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.

December 17, 2010

Scott Stringer's education survey

Many of my readers are parents, and many of them reside in New York City. If you are in that demographic and have a child in NYC public schools, I urge you to take a quick minute to respond to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's online survey. He wrote:

"With new leadership of our New York City public schools, my office is eager to hear what parents, guardians, students, principals and teachers think should be the top priorities over the next three years for the Department of Education. To get the conversation started, my office has launched a virtual town hall, "Your School, Your Voice."

After clicking the link below, you will be asked to answer four questions and share some basic demographic information. You will have an opportunity to provide additional feedback prior to submitting your responses. All information will be kept anonymous.

Click here to participate in this virtual town hall: “Your School, Your Voice.”

November 27, 2010

If you thought Black Friday was good....

Cyber Monday: take 20% off these 20 toys. November 29, 2010 only.

November 23, 2010

Black Friday is Free Friday!

Get a free toy when you spend $55 or more at my website on "Black Friday" November 26, 2010

November 18, 2010

Pearl of Wisdom #44

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy."

-Rabindranath Tagore, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel
laureate (1861-1941)

October 30, 2010

Learning to learn

My grandmother seemed to know instinctively, although she wasn't formally educated, that attending classical music concerts when she was carrying my father in utero, was a worthwhile endeavor. It must have been beneficial to his brain development, because although he was the firstborn (which we all know gives a child an edge) he also went on to be the first person in his family to attend college, and the first to earn a PhD.

Tom Limbert wrote an article about what parents can do to prepare their child for the earliest days of school. Beyond color, number and letter recognition, he talks about social skills, knowing how to listen, take turns, be resilient. I hope our government officials read Mr. Limbert's article. I hope that parents read Mr. Limbert's article. Society will soon need to recognize the importance of the very earliest years and the impact that parenting has on the most critical time of a child's development. Moms & Dads, if you're waiting for school to do the teaching, you will have let tens of thousands of hours of teaching moments slip by. We each need to make sure that our homes are loving, nurturing environments, enriched with materials that foster the natural learning that takes place when parents interact with their children.

There are some wonderful Discovery Toys games that can aid in this effort. You'll want to consider games and activities that help your child think and learn how to learn, not just memorize facts. Play games that teach your child to take turns, be patient, follow instructions. Busy Pets and Short Vowel Fun are simple 3-year old beginning games. Zingo and AB Seas are good for 4-year olds. Friendship Island and Flip Flop Faces Emotions in Motion (now in French, too!) are both good for associating feelings with the words that describe them.

October 25, 2010

Discovery Toys announces Holiday shipping cut-off dates

This information is to assist your holiday planning.

Hanukkah Ordering Guidelines
(Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 1)

Orders Shipping Ground must be received in-house by Wednesday, November 17

Christmas Ordering Guidelines
(Christmas is Saturday, December 25)

Orders Shipping Ground must be received in-house by Monday, December 13

  • Ground orders placed December 13 shipping to AB, BC, MB, ON, PQ and SK are targeted to arrive on Thursday, December 23.
  • Allow additional delivery days for AK, HI, Territories, APO/FPO and P.O. Boxes
  • Short term backorder situations can impact arrival dates

October 24, 2010

Discovery Toys October/November specials

Click on each of these specials to enlarge the image.

We have something special for our party hostesses, for their guests and for all of our customers!

October 14, 2010

Brain-on Learning (not hands-on)

Discovery Toys has always suggested playing with your children; it's the best investment you can make. But, it's not every high school that will have this kind of investment:
"After its expected completion in July 2011, students at the renowned
Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy will be able to move from their
cramped 900-square-foot shop into the $6 million, 12,000-square-foot

Read the full article on how this community is helping students understand themselves instead of solely memorizing facts, or "brain-on learning."

October 12, 2010


Click to watch the Shark Tank episode about the inventor of Discovery Toys' exclusive new product, Qubits.

September 27, 2010

Discovery Toys press release Fall 2010


DISCOVERY TOYS averts crisis for children to think, learn, and compete today!

Livermore, CA, October 2010 -

One esteemed California company is on a mission to save what they believe is quickly becoming an endangered species – children who can think for themselves!

According to Discovery Toys, LLC, a 32 year old direct sales educational toy company, we are faced with a growing crisis in our children’s ability to THINK and LEARN today. The U.S. high school graduation rate ranks near the BOTTOM of developed nations.(1) On virtually every international assessment of academic proficiency, American secondary school students’ performance varies from mediocre to poor.(1)

The impact is being felt in the economic sector, as concerns continue to mount about global competition. Discovery Toys believes it can help reverse this alarming trend with a renewed focus on how children LEARN through PLAY and how PARENTS can make a difference in reversing this trend.

“Many children today are no longer in charge of their own learning, nor developing their brains for higher learning as they grow,” states Jeremy Hobbs, Chairman of Discovery Toys, LLC. During the highly critical developmental years, a typical child spends a considerable amount of time in front of a television, a computer and playing with video games. While children find these products engaging and fun, the experience they have is guided and controlled, for the most part, by adults who program them! In addition, parents are trained to believe that more structured activities, such as sports , are an ideal way to raise their children. “We are not proposing that parents dispose of their electronic toys or pull their children out of sports,” says Mr. Hobbs. “What we want parents to realize is that unlike the play we experienced as kids, which was driven by our own youthful imaginations in the backyard or on the playground, much of today’s play has evolved into adult-directed play.”

Discovery Toys believes learning through play is the way to change this and save our kids. DT offers hands-on, child-powered learning toys, books and games, including such signature classics as Measure Up!® Cups, Busy Bugs, and Marbleworks®, that allow the child’s brain to be in charge of the play experience. Dr. Jane Healy, Ph.D. and other prominent child psychologists advise that object play is critical for future learning success. With 3-D objects, a child develops a plan for how to use the objects and then executes the plan, developing ideation, creativity, problem-solving and a host of other thinking skills. A child playing with Marbleworks® discovers how the various components fit and function together, dreams up a new tower configuration, and proceeds to build the tower through experimentation and coordination. Kinesthetic, or hands-on play, gives control to the child, who can learn at his or her own pace—thinking, strategizing, and creating on their own, to develop a stronger foundation for future academic success.

“Discovery Toys has a mission to teach, play and inspire children and parents alike,” shares Meryl Holland, Chief Creative Officer. The company’s several thousand independent distributors across the U.S. and Canada offer toys that invite and encourage parents to participate as coaches and guides, but ultimately to encourage the child to take charge of their play. Discovery Toys products are developed for open ended play where children are encouraged to try different things, arrange different shapes, create patterns, share, play games and, ultimately, learn.

“While an array of experts across North America try to address the performance of our young students with standardized testing, more technology, more homework, and more structure,” says Ms. Holland, “Discovery Toys believes a key part of the solution lies in hands-on play, delivered with rich Layers of Learning and parent participation. We need to re-educate parents that child-powered toys, which no one does better than Discovery Toys, is the key to future learning success.” With the minds of our youngest generation at stake, it’s certainly worth a try.

To learn more about Discovery Toys and its line of child-powered learning toys, visit
or contact Billie at

(1) Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008 Fact Sheet, How Does the United States Stack Up?

September 24, 2010

Dr. Toy chooses Story Stacker in Top 10 Toys in '10

WOW! Discovery Toys’ Story Stacker has just won Dr. Toy’s “Ten Best Toys for 2010” and Dr. Toy’s “100 Best for 2010” awards!!
Shop for this and other award-winning Discovery Toys at

August 25, 2010

Out with licensed characters, in with DT

Has your child ever had to endure a play date at a home filled with licensed characters from popular movies or big toy companies, a home full of super heroes or princesses? Have you ever thought about what value is added to their play experience when they're in that environment? Or what they are learning from those toys?

This is exactly the model that Discovery Toys tries to replace, by offering parents opportunities to have award-winning toys, books and games that help children learn while they play. Basic, good toys that usually require no batteries, but do require the child to add his own energy, his own ingenuity.

Wooden building blocks will take your child much further than a pair of flip flops with a popular character on them. Your child can learn to experiment, build, topple, rebuild in a different way, form patterns, and so on.

Board games will teach your child patience, taking turns, following rules and more.

Puzzles teach you child to stay the course until the puzzle is complete, to look for patterns and continuity, visual discrimination.

Imaginary play is important, but the costume doesn't have to be a character. Isn't it more creative to take the boa, take the high heels, take the eye-patch and imagine your own kooky character, that you designed?!?!

Take a look at what's in store for you and your child when you enter the world of Discovery Toys .

July 30, 2010

Discovery Toys August 2010 specials

Click on the image to enlarge.

August is around the corner and things are happening at Discovery Toys.

Customers can receive a 10% discount on select toys.

Our party hostesses will have an opportunity to purchase $102 dollars of toys for $50 when their party reaches $500. And that's on top of our already RICH hostess plan that gives you $90 in free product!

New consultants can join us for a limited time at $89 for our $400 intro kit. This offers you a home-based business with lots of coaching and support.

Ask me how!

The $320,000 teacher

Do you believe that kindergarten is some of the most important schooling your child will receive? Many experts do, including Nobel Laureate James Heckman. You can read more about what Heckman says in a blog entry on the early learning challenge fund. David Leonhardt, in a recent NY Times article entitled The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers makes the case that teachers, particularly good ones, should be handsomely paid.

I believe that a good teacher makes a difference in the lives of our children. Good toys do, too! Remember, you are your child's first and most important teacher. Now as we are at the midway point of the summer vacation, won't you consider helping your preschooler become better prepared for going back to school with toys that encourage letter recognition and pre-math skills like "bigger", "taller", "heavier?" Look at Discovery Toys Measure Up cups, Measure Up Pots and Spoons, Measure Up Balance, ABSeas, Sounds Like Learning.

June 03, 2010

Use sparingly!

My friends from Brazil came to visit last month. They brought me the most delicious chocolates I have ever tasted from Cacau Show. The bag announced in Portuguese: "Chocolate is magical. It opens smiles, it translates desires, it joins people, it brings the joy of energy." One could say the same things about Discovery Toys!

June 02, 2010

Bill Gates talks to Bill Gates, Sr. @ 92Y

Tonight, at the 92nd Street Y, Bill Gates was in conversation with his dad, Bill Gates, Sr. He asked him to share with other parents his thoughts about having a bright child. The father led off by saying, "You had a really great mother." He added that the curious thing in this country is that the quality and the impact of parenting has an enormous impact on where we go in our lives. Information on how to do it seems to be lacking. One of the most important things in your life is how your kids are doing or how they've done. Later, Bill Gates added that his parents shared with him things they cared about, made him feel worthy and never sugar-coated things. That helped him have no hesitation as a young man about selling Microsoft ideas to people 20-30 years older than him. "Doing Microsoft didn't seem like that big of a deal," he said.

A question from the audience was about Malcolm Gladwell's theory that the years 1953-1955 were the perfect years to be born for those interested in microprocessing. (That many of Silicon Valley’s giants were all born within 3 years of each other (1953-1955), or that 14 of the 75 richest men/women in human history were born in the 1830s begins to seem less than accidental. The story is not that luck alone brought these people to success, but that there is often more to the story when people rise to stardom, and good fortune. When asked if he thought he became successful because of luck, innovation, risk taking or creativity, he said Microsoft was built up on a depth of engineering, whereas other companies were involved in just one product. He felt being there early helped, and success bred success. It was something that hadn't been done in the world and they were careful about taking one step after another. Mr. Gates felt that being young and open-minded at a time when the microprocessor was invented was a plus. Older people didn't 'see it' because they weren't as open-minded. He attributes luck and fanatical behavior to making magical things come together.

May 04, 2010

May Specials

  • DT Hostess Bonus Offer: Hostesses with a minimum $300 or more party receive a FREE $30 PRODUCT COUPON (redeemable in June) to add to their Hostess Rewards!
  • DT Party Customer “Gift with Purchase” Offer: Our Party Customer Promotion is a sure fire way to build sales, party averages and SUMMER FUN in May! Party Customers with a $50 or more qualifying order will receive a FREE NEW! MEASURE UP!® SHOVEL just in time for warm weather months, beach and outdoor play! This FREE GIFT encourages party attendance and large party customer orders to earn this fabulous offer for May. Dig it!

  • Drawings: Every New Booking will get both the hostess and the consultant into 25 company drawings for a $25 Free Product Coupon! So, if I win, you win, too!
  • Grand Prize Drawing: Grand Prize for 1 winning Consultant and Hostess to receive a DT Rolling Case filled with $200 Free Products!
Contact me to book your party NOW!

April 21, 2010

Discovery Toys prepare your child

Learning through play is the hallmark of Discovery Toys. Recently I've written about the FIRST Robotics challenge that my son, a former Discovery Toys child, participated in. What he learned from playing with toys like Marbleworks .... gravity, balance, basic physics, logic ... all came into play when strategizing how to build his team's robot to effectively "kick" a soccer ball into a goal. Where to locate the camera, where to position the kicker, what angle to have when aiming the ball, were just some of the hundreds of decisions that needed to be made. That is the same type of thinking, albeit on a more junior scale, that will go into building a better Marbleworks structure. Today's Discovery Toys kids may be tomorrow's FIRST competitors, and those are the kids who will be our future braintrust.

April 18, 2010

Discovery Toys opportunity comes to Chicago

Chicago Opportunity Blitz! Join our team April 21-26th

Discovery Toys, the foremost direct sales / network marketer of educational toys, is offering an opportunity for those passionate about children and education and a desire for extra income. The goal: to help parents help their children learn through play, and help parents, grandparents, and teachers supplement their current income or even start a new career.

We are going to be in Chicago from Wednesday April 21st until Monday the 26th. The purpose of our trip is to grow the Chicago area Discovery Toys team. We'll be exhibiting our products and marketing materials in a swank Oak Brook hotel. Easy access and parking for everyone.

Advance RSVP required: email Billie --
Please email for additional details.

Who do you know in the Chicago area who you think might be interested in a fabulous home based business they can do around their family's needs? Contact them and invite them to attend or give us their info and we'll do it for you.

You may have your prospects contact us directly, if you prefer, or we would be happy to contact them, answer any questions and invite them to our showing. When they decide to join, they will, of course, become YOUR team member. We are sharing this with all of you because if you have any connections with people in the Chicago area who might consider joining Discovery Toys, please let us know! We have teamed up with Sherre B. (longtime leader in our family from Chicago) and are available to meet and greet, show prospects our fabulous toys, answer any questions--and schedule Success Start trainings for those who are ready to go.

We will schedule a time all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday morning that is convenient for them.

We started brainstorming about building up the Chicago area -- especially with the Discovery Toys Convention being in Chicago this summer. This is an area that has supported many huge organizations in the past and is ripe for growing. The opportunity to "success start" a lot of folks this spring and early summer who could then quantum leap their business by attending Convention in their backyard just made sense!

We are really excited about this trip! We hope to hear from you so we can help you build your teams. Call your Chicago area prospects today!

April 17, 2010

Seth Berg, FIRST Dean's Award Winner

On Feb. 27 I told you about the local FIRST international robotics competition that outstanding math and science students from the New York area were participating in. Yesterday, the championships were underway at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

My son's team mate and the president of engineering for the Stuyvesant High School team, Seth Berg, was honored by Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with 9 other students from FIRST for being an exemplary student. His team writes, "The award is given to students who are '...examples of student leaders who have led their teams and communities to increased awareness for FIRST and its mission.'

"Seth has done an incredible job leading the team for the past two years and the team could not be more proud of all he's done and the recognition he received today. Because of the award, our team will have reduced registration fees for one regional next year. In addition, Seth gained the team some air time on news channel NY1 which can be found here: "

If you're in Atlanta, come on out to the Georgia Dome today and tomorrow for more qualifying matches and award ceremonies. Stuyvesant High is still in the running for the Chairman's and Engineering Inspiration awards. Come cheer them on. Free and open to the public!!

Go 694!

April 09, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

Brenda Thompson, in her column Kids in the Kitchen, suggests activities that little ones, beginning at age 1, can perform as mama's helpers in the cooking department.

What she fails to mention is how Discovery Toys Measure Up Cups, fit into your plans. They're a set of twelve cups, with the largest being an 8 oz. measure-- "1 cup" in your recipes. You can teach your child math skills as you measure out your ingredients....a half a cup, will be cup #6, half the size of the #12 cup, and so on. There are also toy Measure Up Pots and Spoons, and Measure Up Balance, a real scale for measuring solid and liquid weights. (Good in Science class, too!)

If you're mixing up a batch of cookie dough, remember to use Place & Trace puzzles, which double as cookie cutters for fun-time dinosaur- and bicycle-shaped cookies.

March 27, 2010

Discovery Toys enrollment now online

It's official! You can now sign up online to be a Discovery Toys consultant! We're going paperless, and streamlining the process for you. Feel free to ask me about joining; you may have questions before you "sign on the dotted line."

March 24, 2010

"Never fear...

spoiling children by making them too happy.
Happiness is the atmosphere in which all good affections grow."
~~Thomas Bray (1656-1730), English clergyman & philanthropist

March 19, 2010

"The darn trouble with cleaning the house is...

... it gets dirty the next day anyway, so skip a week if you have to. The children are the most important thing.”
~~Barbara Bush, First Lady

March 17, 2010

"True Teachers Are...

... those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own."
--Nikos Kazantzakis, poet and novelist (1883-1957)

March 09, 2010

Literacy in the early years

Literacy includes reading, speaking, and writing.

At the Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Philadelphia (where 89% of the school qualifies for reduced or free lunch) college students from Temple University's Speech-Language program mentor underprivileged kindergartners and first graders in reading skills in an after school program. Research has shown that the poorest groups also have poor results in literacy, causing high drop out and unemployment rates, in addition to poor health.

The "Kids Write and Create Program," developed in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Temple, is attempting to turn this problem around. They know that children who do not read at grade level by the end of first grade are unlikely to ever catch up, hence the focus on the youngest students.

The above article also points out the need for children to have materials that span the various learning styles: auditory, kinesthetic and visual, particularly because at the youngest ages they don't yet have the ability to translate the spoken word to the written word.

Discovery Toys can truly make a difference in this population. Not only are there fun games like AB Seas that bring fish and the alphabet to life in a lively fishing game, and CDs like Sounds Like Learning that includes songs of the alphabet, opposites and manners, or The Big Hungry Bear book and companion CD (with a narrated version of the book on it) but there's also a sequencing, storytelling game that asks the child to put sentences into the proper order.

Please contact me at billietoy"at" if you know of grants that will provide these types of products for kids in need.

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.

January 29, 2010

World-class education

Did you watch the President's first State of the Union address Wednesday night? In it, he spoke about education, the lagging emphasis on math and science in our schools and America's risk of falling behind if we don't make education an affordable priority. My favorite line was, "The best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education." Who could disagree?

Back in July 2009, I provided the alarming statistics of where America's teens were ranked internationally in math and science. What are the other countries doing differently? Finland was ranked #1 in both math and science in the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Are more moms in Finland staying home and playing with their babies? (The next results, PISA 2009 National Report, won't be released until December 2010. )

Why not help your child get a head start by playing and reading every chance you get? Using Discovery Toys takes the guess-work out of choosing the right toys. Our experts rate the toys by the developmental abilities of particular age-ranges and by the skills developed. Today's pre-schoolers and school age children are tomorrow's scholars. Start now!

January 26, 2010

Love is spelled T.I.M.E.

In the introduction of the book To A Child Love is Spelled T-I-M-E, co-author Lance Wubbles, a best selling author of inspirational books, writes about a man who in his old age is comparing his newly re-discovered old diary side by side with his son's diary of the same year.

"As he opened his journal, the old man’s eyes fell upon an inscription that stood out because it was so brief in comparison to other days. In his own neat handwriting were these words:
Wasted the whole day fishing with Jimmy. Didn’t catch a thing.
With a deep sigh and a shaking hand, he took Jimmy’s journal and found the boy’s entry for the same day, June 4. Large scrawling letters, pressed deeply into the paper, read:
Went fishing with my dad. Best day of my life."

Remember the tag line of Discovery Toys: teach. play. inspire. I hope our toys will allow parents to spend the type of quality time with their children that will allow them both to remember those moments as some of their fondest. Have you played with your child today?

January 19, 2010

Parent like the President

Part of the reason for selling Discovery Toys and for writing this blog is to help parents become better at parenting. I've written about my own parents and the influence they had, and continue to have on me, and how their parenting style influences mine.

I usually don't refer my readers to other blogs, but in the case of this article, "How to parent like the President", author Linda Natali says it all. I highly recommend it.

Hmm, I wonder if the President and First Lady have any Discovery Toys in the White House. If they're reading this, may I propose Marbleworks Deluxe to help Sacha and Melia learn about logic, gravity and civil engineering concepts. Word Flip is another game the whole family can play, taking educated guesses about the word whose letters are hidden behind small doors. Maybe they even have a family game night.

January 15, 2010

Is autism increasing?

There are many controversies over the prevalence increasing or the number of diagnoses; is it caused by vaccines, toxins in environment, age of father? Certainly, we are attempting to diagnose earlier (and more often) because we believe the sooner treatment can begin, the better the outcome. We also see a high percentage of children who have been previously diagnosed, but no longer have the disorder. That begs the question, "How good is the diagnosis?" Stanford neurobiologist and researcher Ricardo Dolmetsch talks about his own child and the research he and others are doing in this recorded interview.

Vaccines were initially suspected of causing autism. The world scientific community, however, has ruled out a relationship between thimerosol, the mercury-containing preservative used in many vaccines, and autism. We know that most children get vaccinated, but the incidence of autism is not uniform throughout our population. Researchers find clusters of incidence in certain geographic areas, leading us to believe that those families may simply have access to resources that will diagnose the disorder.

Dr. Dolmetsch talks about research in identical twins (where the chance of both having autism if one has it is 90%) vs. fraternal twins (where the chance is only 5% of both having autism if one has). Based on that research, scientists believe there is a strong genetic basis, not due to just one gene (because you share more than one gene with your sibling), but due to many genes. With each successive generation, humans have approximately 150 new gene mutations, and just one of those mutations could mean the difference between having autism or not.

Paternal age also seems to be a cause, because as men age, their sperm accumulate more of these genetic mutations. More affluent people are marrying later and having children later (mothers average age now is 29, fathers 38), 10-15 years later than 1 or 2 generations ago. Both paternal age and geography suggest you are more likely to get autism if you come from a high socio-economic family and live in a nice neighborhood.

Recent research has included re-programming skin cells from children with autism into stem cells. Those cells are used to make neurons (in a dish) that enable scientists to study the electrical signals and connections in the brain cells of those children. Fortunately, the influx of money and attention to autism research in the last few years is helping us move in the right direction of finding a cure.

If you know someone with a child who has autism, please point them to this page which suggests specific toys for use with autism.

January 05, 2010

Measure Up Cups strike again!

Just when you thought you knew every possible use for my favorite product, comes a recipe from the kitchen of Discovery Toys consultant Michelle Reeves. She says,
“I want to share a Gingerbread recipe that you can make with your kids. The amounts are using the Discovery Toys Measure Up Cups and the Spoons from the Measure Up Pots & Spoons set and then in case you don't have those items yet I've included the regular measurements in parentheses as well.”

#9 cup Butter (3/4c)
#12 cup Sugar (1c)
1 egg, slightly beaten
#3 cup Molasses (1/4c)
5-#6 cups Flour (2 1/2c)
#8 spoon Baking soda (2 tsp.)
#1 spoon Salt (1/4 tsp.)
#4 spoon Cinnamon (1 tsp.)
#4 spoon Ginger (1 tsp.)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and molasses. Sift the dry ingredients and mix with the wet ingredients. Chill the dough. Roll the dough on a lightly floured board to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out the gingerbread men shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Optional: use Place & Trace puzzle pieces as cookie cutters instead of gingerbread men.
See more Discovery Toys recipes.

January 04, 2010

Consumer Product Safety Commission as Grinch?

In her article in The Wall Street Journal on 12/24/09, There Is No Joy in Toyland, Anne M. Northup suggests, "The overreach of a child-safety law is killing American jobs and businesses. It's not too late for some common-sense changes."

In February 2009, I reported on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's policy regarding limits of lead levels in children's products. Little did we realize at that time that many small toy concerns would be forced to eliminate jobs or to shut down their businesses completely, due to the cost of enforcing the policy. It seems the unscientific folks in Congress didn't realize that a zipper may contain lead that is not able to be easily absorbed into a child's bloodstream, unlike lead in paint. They also made the requirements so stringent that it bans some toys with less lead than the Food and Drug Administration allows in a piece of candy. Fortunately, the commission has agreed to take another look at such things as treating a 12-year-old toy and an infant toy identically.

In its 31 year history, Discovery Toys can boast no recalls. Read about their quality and safety promise. I wish that some of the larger manufacturers' greed hadn't spoiled it for an entire industry. At least when you shop with us, you know you're buying something that is safe and fun for your child.

January 03, 2010

Books Rule!

Despite the onslaught of electronic toys and gadgets that "read" to your child (instead of books and games helping your child learn to read while they're playing), learning to read will not be going out of fashion anytime soon. With most of America's school children heading back to school in the next month, it's time to dust off the books. Sadly, in our country 33% of all 4th graders cannot read at even a basic level, according to the 2007 National Center for Educational Statistics "Reading Report."

What's a parent to do? Plenty!

In a read-aloud entry in my parenting blog I report that the reading experts tell us that reading to your children is so important that even after they know how to read, we should still be reading to them! Not only is it a cozy way to snuggle up and share precious moments with your child, but you're sending the message that you value them: they are important enough for you to break away from whatever adult task you were involved with to devote some time to just them.

I also report that since babies start learning language from birth, reading aloud exposes them to the sounds of human speech. By the age of two, children know between 300-500 words. Children who are spoken to and read to frequently have larger vocabularies and develop into better readers.

I have the fondest memories of a storybook that was read to me as a child. My mother and father never seemed to tire of reading the same stories and poems over and over again. The book happened to be an anthology of different writers, but the two-color illustrations that accompanied each story were indelibly written in my brain, along with some of my favorite stories. I have yet to forget Mr. & Mrs. Apple naming their children after different types of apples (Jonathan, Winesap, Delicious, Baldwin) or of Mr. Apple going to the library to research the names as they added more and more children to their family. There were Nina and Ted who looked forward each year to their winter vacation at their aunt and uncle's home in Vermont where they tapped the trees for sap, turned it into maple syrup and ate it on their aunt's delicious pancakes. There was also Rosa-too-little, for that's what they kept calling her until she could finally sign her name to get her very own library card.

These weren't just stories; they were stories where I was learning something about my world.
Our local libraries have children's librarians just waiting to help match you and your child with the ideal book, from picture book to non-fiction to chapter book.

We also know that children can understand books read aloud to them at several grade levels above their own reading level. This serves to broaden their vocabulary at the same time as they are digesting more complex sentence structure. A perfect book to read (and work on) together is "Puzzle Island." It's a unique book that involves unscrambling letters to form the names of animals whose pictures are hidden deep within the book's illustrations. One important tip to having "quality time" together with your child is doing something that you also enjoy.

For a beginning reader, you might choose another sort of interactive book to encourage a love of reading. "Ahoy, Pirate Pete" and "Once Upon a Time" are almost magical, with picture pieces that are stored on each page that you change each time you read the story, creating a new tale with each re-reading. "Dear Tooth Fairy" is another interactive book with small envelopes containing letters written by the Tooth Fairy to the little girl who refuses to leave her tooth under the pillow.

Discovery Toys has some great board books for you to add to baby's first library: Baby Bear's Bedtime, Ladybug's Lesson and Rough and Tough Tractors and Diggers books. Visit your local library where you can find many more titles.

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.

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"
Sharon Duke Estroff writes in :

Double check the reading level. When kids take on books beyond their proficiency level, they can become rapidly disheartened. To determine whether a book is too hard for your child, have her read the first page aloud to you. If she stumbles over more than five words, put it back on the shelf and help her make another selection.

It’s in the bag. Stash some books in a totebag and pull them out whenever you and your kids get caught in a holding pattern. Whether waiting at the doctor’s office or a restaurant, your children will be thankful to have books to bust their boredom.

Start a parent/child book club. This hot new trend in book clubs offers benefits galore ranging from heightened reading skills to multigenerational bonding. Find out everything you need to know about organizing your own parent/child group.

Enlist Hollywood. Seeing a story on the big screen (or a small one) can provide just the spark kids need to pick up the book version. Flicks like Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, Matilda are sure to have your little stars hitting the library in no time.

Gear them with glossy pages. Kids needn’t peruse classics to reap the benefits of reading. Magazines that zero in on children’s passions – from skateboarding to fashion – can inspire even the most reluctant readers to start flipping pages. Techno-savvy kids can pull up favorite magazines online at sites like Sports Illustrated Kids and Time for Kids.

Create a library on wheels. Propensity toward carsickness aside, keeping a supply of books in the car will turn all those idle hours in traffic into valuable reading time.

Turn them on to books on tape. Listening to a book on tape while following along in the real thing gives struggling readers (or those who simply want to tackle a book that’s beyond their reading level) an opportunity to enjoy the story without getting bogged down by difficult words.

Money talks.

Read to Them.

Read with Them.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin