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.

August 30, 2008

Toy Play in Early Childhood

When children play, it is their work. It is how they learn. Since parents are their child's first and best teacher, it can be useful to know how to choose "just right" toys.

A good toy should stimulate all the senses so that every part of the brain gets wired. Sensory, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, language development, social and emotional skills and creativity are all developmental goals that can be reached through the right toys. [If your child has a weakness in any of these areas, your OT, PT, speech pathologist or an online search can help you to select toys that will help.] A good toy should also encourage the natural process of discovery and create a positive learning environment. A toy that provides open-ended play -- no right or wrong way to play with it -- will build your child's self-esteem.

It is helpful to know your child's learning style. Does he learn through what he hears (auditory learner)? Through touch and movement (kinesthetic learner)? Or through his eyes (visual learner)? When you identify that, you can match your child's toys to his particular style, or complement his style by choosing toys that help develop his areas of weakness.

Stage by Stage
Infants learn through their senses. Sight, sound, scent, color, taste and texture are all new stimuli in a brand new world. Talk, sing and cuddle with your baby as you share each new experience. Since it's never too early to read to your baby, you can start bonding by snuggling your baby in your lap and looking at a fabric book or board book together. Say the words that go with the picture you see. Use inflections in your voice to make each picture come alive for him. This will create precious moments for both of you and starts him on the path to becoming a lifelong reader.

Starting at about age one, you may introduce letters, numbers, and basic skills such as matching and stacking. Toppling and stacking, dump and fill, learning size relationships of big or small, color sorting are all activities that your child is ready for at the toddler stage. Object permanence is also learned around this time through games like peek-a-boo or a jack-in-the-box. That teaches toddlers that although mommy may leave to go out shopping, she's not gone forever, and she will come back!

Some toddlers are frustrated by not yet being verbal. You may recall the young child actor who played opposite Grandpa Robert DeNiro in "Meet the Fockers." He had learned "Baby Signs," sign language for babies to use. There are products on the market today to teach your young child the way to communicate that he is thirsty even before he speaks.

Toys that encourage and provide exploration/experimentation build a strong foundation for thinking, learning and problem-solving. Building blocks, shape-sorters, beginning puzzles are all good choices for enhancing early math confidence.

Typically, children will begin speaking at around age two. Engage your child in conversation as they begin to explore new concepts and develop logical thinking skills. Introduce animals, letter sounds, and feelings at this age. Visual discrimination and pattern recognition developed through puzzles and sorting games will lead to pre-reading.

By preschool, your child will be creating and building with construction toys and other manipulatives to enhance their math skills. Imaginary or pretend play with puppets and costumes is starting at this time. Storytelling and social skills go hand-in-hand. Playing games that involve taking turns also enable social skills to form.

Examples of toys for various learning styles
Toy instruments
Squeaky ball (Tangiball)
Music CD's (Sounds Like Fun)
Rattles (Elephant Fun, Rainfall Rattle)

Hammering toy (Hammer Away)
Shape Sorter (Sunshine Market)
Construction toys (Castle Marbleworks)

Puzzles (Alphabet Train)
Matching games (A B Seas)
Sorting games (Giant Pegboard)

August 29, 2008

Convention 2009 Denver

Discovery Toys announces July 16-18, 2009 Convention in Denver, CO.
Come visit the Mile High City and see the majestic Rocky Mountains.

August 28, 2008

The Strangest Secret

From "The Strangest Secret" by Earl Nightingale

"George Bernard Shaw said, 'People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, they make them.'
Well, it's pretty apparent, isn't it? ... We become what we think about.
Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn't know where he's going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry - his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing... he becomes nothing.
How does it work? Why do we become what we think about? Well, I'll tell you how it works, as far as we know. To do this, I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.
Suppose a farmer has some land, and it's good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice; he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn't care. It's up to the farmer to make the decision.
We're comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn't care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant.
Now, let's say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand - one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds - one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land...and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted..... "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."
Remember the land doesn't care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants - one corn, one poison.
The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn't care what we plant...success...or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal...or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant it must return to us.
You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant."

August 25, 2008

Toy Safety Tips from the U. S. Public Interest Research Group

Purchase a "no-choke testing tube" at toy stores and use it to measure small toys. If a toy can fit into the cylinder, keep it away from children under three or children who still put toys in their mouths. ( by special order from Discovery Toys: Small Parts Cylinder)

Beware of products that can break into little pieces or have small detachable parts.

Make sure small toys intended for an older child in a household stay out of the hands of a younger child.

Keep balloons away from children under 8. Children who bite on inflated balloons can inhale air too rapidly from them. Broken balloon pieces also are a leading cause of choking.

Rounded toys have a greater tendency to cause choking problems because a child's airway can be completely blocked. Keep small balls and marbles out of their reach.

Avoid infant toys with cords or rope which could lead to strangulation.

Projectile toys and launchers can damage children's skin, eyes or ears.

© 1997 The Associated Press. AP-NY-11-25-97 1629EST

August 23, 2008

Draupnir, the new owners of Discovery Toys

The name "Draupnir" has an interesting etymology: in Norse mythology, DRAUPNIR is a magic ring forged by the dwarf Eitri as a gift for Odin, leader of the Norse Gods. The ring symbolizes wealth creation, since each ninth morning it created eight more gold rings just like itself.

"Odin laid upon the pyre the gold ring called Draupnir; this quality attended it: that every ninth night there fell from it eight gold rings of equal weight."
from the Gylfaginning, the story of Gylfi, king of Sweden in Norse Mythology

August 21, 2008

Renewal Notice

Is It Time to Renew Your Dream?
For many things in life, we get reminders.

When our insurance comes due, we receive a renewal notice.When our membership to an organization runs out, they let us know we have to renew in order to continue enjoying the privileges. If you let your newspaper subscription expire... so does your paper! There are certain things we must continue to invest in in order to get the results we want .It is part of life.

But what about the things that don't come with annual reminders?

What about our dreams and goals -- the things we would like to happen in our life?
Have you let your subscription run out? Have your dreams expired?
Has your "dream renewal" gotten lost in the shuffle of many responsibilities?

When was the last time you invested some time renewing your dreams?
Do you even remember what they are?

You don't have to climb Mt. Everest. You don't have to find a cure for cancer.It doesn't have to be a dream of national significance, but it does need to be significant to you.

What would be really neat if it happened to you? What two or three things have you always wanted to have?
What would you really like to achieve?

If you haven't thought about your dreams lately,spend some time with a pen and a notepad.

Start writing things down. If big dreams seem out of reach, start small. That's how big dreams happen anyway, one small step at a time.

"It may be those who do the most, dream most." -Stephen Leacock

Start dreaming again. Discovery Toys can make your dreams come true.

Consider this your renewal notice!!

from Julie Monke & Marsha Swainston

Parenting Tips from Real Parents

1. Kids respond more quickly and positively to a command that reinforces correct behavior than to a reprimand that focuses on an undesirable behavior. Instead of "don't run!" try "please walk." “Look please” instead of “don’t touch”. It takes some practice, but you will notice a change in your children's behavior, and you will feel like you are nagging less! Linda

2. Take time each day for yourself. It doesn't matter WHAT you do, as long as your children see you doing something to better yourself each day. Linda

3. The "interrupt rule". When on the phone the children know that they may interrupt us by putting their hand on our arm and then wait QUIETLY. We can then find a pause in our other conversation and say '"Excuse me, yes, what is it?" Trisha

4. Store toys on shelves instead of in a “bottomless” toy box. In addition, games, noisy toys, and art supplies should be kept high so they are only taken out with parental permission or supervision. Tina

5. When you find a stray piece of a puzzle/game save it in a special box just for unidentified pieces. Never throw unclaimed pieces away. It is great fun to finally find the match. Tucker

6. WATER! Water is a stress reliever, which gives a soothing sensation for all ages, from a tiny, fussy baby to a pre-teen having a bad day. Fill your kitchen sink with water and bubbles and your child will play happily for ages. Jackie

7. Teach your baby to put herself/himself to sleep sooner rather than later (4-6 mos.). We have a routine that we stick to religiously and that way my husband and I can count on some time alone every night BEFORE we collapse. Beth

8. Children require TIME - yours. TIME + LOVE. Lucinda

9. To help manage the "I want" stage create a treasure box. Whenever your child sees something he has to have, cut it out of the catalog or draw a picture of it and put it in the treasure box. On birthdays, holidays and other "treat" times during the year let the child make a selection from the treasure box for us to purchase. It is amazing how many things lost their appeal over time in the box. They will value the things they do receive much more. Jill


11. Take time to LISTEN! All the "just a minutes" add up in their life and it becomes an hour! Kathy

12. A smile & a kiss can make all the difference! Missy

13. Listen in equal amounts of time that you speak. Judy

14. Sing, sing, sing...if you're happy your kids will know it, if you're frustrated singing a made-up song in a loud voice is much more effective than yelling. Dorrie

15. When doing laundry, rather than put all the clothes away, sort them into slots for Monday through Saturday. Top, bottom, underpants, socks... everything's there. Kathleen

16. When your children forget their shoes/lunch don’t bring them to them. They will surely remember the experience and learn the value of taking responsibility for their actions. Beth

17. Let the children know the expectations so they are prepared for the situation. When going into a store or library have the child repeat the rules back. Anonymous

18. As a mom of 5, the best thing I ever did was help my children understand how to help another child, maybe one who couldn't hit the ball or run as fast as the others. In the real world, it is your sincerity and kindness that makes a person special. Kathy

19. Count backward with your child as regularly as you count forward. 1-2-3 is forward sequencing = addition. 3-2-1 is backward sequencing = subtraction. Keeping the gears greased both directions is imperative for the math brain wheels to spin freely. Nancy

20. When your child begins to make letters and numbers, make sure the strokes are drawn from the top down, not the bottom up. Nancy

21. The best advice I ever received as a parent was " Never say never!” Chris

22. Always remember what it feels like to be a child! Trust your gut feelings! Even when a supposed "Professional" is telling you something different about your child.

23. Be a good role model - take time to nurture yourself both physically and mentally.

24. Always assume that your child is doing their job to the best of their ability (i.e. to push to find the limits) and do yours to the best of your ability (Set those limits!).

25. Love unconditionally! A child will only be trustworthy if you trust them.

26. Just being there is the best thing that you can give a child. I always say, "How can you be in your children’s memories tomorrow if, you are not in their life today." Michelle

27. As a parent, you need to be a broken tedious as it may sound, children need to hear what you expect of them over and over and over again. Georgeanne

28. Make a point to have lots of FUN together: Telling jokes, pillow fights, re-writing songs with crazy words, always looking for (or creating) the absurd in the day. Cheri

29. Carry a plastic trash bag in your diaper bag, for times when the changing situation isn't great … you just change baby, then toss out the diaper, wipes and the trash bag.

30. Your child will be a little "you" person...if you don't like what you see in your child, take a look at YOU first ... if their manners are lacking, how are yours? If they have a bad attitude, check yours!

31. What goes in their ears will sooner or later roll off their lips! Don't EVER complain about your mother-in-law when the kids are within 3 blocks of where you are!

32. Get down on THEIR level and have a real conversation - be interested in THEIR day...and when they are telling you things, good or bad – LISTEN.

33. Just have fun … if you are truly having fun as a parent and relishing in the awesome-ness of children, then your attitude will show through...happy, positive and supportive!

34. Even during the frustrating times there are two things to remember - first, it won't last long and second, there is always someone who would be very, very happy to have that problem to deal with!

35. Play, play, play...if dinner doesn't get made, order a pizza ... if the house isn't clean, don't sweat it! Someday the children will be gone and you will have ALL the time in the world for, play, play now!

36. The most important thing to remember - be very, very nice to your children … someday they may be feeding and diapering YOU!

37. Say what you mean, mean what you say. When disciplining, give logical consequences and follow through. And when making promises, follow through, also.

38. Hug them every chance you get and tell them how much you love them and what makes them special. Arlene

39. Never allow "name calling". When we stop the name calling it help reduces the over all battles that children will get into. I explained to my children that when you name call then you lose respect for others and you lose respect for yourself. Cynthia

40. Tell your children when they do things right and praise them. We often only tell them only when they do things wrong. Mallory

with thanks to Tucker Smith

August 20, 2008

Have you read to a child today?

In 2007, the National Center for Educational Statistics released its annual “Reading Report,” which asserts that 33 percent of all fourth graders in this country still cannot read at even the basic level.

Discovery Toys has some great books...including some that inspire a child to learn to read. Shop for "Ahoy, Pirate Pete" and "Once Upon a Time" and other engaging books at
These are magical interactive books with cardboard pieces you change each time you read, turning them into different stories.

August 19, 2008


“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."
-Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

August 17, 2008

Age Limit

Dara Torres is an inspiration! The 41-year old mother of a 2-year old has competed in 5 Olympic games, spanning 24 years. After garnering her 11th career medal last night in Beijing, an interviewer asked her what she will tell her daughter about this performance. She replied, "I'll tell her you don't have to put an age limit on your dreams."

What are your dreams?

August 16, 2008

Bilingual babies

Recent scientific studies suggest that exposing young children to two or more languages stimulates brain development. Multilingual children tend to have better overall analytical, social and academic skills than their peers. Look for new bilingual Discovery Toys products coming this fall.

August 15, 2008

"Banana, fana, fofana, fie, fi, fo, fana..."

Sound familiar?
This childhood ditty can be stuck in your head for hours, but it may eventually serve a purpose. You might want to make up your own silly version. Absolutely, GO FOR IT! Be sure to include your kids in the fun!
Why? Playing with sounds, rhymes, and nonsense words is vital to the logical progression of pre-reading skills. How?
Spoken language is made up of sounds (phonemes)
Sounds make words
Words make phrases
Phrases make sentences
Sentences have meaning

Mastering written language (reading) follows the exact same progression with the phonemes (sounds) represented by symbols (such as letters) called graphemes.
Remember how your baby would delight in your smiles, coos, and sound mimics during his babbling stage? As your child develops, she will mimic the sounds you make. Take advantage of these opportunities by making rhymes and word repetitions.
"bat, rat, cat, ratatattat"
"bed, bat, b, b, b, b"
"car, cat, cut,, not, sot, rot, tot"
Discovery Toys has products that practice these language development games perfectly!
ABC Box: As you flip through the pages of the books, pause and add more words that start with the same sound. For example: after your child "reads" the Dd doll, dinosaur page, continue the fun with additional Dd words "dog, dot" etc. Practice rhymes as well: "doll, mall, call, pall, tall, small" etc.

Toddler Talk: Record funny sounds on the phone and encourage your child to repeat the sounds. Your child can record her own voice, too!

Sounds Like Fun: Practice letters and sounds with song! Once you and your child are familiar with the tunes, make your own silly words and sounds.

A B Seas: Pull up the letters, match them on the game board, AND encourage your child to make words that start with that sound. As your child masters beginning sounds, challenge her to think of words with the ending sounds. Imagine the fun you can have reading books with your child now. Discovery Toys has many excellent titles for encouraging a life-long love of reading.

-from "Miss Cathy" Reading Specialist, as seen in Discovery Toys newsletter

August 14, 2008

$100,000 bill

I had no idea how this looked until I found one.

The House of Blues, New Orleans

Each year, Discovery Toys holds its convention in a different city; this year we were in New Orleans. Here I am at the House of Blues, in front of my namesake: Billie Holiday. Just next to me is Isaac Hayes, who coincidentally died while we were there.

Electronic toys instead of parents?

Parents are the first and most important teachers that children have. Some child development experts are noticing that electronics are replacing parents as playmates, and believe this will have detrimental effects.

In a New York Times article by Sherri Day she spoke with one such expert: "The notion of pushing kindergarten work down to the nursery just because you can put it on a microchip doesn't make it right," said Joanne Oppenheim, a child development scholar and president of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. "I don't think that toddlers need electronic workbooks. People buy them thinking that they are going to give their kids a head start, and that's unfortunate because informal learning activity might be much more useful and instructive."

Discovery Toys believes parents should "Play with your children. It's the best investment you can make."

Welcome new Pearl Team members

Debra D. of FL, sponsored by Lisa S.
Sarah D. of NJ, sponsored by Simone
Tracy B. of NJ, sponsored by Lisa S.
Jenna R. of LA, sponsored by Billie

Rocket Start Achievers:
Level 1 Sales Anita J.
Level 1 Sales Sarah D.

August 13, 2008

Are You Listening?

The ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium said that we were given two ears and one mouth so that we might hear more and talk less. Parents play an essential role in building children's communication skills because children spend more time with their parents than with any other adult. One of the most important aspects of communication is listening!

A wise old owl sat on an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why can't we all be like that bird!

August 12, 2008

The Importance of Touch

We have all heard the debate of "nature vs. nurture." Scientists are now seeing actual chemical changes in the body from environmental factors, such as touch. Dr. Frances Champagne, of Columbia University, has conducted research which demonstrates that maternal touch or tactile stimulation (in rats, rhesus monkeys and humans) causes proteins to be created. Those proteins lie on top of the genetic material causing an epigenetic mechanism to switch the DNA from "off" to "on", in turn causing production of additional proteins that improve the ability to handle stress and increase sociability. Scientists don't fully understand the biochemical pathways, nor do they see a classically inherited gene. The structure of the DNA remains unchanged, but the behavior is passed down to the next generation. Nurtured offspring become nurturing parents to their own offspring.

Epigenetic applications have been shown to help reduce repetitive behavior in studies of people with autism.

Pharmaceutical companies are trying to reproduce what nature already does. So, be sure to hug your child often!

August 07, 2008

25 uses for Boomerings(TM)

For infants and toddlers:
  • Attach toys to the stroller, car seat, high chair, backpack, carrier, across a swing, across the back of the front seat of the car.
  • Create an ever-changing mobile for infants. Clip Boomerings from the side of a newborn's crib and attach one or two sensory stimulating items such as Super Yummy, Elephant Fun teether or Flutter Fun teether.
  • Attach spit-up towel to Boomering and then to the stroller.
  • Punch hole in laminated index card containing vital information for babysitter. Attach with Boomering to diaper bag.
  • Hook several Boomerings onto one Boomering for a super teething rattle or rhythm instrument.
  • Use in bathroom to hang up bath toys to dry.
  • Clip Boomerings around cupboard door handles to keep infants from opening.
  • Boomerings are a great "tow chain" behind a tricycle, cart or with a pull toy like Brain Train.
  • Attach to a screen door so a small child can open it by pulling Boomerings.
  • Use Boomerings for pool play and underwater retrieving games.
  • Instant leash when hooked onto overalls.
As children grow older:
  • Clip items to belt loop while running, hiking, biking.
  • Clip pant leg with Boomering to keep it from catching in bike chain.
  • Secure articles to a canoe or raft.
  • Hang things in a locker
  • "Dress-up" necklace and earrings
  • Use as a handle for ski boots or skates.
  • Easy-to-find key ring
Boomerings are safe and durable and will hold 25 pounds. They come in sets of 24 links (4 each of the primary and secondary colors).

"Play with Me"

I tried to teach my child with books;
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words;
They passed him by, oft unheard.
Despairingly I turned aside,
"How shall I teach this child?" I cried.
Into my hands he put the key,
"Come," he said. "Play with me."

Speaking of recipes....

Want to make your own non-toxic "modeling dough" to use with our Place & Trace puzzles/cookie cutters?

Here's how:
MEASURE the following ingredients
1 cup flour (be sure to use cup #12 in your Measure Up Cups's 8 ounces)
1 cup H2O (teach chemistry & math at the same time...fill cup #6 2x = 8 ounces)
1 T. oil
1/2 c. NaCl (that's sodium chloride, or table salt)
1 t. cream of tartar
food coloring
MIX all ingredients in a pan
COOK over medium heat until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and becomes doughy in consistency.
KNEAD until cool.
MODEL different colors of clay into any shape you can imagine!

Note: Can be used over & over again. Keeps 3 months unrefrigerated.

Recipe for Success

August 05, 2008

Welcome to the newest Pearls

This is the first time I am migrating the
PEARLS of Wisdom to the blog.

Denise W. of SC sponsored by Erin S.
Kathy S. of CA sponsored by Lisa G.
Lacey L. of NY sponsored by Sue C.-D.
Michele S. of PA sponsored by Lisa S.
Tina H. of NJ sponsored by Anita J!!
Anita J. of NJ sponsored by Lisa S.
Sally D. of NJ sponsored by Lisa S.

Lisa G. of CA sponsored by Lisa S.

Olympic Sale ends Sept. 18

While supplies last!
Click on image to enlarge.
SHOP for Discovery Toys on sale.
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