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.

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.

March 19, 2011

Social Skills for kids on the spectrum

An interesting article on autism by Moira Lewis, MS, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, is worth a read.  She discusses how children with ASD (autism spectrum disorders) can be helped to develop social skills through therapy, peer mentors and social stories.

Please know that Discovery Toys is very interested in children on the spectrum, as you can see by the codes a - f on the toys listed in our catalog.  The 6 skills generally lacking in children with autism are shown here.  Once you identify the child's areas of weakness, you can use that code to find toys that will be helpful.  For example, a child who has difficulty talking about their play experiences, code "d," may benefit from Item #2240, Flip Flop Faces- Emotions in Motion. Playing with Flip Flop Faces, children begin to understand facial expressions while they develop gross motor skills and coordination. The game encourages cooperative play, color and word recognition, and social awareness. Includes 6 target bowls and 6 bean bags labeled with emotions that add up to one great party game. The DT Activity Guide is in English & French.  For French speakers, #2185 is the French version of the same game.

March 07, 2011

Billie talks toys with James Piecowye

Take a listen to my radio interview with James Piecowye, professor of communication and media sciences at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates. He hosts a popular talk radio show called Nightline in Dubai.

February 28, 2011

Free drawing for free shipping

You will be entered into my drawing for free shipping on your Discovery Toys order if you go to my website, look around at the toys and comment here about a toy you find interesting.  If your child has a favorite, you can write about what makes it so.

February 25, 2011

Sir David Frost on making a difference

"My father often used to talk about that old proverb, 'Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.'  In other words, everybody you meet has something to teach you - if you take the trouble to find it.  The most unlikely person can enlighter your life.  That's tremendously important for the self-worth of the people you meet, as well as your own.

There are all sorts of ways in which we're not equal, but we are all equal in what we can strive for.  When I interviewed Senator Robert Kennedy back in 1968 - the last interview he gave before his assassination - I asked him how he would like to be remembered.  He replied, "Well, there is a line of Albert Camus that says, 'This is a world in which children suffer."  I'd like to have made a contribution to lessening that suffering.'  Kennedy spoke a lot about making a contribution.  He used to say, "For if we do not do this, then who will do this?" It's so simple: if you have a talent, you have a duty to use it to the full.

Making a contribution and making a difference - they should be linked - is not only something that famous people can do, or that dead politicians can be quoted on.  It is something that everyone can do in their own lives...."

February 24, 2011

"King" Colin & stuttering

I'm a huge movie fan, and the Academy Awards ceremony is a must-see for me every year.   Many seem to feel that The King's Speech has a good chance of garnering many of the 12 awards for which it's been nominated.  But the folks at the Stuttering Foundation are so enamored of it that they want the film to be used as a teaching tool for those working in the speech-language pathology realm.  Read this charming interview with Jane Fraser, the president of the Stuttering Foundation.  If you're a Colin Firth fan, you'll find some great pics of him there, too.  Good luck on Sunday night, "King" Colin!

February 15, 2011

Discovery Toys Star Explorer Kit

February school break is coming soon and some families will be hitting the road and heading to camp sites in warmer climes.  If you'll be under the stars, you'll want to check out Star Explorer Kit to pinpoint and identify popular seasonal constellations. The portable light-up device with compass comes complete with 15 constellation transparencies for convenient night-time use. Additional constellation fun fact cards and seasonal star charts promote interest in science, nature, and astronomy.

February 10, 2011

"Race to Nowhere"

Last night my son's school had a screening of a most disturbing film: Vicki Abeles' "Race to Nowhere."  The documentary contains interviews with students, teachers, a dean of education at Stanford University, parents and psychologists...all addressing the current state of affairs in the education system from the earliest years through the teens.  In case you hadn't noticed, more and more our children are being taught to be good (or excellent) test-takers, as opposed to good thinkers.  There are the ERBs, the PSATs, the SATs the ACTs, the 4th grade and 8th grade standardized tests, admissions tests for specialized schools, the tests that prepare kids to take these tests and in states like New York, the Regents Exams.  Stress-levels are high, even at the pre-kindergarten level, for if you don't go to the right pre-K, you might not get into the right elementary school that will set you up for someday attending Harvard; cheating is commonplace;  teen suicides are no longer rare.  Excessive homework keeps kids up so late that many of them are sleep deprived, on top of being stressed and depressed.

One teen interviewed remarked that his life from school to tests to college and onto the workplace just seems like a "race to nowhere."  What's the point, if you're unprepared and uninspired?

There is a grassroots effort afoot to reduce homework and adjust our system to reward better teaching. The film mentions a study that demonstrated that a no-homework policy actually led students to better scores.  (Do you think less homework meant less stress?  more sleep? better conditions for test-taking?)   I think it would be great if the quality of teaching nationwide was such that a lot of learning could take place right in the classroom and aside from team projects or other long-range assignments, little or no homework be assigned.  I also feel that slower learners be separated from quick studies, so that teachers aren't forced to "teach to the middle," as one of my son's teachers in elementary school told me she did.  This would help everyone learn at their own pace, and then truly, no child would be left behind.

After our screening, we were treated to a panel discussion with a group of child psychiatrists from the NYU Child Study Center, who offered that public policy ignores well-known scientific findings....simple things like starting school later than 7 or 8 am, so that kids can get the extra sleep they need.

The film's website has a page that will help you find a screening near you.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

The 10th anniversary of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is on February 24, 2011. Can you help?

And don't forget, budding young engineers would love the Discovery Toys Qubits construction set.

January 28, 2011

Two models of Parenting

"I got two A's," the small boy said.
His voice was filled with glee.
His father rather bluntly asked,
"Why didn't you get three?"

"Mom, I've got the dishes done,
the girl called from the door.
Her mother rather calmly said,
"And did you sweep the floor?"

"I mowed the grass," the tall boy said,
"And put the mower away."
His father asked him with a shrug,
"And did you clean off the clay?"

The children in the house next door
Seemed happy and content.
The same things happened over there,
But this is how it went:

"I got two A's," the small boy said.
His voice was filled with glee.
His father proudly said, "That's great;
I'm glad you belong to me."

"Mom, I've got the dishes done,"
the girl called from the door.
Her mother smiled and softly said,
"Each day I love you more.

"I've mowed the grass," the tall boy said,
"And put the mower away."
His father answered with much joy,
"Thanks so much, that makes my day."

Children deserve a little praise
For tasks they're asked to do.
If they're to lead a happy life,
A lot depends on you.

~ unknown

January 27, 2011

Were Dean Kamen & Obama comparing notes?

President Obama, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, took a page right out of Dean Kamen's playbook when he said:
The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us –- as citizens, and as parents –- are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair. (Applause.) We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.

Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST Robotics and inventor of the Segway and dozens of other cool things, has said we elevate sports stars to the level of hero, but why not scientists who make significant contributions to society? "You have teenagers thinking they're going to make millions as NBA stars when that's not realistic for even 1 percent of them. Becoming a scientist or engineer is."

In November 2009, the President remarked in a speech that "scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be."

I'm all in favor of encouraging kids in math and science. If we don't, our economy is likely to slip even further. I'm not talking about cockeyed schemes of financial engineering. I'm talking about encouraging our kids to pursue careers in science and technology that can find a cure for cancer, make us less dependent on fossil fuels, free us up to invent useful services, or create machines that enrich our lives. In order to design and build those machines, a child first needs to have built things like Marbleworks, needs to have learned to think logically and strategically by playing games like Tactico, to be able to put the left half of a puzzle together with the right half, to have put red ball in the red hole of Hammer Away, to be able to match one pattern to another in Think-it-Through Tiles, to follow schematics like those in Motor Works. It all begins in the earliest days of life when the learning process is set in motion and the connections in the brain are rapidly developing. Parents begin by introducing stories, songs, toys that stimulate the senses and eventually get down on the floor to play with their kids. Every family should be encouraged to have the kinds of toys that foster that kind of interaction: low-tech, high kid-involvement, healthy playthings, such as those offered by Discovery Toys. If you wait until your child is school-age, you will have missed the boat. Won't you instill the love of learning in your child today?

January 26, 2011

Additional 15% off Discovery Toys Winter Sale

That's right! Discovery Toys is offering, in addition to our Winter Sale, TODAY ONLY, an extra 15% off the 26 items in our sale. Email me to order or visit my e-commerce site Discovery Toys page before midnight tonight!

January 01, 2011

Discovery Toys $75 kit -- join today

There's never been a better time to join us in our mission to every child.

Visit me at
and click on Enroll Now.

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Discovery Toys on sale in January 2011, part 2

See next entry for more on sale!
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Shop Here

Discovery Toys on sale in January 2011, part 1

click on image to enlarge
shop here
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