cafeteria food? Or looked at what's available in the vending machines? No wonder 40% of the kids suffer from overweight or obesity. I'm glad Mayor Bloomberg and his school chancellor are paying attention. (I hope they'll soon begin to look at curriculum more closely, too.)

It is my hope that more preschools and elementary schools will look to have healthy toy and book sales now, as an alternative to unhealthy bake sales. (shameless plug: contact me to do a fundraiser).
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