Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Toy Reviews that Speak to You... "Toys Are Tools"

One of things that I'm most proud of is my magnetic chalkboard wall.  I love chalk.  I don't care about the dust.  I can't believe how easy and affordable it was to do this at home.  
My co author Diane stumbled upon a post on a Google Plus Page for ADD Moms the other day and saw a link to a website called Toys are Tools.

It took us a bit to figure out what this site was all about... It seemed to talk about toys, but also showed what seemed to be ways to make toys or play at home, and went into all the ways a game or toy "works" with your kids.   It looked a lot like a therapeutic treatment plan... talking about the toy/game and then breaking it down into goals and outcomes...

It didnt feel "sell-y" but gave a really USEFUL review of educational toys (really great for our troubled kids) and introduced us to a lot of interesting games and toys we just don't see around here.

Overall,... I think its worth a few minutes to check out. Bonus! There are giveaways.  :)

Here's a taste: From Toys are Tools

Toolbox Compartments

Toys are Tools understands that most toy stores categorize toys differently than we do.   You've seen it before, Action Figures, Pretend Play, Building Sets, Musical Instruments, and you may even find a category entitled "Learning" or "Educational."  That one always brings a chuckle because we think all toys have some learning value and the view of "learning" should not be limited to learning reading and math.  Likewise, the above named categories could probably all fall under the category of "Pretend Play" too.

We are doing something different here.  We think it is more helpful to parents and educators to look at toys in the way that it is most impactful to a child's life.  There are many uses for toys.  Toys are things we give to kids to encourage more exercise, to help them practice building and creating something in their minds, and/or help them connect with others.  Thus Toys are Tools categorizes the toys just as you categorize a toolbox, that is, we divide them up to show how it serves you and your child.  You will see that most toys have more than one feature and so you may find the same toy under different categories.

I can't believe how handy my husband is.  He bought the desk and plastic compartments at Home Depot.  I bought the chair online.  This is actually a closet in their room!  It took him less than one day and cost us less than 70 dollars.

Toys are Tools' Compartments:

Lose and Win Gracefully: Practicing good sportsmanship is sometimes easier with these games and toys under this listing.  If a child has challenges in this area, you can start here and work your way up to games are for some reason, tougher for a child to lose.

Think Like a Scientist/Engineer: We undervalue science education these days. I think that this is huge mistake and you are hearing this from a person who barely passed high school chemistry.  However, Number 1 loves this compartment and so thanks to him, I have found some of the most creative, well-constructed, challenging toys out there in the market.   These toys will be great for the child who likes learning by trial-and-error, experimenting, and tinkering. Some of these builder kids are said to have high visual-spatial intelligence.  You might also find that they like to break stuff "just to see how it works."  This kind of makes me crazy but I try to remember that kids don't get to exercise these skills enough in school.  I'm not sure why but it's not fair and so I'm going to encourage him to tinker away but not break anymore things.  Additionally, Toys are Tools believes that this compartment is also great for children who have difficulty in this area as long as the child is receiving supportive and knowledgeable guidance while playing with this toy.

My Body Needs to Move: These tools are for kids that need to move around more just as much it is for kids who have to get their energy out.  They are fun and easy ways to help kids burn some fuel.  These toys will focus on lots of areas like keeping fit, being balanced, and being coordinated (is your little one a little klutzy?). This category may likely morph into one or more categories later.

Social Scene Helpers: I rather be the host or helper at a party than just go as a guest.  This doesn't mean that I can't enjoy myself as a guest but I find myself stuck with a bit of social anxiety right before I go to a place where I am talking to people for open-ended goals like "mingling" or "catching-up" - it's just so scary! Sometimes it helps if I have a job or a prop (like a dog, a new bag, etc.)  For kids, I think it's the same and so this is quite likely my favorite category.  You will often find me at a playground with Number 2 toting a bag of props on hand.  They can help Number 2 make friends because it gives him the opportunity to hold something and feel less vulnerable in an intimidating setting.  It also acts as a conversation piece and gives him the opportunity to share it too.

It's not enough to have waterproof paper in the tub!  Oh no!  I had to use it as an opportunity to leave messages for my kids.  I don't want to be bathing them forever!  Toolbox category: I Can Take Care of Myself

I Can Take Care of Myself:  I find teaching this trait to children increasingly challenging as our lives become busier with afterschool classes, homework, and  meetings with families and friends.  I find myself too much in a hurry sometimes to teach very basic self-help skills, especially if they are having trouble with it.  Sometimes kids get these skills by osmosis but if they don't, consider toys in this category to be your assistants.  It is worth your while.  I used to work with teenagers who sometimes couldn't figure out that using an alarm clock would help them get to school on time.

Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy:  I find that it is hard to teach these things but for my kids, I need to make sure they really get this because it will help them build self-esteem and good relationships.  Toys that fall in this category will hope to act as catalysts in learning these traits and values.

More Make Believe Please: I've seen Number 1 and Number 2 really struggle in this area even if they have a real talent for it.  It's hard to explain but regardless, most if not all experts can't stress enough the value of pretend play.  To be sure, we agree that it helps kids with skills in problem-solving, sharing attention with other children, self-reflection, and expression.

Work Experience:  I am still figuring out this feature but truth be told, my child learns great when he's working and sometimes toys or toy-like things involves hard work!   You can liken it to volunteer work which is something not mandatory, definitely not play, and yet very rewarding.  Some may call at least one aspect of this kind of education, kinesthetic learning.  I wonder if that has anything to do with how we'll never forget our first slow dance because every point on our bodies registered information and so your brain recalls it to you with all those facets in mind.

Read More: Here

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