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.

February 28, 2010

Dean Kamen on kids

In yesterday's blog entry, I gave a link to an amazing interview Anderson Cooper did earlier this year with Dean Kamen, an inventor and the founder of the FIRST robotics competitions. 13 minutes into the interview, he has this to say,
"There's no stimulus package that this country can possibly put together that will have a better return than stimulating the next generation of kids in this country to be for the 21st century our Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, the Google boys."
Can you see why Discovery Toys hold such a special place in my heart? How can a child get a better start in math and science than playing with building blocks or manipulatives like Giant Pegboard, Marbleworks, Measure Up Cups or math games like Think it Through tiles?

February 27, 2010

NYC FIRST Competition

Because I'm a proud mama of a child raised on Discovery Toys, I am happy to announce his participation in his school's Robotics team, Stuy 694, at the 10th anniversary of New York City FIRST!

Learn more about FIRST and how it impacts kids interested in technology, math and science, and hear what Dean Kamen told Anderson Cooper on AC360 about innovation. You can also see what PBS Newshour had to say about FIRST.

You can be part of the biggest celebration of its kind in New York City - four major student technology events under one roof. New York City FIRST's Mega Celebration is the biggest FIRST event in the world, second only to the FIRST World Championship at the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta.

Join us in celebrating our City's kids working smart in science and technology. Help inspire young men and women to go on to further studies and careers in science and technology.

This event is free and open to the public.

2010 New York City FIRST Mega-Celebration

Celebrating young men and women
working smart in
science and technology

Saturday, March 13 and Sunday, March 14
9:00am to 4:00pm

Jacob Javits Convention Center
New York, NY

NYC FIRST Robotics Competition
Saturday, March 13 & Sunday, March 14

Sixty-four competing high school robotics teams of future technologists and entrepreneurs.

NYC FIRST LEGO League Championship
Sunday, March 14
Eighty middle school teams, exploring alternative transportation systems selected from among 220 winning teams from across the City.

NYC FIRST Tech Challenge Championship
Saturday, March 13
Forty-eight high school robotics teams putting their technical and teamwork skills to the test.

Science & Technology Career Expo
Friday, March 12, through Sunday March 14
Fifty exhibitors, including colleges and universities and NYC FIRST sponsors informing students about careers in science and technology.

(as of February 24, 2010)

Credit Suisse
Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs employees

Con Edison
Hearst Foundations
JPMorgan Chase
Two Sigma Investments

Michael Dubno
Johnson & Johnson
Newman's Own
NYSE Foundation
Milgo Bufkin
Port Authority of NY & NJ
Josh & Judy Weston

Ackman Family Foundation
Bezos Family Foundation
David L. Klein Jr., Foundation
Jerry Callaghan
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp.
Pershing Square Foundation
Polytechnic Institute of NYU

February 18, 2010

Fresh Air Fund

"We made s'mores and hot dogs over the fire. I've never cooked outside before!"

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.

The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.

Fresh Air children are registered by more than 90 participating social service and community organizations located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City. These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in need of summer experiences in rural and suburban areas. Each agency is responsible for registering children for the program.

What do Fresh Air children enjoy?
Playing in the backyard
Laughing in the sunshine
Catching fireflies
Riding bicycles
Learning to swim
Building sandcastles
Making new friends
Simple pleasures of life away from the inner-city

If you do decide to sponsor a child, please consult my Discovery Toys website for some great outdoor toys you can play with.

February 01, 2010

Windows of Opportunity

Scientific research has shown that there are specific time periods early in a child's life (referred to as the "windows of opportunity") when many important brain connections are set for life. It's the time frame when certain connections take place most effectively in the brain: when we learn to walk, when we learn a second language, when we learn mathematical concepts, and so on. If you fail to learn these things during their critical period, you can still learn them later, but, for example, you won't have the authentic French accent if you learn to speak French at age 20, instead of at age 2, when the window is still open. You can learn to walk if you were in a total body cast at age 1, but you are likely to not have a natural gait.

Everything young babies and children are learning and are exposed to helps generate connections in the wiring of their brains. The more connections there are, the more successful children can be at developing new skills over time.

This impacts social skills as well as cognitive and motor skills, as described in Denise Quinlan's blog entry Positive Relationships - Pillar or Foundation of the House of Well-being? She asserts that "Children who are secure in their primary relationships are more likely to explore and so learn more about their surroundings, thereby building greater knowledge and resources."

One commenter to her blog, Udayan, remarks, "There have been documented cases of children who have somehow survived alone without parents or any other people, and have been discovered at some point in middle childhood. Their development in all areas, such as language, cognition, emotions, social skills, etc., are naturally grossly underdeveloped, and what is worse, having missed critical periods in brain development in which they should have been developing in interaction with others, they were never able to develop their human capacities to a level that approaches those who have been raised from infancy in human communities."

The Discovery Toys tag line reminds us to "feed" our children healthy toys (as opposed to "junk food toys") that make every moment a playful brain-wiring opportunity. That's why so many moms who grew up on these toys themselves are now introducing them to the next generation.
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