Thursday, October 27

New Toy 2011: Nanoblocks

Just arrived in time for the holiday season, Nanoblocks. Nanoblocks are just like Legos only much much smaller. Because of their size, they can make some incredibly detailed structures and animals. The kits come in two sizes. The smaller size is $9.99 and includes things like a panda bear, a giraffe, a frog and a koala bear. The larger size includes "sites to see" like the Eiffel tower, the Moai Statues, and the Neuschwanstein Castle.

Nanoblocks have won two amazing awards in 2011. The ASTRA Best toys for kids award (selected by neighborhood toy stores like us) and the 2011 Preferred Choice award.

Mere Human or Super Hero???

Our world is filled with villans and heros alike. We had this masked wonder stop in our store today. We wondered if indeed we were being graced by a mere human or a true super hero. It is a question we will continue to ponder. Indeed, we were unable to extract any information from this mysterious visitor. She made a quick entry and quick exit alike. Perhaps she was on the lookout for a victim in need of her assistance. Have you seen her? Who is she?

Saturday, October 15

Learning to Count - 1 2 3...

When I first became a parent, I was under the impression that the way children learn to count was teaching them their numbers.... 1, 2, 3, 4. I thought they learn their numbers by us showing them flashcards or writing numbers down for them to see. It wasn't until I went to a convention for specialty toy retailers (ASTRA) and heard speaker Dr. Jane Healy speak that I realized I was dead wrong about how kids learn to count. Dr. Jane Healy has made it her life long study researching how the child's brain works and learns. She has written several books including "Your Child's Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from birth to adolescence".

I learned that children learn first through hands on play. In fact, this is necessarily precursor to learning the abstractions such as the numerals 1, 2, and 3. Kids begin to learn though simple hands on touching, feeling and observing. We might see a kid stacking blocks, lining up play cars or dropping toys. To us it is a kid "just playing", but to the child it is learning about how the world works through a beginning lesson in gravity and numbers.

One of the best instruments for learning to count and beginning to understand mathematics is unit blocks. Unit blocks are of proportional sizes which help build kid's understanding of proportions, counting and fractions. Kids begin to understand that 2 of the 1/2 size block makes up one of the full size block, and 4 of the triangles make the same size as one full block and so forth. Child learning experts tell us that unit blocks help with other math skills too including area, size, order, space, shape, numbers, mapping, patterns, measuring, fractions, operations, estimating, negative space, adding, one on one correspondence, and seriation.

Next time you are tempted to reach for the flashcards for you smart little preschooler... reach into the toybox instead.

Thursday, October 6

Game Spot: Gotcha Party Game

We had a lot of laughs playing this game at our last staff meeting. Gotcha is a party game for 3-8 players. The rules are fairly simple, but following them is another story. Each player is dealt a few cards and the rules are set initially. Players are trying to follow the rules and at the same time trying to catch their friends breaking the rules. It gets tricky because the rules keep changing. Rules might includes things like all females have to use their last name before speaking. Or all people wearing socks have to use finger quotes before speaking. Or all people with red on have to play the air guitar before playing a card. With the rules always changing, someone is bound to get confused. When a player breaks a rule you hit the gotcha button and you move ahead while they move back. The first person to the finish line wins.

Because players can place a new rule during their turn, players can change a rule they don't like or add a rule they do like. We were picking on Kyle this time. "Players with facial hair must use air quotes", "males must not speak unless it is their turn". (I wonder if they have a players with dreads card?).

We give this game a thumbs up for a fun game that will add a few laughs to your evening. The game is easy to learn and easy to play (if you can follow the rules). Play time might last anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 4

Featured Toy: Ezy Roller Ride On

The Ezy Roller is a great toy for active kids. It takes no batteries and moves remarkably easily. Kids just move the bar back and forth with their feet, and it goes. The Ezy roller features a nice hand break (great when you hit a bit of a hill) and adjustable bars. It will adjust to fit kids ages 3 to 14 (or adults if they don't mind scrunching up a bit).

Here is a video of the Ezy Roller we made at our last sales staff meeting.