Posts Tagged “Children’s Play”
We are very excited to be partnered with Pley, as this is a sponsored article. As always, the content expressed herein is genuine and of my own opinion. This article contains affiliate links.
The holiday season was a blast and with it, especially this year, came a variety of new toys and games. I think this was the most exciting toy year in a long long time. If you hadn’t seen our toy guide, be sure to check it out… it still makes a great resource for birthday gift ideas and such. So with the New Year started and that holiday toy rush behind us, now we must think about ways for managing toys and stay organized.
Regardless if you are a traditional “big” Christmas kind of family or one that keeps it simple, we can all agree that containing the “bits and pieces” can be something of a challenge. Taking a poll… how many new toys or games are already missing pieces??? We methodically plan our shopping lists, carefully stash the gift surprises, capture the unwrapping on four different devices, spend hours untwisting ties (not to mention reading instruction manuals, inserting batteries, etc) and then… misc pieces end up in the dryer, back seat of the van, my sister’s house, the sock drawer and goodness knows everywhere little bits and pieces are destined to make an appearance (and that’s if you’re lucky enough to find them at all).
We have a couple of solutions and so far, they have held up pretty darn well. (Disclaimer: We make no guarantees, as from time to time we still find items in a random shoe, under the couch and did I mention my sister’s? How did that get there?) Anyway, nothing is completely fool proof but nonetheless we think we’re onto a couple good ideas… check them out below and head over to our prior article on managing toy overload.
The Tray Rule
When my daughter opens or plays with a toy collection that has the tiniest of pieces (Mega Bloks Barbie) she must do so on a tray. It is easy for the pieces to get swallowed up in our shaggy carpet, or accidentally kicked across the room. The tray makes it easy to carry the toy to another room and makes for easier clean up because everything is forced to stay together. So far this trick has worked terrifically for a couple of years. Lego building sets are wonderful for this purpose, especially when you are just opening and assembling the kits.
Lunch box tins make an ideal storage system when specifically selected for toys. My daughter has a variety of toy collections; everything from Spider Man to Monsters Inc and Strawberry Shortcake to Star Wars. We’ve found lunch box tins in each of these themes to hold those specific toys. Not only does this system make clean up super easy but also allows my daughter to very easily decide what she wants to play. We’ve found these tins at flee markets, Amazon, Hot Topic and department stores. Because they are rectangular in shape they stack nicely or sit side-by-side depending how you have them stored or displayed. Oh yeah, and they can double as playroom decor in your child’s favorite playtime themes.
Ok parents, here’s your chance to take all those little bits and send them away!! Okay okay, that sounds slightly mean, but truly Pley is a tremendous resource when it comes to containing clutter and keeping toys organized. Here is a company that rents out toys for a monthly subscription. Seriously. So once your child is done playing with or constructing a toy, you pack it back up and send it back with a new one on it’s way. Super easy to set up and super affordable, OH and no worries if you kiddo completely falls in love with something, you are purchase it through Pley and keep it (and all it’s little bits) forever. And PS, I would still suggest using the tray idea to contain all of the rented pieces and keeping them separate from other collections you own. Pley offers over 400 Lego, Knex and other building sets with more inventory added all the time.
Despite these pretty decent suggestions, we still have a few stray Barbie brushes, dishes and lost shoes, and as such we are always on the look out for more organizing tips. What solutions have you implemented to contain the eensie-weensie pieces? Please share below… you might just save the vacuum from another unnecessary toy meal.
Nothing like dedicating a whole Saturday to play and by play I mean… all.day.play with Barbie and my daughter. And by Barbie, I really mean like 115+ barbies, princesses and Ken dolls. Yeah, we’ve got quite a collection but it allows for some serious creativity.
The creativity and play is mostly in the set up when we pull all the barbies out. It’s not the same experience as playing with a Barbie and a few friends in the Dream House. In the past, when we had a mega barbie play date, we just dumped all the pieces out into the middle of the floor to see what theme grabbed us. This last time we thought about it over dinner and decided on a play theme, although that changed the next day.
(One of our previous and most popular Barbie videos below…)
Creativity comes in many varieties and although my child loves the traditional Crayola type of creative activities, she certainly loves building our play sets together as well. We treat it like a project, where we kind of come up with a game plan. Sure we could just “willy-nilly” our way through but by providing some structure our play date moves in the right direction and ensures we’ll actually get to play in our newly created scene. (Nothing like building and then having to go to bed! Bummer.) So as the parent, I help keep track of time and make lots of suggestions along the way… this isn’t a one-person party. If left alone, Victoria would play with barbie and friends and all the “bits” as I call them… but together I encourage her to think outside of the hot pink plastic pieces and see what we can use around the house to enhance our play set and therefore experience.
Yesterday’s experience didn’t require a whole lot, as she changed the theme from a movie premier with the red carpet to a Broadway show of Peter Pan. (Also new and interesting: she decided she wanted the movie to play in the background and we acted out the parts on set. I would have preferred an audio book version of this idea but Peter Pan was not in our audio library.) In any event, instead of having to make tons of tiny tin foil cameras and piecing together a red carpet, we used a book shelf and some small boxes to create the theater seating. Since the beginning of Peter Pan starts off in Wendy’s room, we used one of the Barbie houses as a major set back drop. We had a film crew and directors on staff as well. It didn’t turn out to be my favorite play set but this time it was all Victoria’s vision… and in the end, that’s what I want. I want her to have the courage and creativity to think outside the obvious and to show others her vision.
I will say, in this case most of the “set up” was dressing 85 or so naked barbies. Some were dressed in casual attire but most weren’t dressed at all. We have a fair share of barbie clothes but since most of her barbies are older… you just never know what is going to fit the older barbie mold vs the newer barbie body style. But now that these dolls are dressed to the nines… we’ll continue with our other formal wear ideas… Kentucky Derby and Carnival Cruise perhaps? We brainstormed a few extra ideas and now I’m glad we did because goodness knows I don’t want to have to go and undress this formal wear anytime too too soon. I’m sure we’ll get to the movie premier as well.
Broken down, this is how I encourage parents to enhance creativity during play time:
1. Pick a toy (or several if they work well together). We like Barbie and American Girl for these type of play dates. Transformers, Lego, Dinosaurs will also work.
2. Pick a theme… what’s the story line? Are dinosaurs being rediscovered? Are they magically coming to life in museums? Is Optimus Prime running for President? Is the Macy’s Day Parade coming to barbie town? Think bigger than the play sets your child has, bigger than the pieces.
3. Encourage creative design and thought for the scene and story line. Think of Andy in Toy Story… he used boxes for buildings and his sister’s crib as jail. Clever.
4. Search the house, garage, yard for nontraditional items to make your theme set work. Perhaps rocks from the garden, laundry basket tilted on its side or card board creations. We make this into a little game. For me this is the best part…watching Victoria look at objects differently and the “oh, how ’bout this…” moments.
5. Remember that the set up is a major part of this play activity. Make sure your child understands this before starting or they will “check out”. Let him/her know that we’re going to take some time to set everything up AND THEN we’ll play the scenes out.
6. Watch the clock. Don’t make it such a project that no one wants to play in the end or worse, its bedtime or time to leave and you don’t have time to immediately enjoy all the work put in.
7. Snap a couple photos. It’s not likely you’ll want to keep the card board creatures or fancy displays for years from now… so grab a couple keepsake photos during play time.
8. Most importantly… stay with your child for the actual play time… you’ve spend all this time creating together, don’t skip out on the best part. He/she has been looking forward to this part all day.
9. If you can help it… DON’T TEAR IT DOWN right away. Let the kids come back to the play set for “round two”.
I’ve been that mom, standing in the toy isle poking and playing with all the “smart” toys… for well over an hour. I’ve done it twice now – just before the holiday season, trying to decide if the options on the shelf really made sense. In both cases – I walked away empty-handed. Why? Many reasons – I didn’t want to be persuaded by fancy packaging, colorful options or buttons that light up and down. Cost was another factor – could there really be a justifiable reason for the large swing from one brand/toy to another? But sure enough the next holiday season came, with the upgraded models and there I stood in the Target isle poking and playing all over again. Were last year’s model the better bargain, or should I take the advise of many and just buy a grown-up tablet to share, which I did. (I’ll let you know how the sharing has been working in an another post… sigh.)
The technology is great IF you have the patience for it and extra patience for all the ads and nickle-n-dime approaches to apps on these “real” tablets. Needless to say, my daughter wasn’t the primary user. We wouldn’t allow her to take it in the car – she still has a tendency to toss things around; and we wouldn’t allow her to carry it from room to room. It is not a toy and it didn’t come with a safety bumper. Nonetheless, I’ll continue to find age appropriate apps and tools for her on the tablet and we’ll use it side-by-side for learning fun.
Now having said that – I finally got the opportunity I needed to truly test drive one of the leading brands in smart toys – VTech. During a recent media event, I had the great pleasure of meeting with a representative and getting a hands-on demo for the newly released InnoTab 2 Baby. The device was not on some demo setting or strapped to the store shelf but actually available to hold, play and maneuver. Better yet, as part of this media event we were issued one to take home and review… the real test would be Victoria’s reaction and ability to use the technology. You’ll see from our video below that she not only loved it – but didn’t want to deviate from her creative platform. After only a couple of instructions and 15 mins of play activities – she was set to go with the InnoTab 2 Baby, maneuvering around games and programs and to/from other programs.
I haven’t even fully installed all the programs that come with the device… we just opened, placed the batteries and handed it over… oh and that’s the other great thing – we CAN hand it over to a 3 year-old and not worry about her dropping it or being less than gentle. Her confidence has soared, as she feels like such a big girl doing the apps on her own. We don’t hand her the device to be on her own, but some apps allow for that solo creative time, and that’s fine… we all need our space. Others are better suited for family time and sharing.
Now after all this you’re probably wondering why am I going on and on about a baby’s learning toy. Where does this fit for Homeroom At Home? The simple answer is the tablet advances with your child. It is designed and preloaded for infants 12 months ( to include apps like coloring and baby sign language and word/picture games) but as your child develops and requires more challenge, the cartridges and online downloads allow you the flexibility to match your son/daughters needs.
And here’s another thing… since so many parents have a mix of school-age children and a younger ones… the InnoTab 2 Baby, given to your baby or toddler will reduce the need for sharing the old child’s smart toy devices. (While the cartridges remain inter-changable between both the original versions and this baby version.)
And speaking of cartridges – there are tons to choose from with new ones being created and developed regularly. Some of my favorite educationally enriched InnoTab software are Brave and Madagascar 3 and InnoTab Software – Cars 2, all for their Problem-Solving Skills, Vocabulary and Math/Logic skills. We look forward to showcasing these and other titles as a viable fun learning activity for your sons and daughters. And let’s not forget the hundreds of online apps you can download through the VTech app-store for even more learning-enrichment and fun.
VTech is a well-known toy manufacture and the brand behind the InnoTab children’s tablet. They graciously provided my family with a tablet for the purpose of reviewing and sharing our experience with the product. The opinions and thoughts expressed here are strictly my own.
I had the great pleasure of attending the The Big Toy Book Baby Palooza this month and meeting some amazing brands that support our children’s development and learning needs. It was a play date without the little ones and yes, this event was mostly geared toward parents of babies and tots but no worries, I got some good take-a-ways for you with school-age children. The brands presented were VTech, Delta Children, Mega Bloks, Cloud B, The First Years, and Madame Alexander.
Here’s a brief video of the event and then… there’s so much more to consider.
Firstly, I have to admit that I had no idea that Delta Children was so much more than cribs and changing tables. Yup – I walked in to the most colorful display of children’s furniture, completely unaware that this was the same company that made my daughter’s crib (now converted toddler bed). Awesome. From comfy chairs (and a mini sofa w/ storage) to toddler beds and mini tables and chairs… all decked out in characters ranging from Mickey to Cars to Sesame Street and the beloved Disney Princesses. The child size desks and organizers were my favorite. It’s important to have a space easily accessible for kids so they aren’t straining to reach the top of the table to write and so that they can easily sit upright for homework and activities. Soon I’ll have a entire piece (or two… or three) devoted to organization, tips and key elements to organizing your routine functions and spaces. Every household struggles with this to some extent and I’ll be consulting with a friend and expert on the matter to offer some excellent suggestions. But for now… know that Delta has a great assortment of solutions. Bins are terrific for little toys and supplies like crayons, scrap paper and craft items (of course if you don’t run the risk of very young hands getting a hold of them). Click here for a examples of their storage solutions, particularly the Toy and Book Organizer, made available by Amazon and other suppliers. We already own and love the Spiderman folding table and chair set. Be sure to check out the variety of desks available including this awesome easel/desk combo that comes with a storage ottoman. We’ve loved Delta since before Victoria was born and now love it all the more.
I didn’t get much time with the team from The First Years… let’s face it – Homeroom At Home isn’t really focused on the first couple of years – but I will say this… they have an amazing technological and digital carseat/app system that sends text alerts if baby is accidentally forgotten in the car, among other features. Amazing! Talk about innovative and safety conscientious. (Expecting or planning on more kiddos or know someone – definitely worth checking out: www.thefirstyears.com)
So here’s an interesting and unexpected product I came across – the Cloud B Twilight Constellation Sea Turtle night light. Not only does it introduce your youngster to the constellations and offer soothing sounds to drift off to, but also features 5 endangered animals. It comes with a storybook to teach children about endangered species and also offers a star guide. Not cool enough??? – A portion of the proceeds from Twilight Sea Turtle will be donated to a conservation organization.
VTech demonstrated a couple of cool toys. The one that I particularly appreciated with the InnoTab 2 Baby. This version of the Inno Tab is specifically designed for infants 12 months and up… and by “up” I mean age 9. You heard… read it right – this device is designed to grow with the child, as it comes preloaded with apps, games and programs for the youngest family memeber but with cartridges and online downloads you can easily update this tool to grow with your child and his/her learning development. We will be demonstrating this product in more detail in a later post…
Madame Alexander is a very well-known and respected doll company but little did I know that they offered such a variety of dolls and plush toys. Boys and girls both enjoy roll playing and Madame Alexander has several lines to facilitate the basics in emotional intelligence and with products such as Fancy Nancy and Eloise children are encouraged to read and play together. Growing up – one of my favorite means of play was “school” whereby I taught my teddy bears and dolls the lessons from my actual homework. Doll play builds communication skills, nurturing abilities and social intelligence. There newest line: Newborn Nursery is my favorite with life like features including a realistic weight, hospital wrist band and adoption certificate – who couldn’t fall in love with these thumb-sucking beauties?
Lastly there was Mega Bloks. Is it fair to say that I love these products so much that I’ve been actively participating in a fellow bloggers giveaway with the hopes of winning a Barbie Mega Bloks set? (Fingers-crossed, but you can enter here at Classy Mommy.) The items on display at the #BTBBabyPalooza were again geared for a much younger crowd but Mega Bloks has a huge variety of building toys perfect for rainy days or themed weeks of play. For instance, let’s take Shark Week… the perfect activity to couple with craft ideas, video or on-screen activities would be Mega Bloks Power Rangers Megaforce – Shark Mechazord or Pyrates -Shark Escape. This is just one of dozens of Mega Bloks ideas.
Our hosts for this event were amazing in bringing some very valuable information to us. A special thank you to Laurie Schacht from The Toy Insider, Reyne Rice of Toy Trend and Charlene DeLaoch of Charlene Chronicles. My good friend Joey Fortman of Real Mom Media extended this opportunity to me and I’m ever so grateful. Look for more product reviews and suggestions from us for these brands, as this is just skimming the surface in terms of folding learning development into play time and quality family time.
Disclosure: The Big ToyBook Baby Palooza organized and invited us to participate in a media event introducing us to six brands. We were provided products to review and the opportunity to demo products onsite. The views, opinions and thoughts expressed here are completely mine. We already own and love products from all of these brands well before being invited to this media event.
So, how many time since having kids have you said, “You’re not a monkey, don’t climb on the ___” (use your own example here – table, sofa, curtains)?
Seriously, “monkey” became part of our every day conversations once I had kids. Now aside from acting like monkeys or being carried on our person like monkeys… children are also fascinated with this species. (Okay, okay so not just the kids.) Guess who’s most anticipated when we go to the zoo? Of course we love the lions and bird house and those huge snakes we’d never seek out elsewhere… but the monkeys, gorillas and apes always steal the show. (And if you think I’m a fanatic, oh you should see my sister’s menagerie of monkeys!!)
Monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, apes, tamarin – after a while they all just seem to be the same but in fact there are two groups of primates: Apes and Monkeys. Orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons and gorillas fall into the Ape category, while the Monkey category includes baboon, tamarin and mandrill. So in the spirit of Homeroom At Home, we decided to put this curiosity to work. My family held our first on-site (and quite interactive) parent/child “edu-play date”. That’s right, we got down to the fun monkey business of learning all about primates. It was simple; it was entertaining; it was educational (even for the adults!) With crafts, games and snacks we kept ourselves quite entertained for two hours. Knowing that our audience was going to be on the younger side, we kept the games and crafts very very simple, although you could easily choose more age-appropriate ones. We decorated bookmarks with monkey and gorilla stickers. We used hula hoops and a round table cloth to play games with a blow-up monkey. Of course our littlest guest thought he should be the monkey-in-the-middle. Another really cute game was “Where Is Sock Monkey?” complete with a stuffed sock monkey. For snack we ate Banana Graham Cracker Pudding Cake and Monkey Bread. We read a variety of books and used a simple story board to demonstrate the differences between apes and monkeys and then we tested our knowledge with picture books and stuffed animals. Each child took home coloring sheets of either gibbons, gorillas, tamarins, orangutans or monkeys. The highlight of the evening was the puppet story telling of 5 Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree whereby teasing a certain crocodile. I happened to have a Crocodile Cuddle-Uppet and five stuffed animal monkeys. Everyone participated as one by one the monkeys disappeared. We also read and re-enacted 5 Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed and below you’ll find a cute picture of that action. Again, these highly engaging stories were the talk of the night. Check out our Facebook page for more fun photos of our Monkey Edu-Play Date.
As fun as it was playing games and tossing around stuffed animal friends, it doesn’t hold a candle next to watching these primates in action. There are many local places to check out apes and monkeys including the Philadelphia Zoo. The Philadelphia Zoo has named 2012 the Year Of The Orangutan with special exhibits, events and education awareness. The Buffalo Zoo of New York offers wonderful PDF Fact Sheets for most of their animals on exhibit – in fact many zoos offer bios or facts for their animal population but the full sheet fact pages of Buffalo Zoo was impressive and helpful. This was also the case for Brandywine Zoo of Delaware.
We can’t have all this talk about monkeys and apes and NOT mention the Ape House at the National Zoo in DC. This exhibit is home to several gorillas and orangutans. The Ape House is only one of several exhibits the National Zoo offers for primates. When visiting be sure to stop by the Small Mammal House, Think Tank, Lemur Island and more. Be sure to bookmark their website here, as it is full of information to return to – monkeys and otherwise. Another fascinating feature of the National Zoo is the creation of the first ever Orangutan Transport System (OTS) – no kidding! As a solution to a logistical and design issue within the zoo, they created a traveling system allowing the orangutans to freely roam between the Ape House and Think Tank. In addition, the orangutans are offered the freedom to choose their evening dwelling. How cool is that? Check out more on the “O line” by clicking here. Now among several on-going projects, our National Zoo at the Smithsonian has spearheaded the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program whereby saving these critically endangered monkeys over the last three decades and reducing their classification from critically endangered to endangered. Don’t forget to check out the education tools on the website – there’s so much offered.
Play time equals learning fun too, so check out these great toys to continue your primate experience:
China’s famous Yi Yuanji of 1000 years ago, depicted a beautiful scene on silk of two gibbons in a tree. This painting became memorable due to a culture that mostly focused on flowers and birds in artistic expression. You can check it out here.
Let’s continue our discussion… chimpanzees, monkeys, gorillas, etc have been featured in a number of live-action family films. Share with us your favorite and one lucky participant will win a small monkey surprise just for leaving a comment. (Be sure to leave your email, so I can contact the winner directly.) Winner will be chosen on October 25th.
Somewhere between the birthday parties, homework, errands, and laundry we want to enjoy watching our children develop, play and explore. Especially if you have more than one child, the whirlwind of parenting sweeps us up and from one day to the next we might not be able to account for our “quality time”. And that’s where NEST comes in… an indoor play and activity center focusing on a large variety of enrichment and family programs. And while we will further explore this in just a moment, I want to point out that Nest isn’t just another indoor soccer field, arcade or YMCA but a total parent package find. Nest offers the following conveniences: a snack cafe, stroller parking, handicap access to lower level and nursing area, as well as, salon services in a kid-friendly environment and soon to be added photography. They host birthday parties and special events, as well as, a whole calendar of enrichment classes. This three story facility has it all, including a gorgeous chic shoppe and a WiFi accessible lounge.
Now if that doesn’t leave you drooling let me tell you about the classes. Broken into nine categories, Nest offers something for everyone… starting with newborns to approx age 7. Sports, cooking, art, music, enrichment, yoga, swim and movement with a couple of combo classes mixed in – who could ever get bored? Their classes run in twelve week sessions with the fall session beginning the week of September 10th and ending Saturday, December 8th with a make-up week December 10th -15th. Costs and schedule can be found on their website but since everyone loves bargains and flexibility… let me share this recent change: NEST Family Movement class (held on Saturdays at 10 AM) has been reduced to $200 for the 12 week program AND will be offered as a “drop in” class for those families with otherwise busy weekends. The drop in rate is $20 and offers the flexibility to come to class as available instead of committing to the entire session. Either way – an amazing deal. A little more about this class: it is intended for family participation with children up to age 7. “Walkers, runners and jumpers will all enjoy high-energy activities that challenge their bodies and tickle their minds.” Using balls, parachutes, ramps and more expect to move and groove with this one. Please note, since they are mid-session, all programs are pro-rated. For more information please visit Nest’s website here or call 215-545-6378.
We had a wonderful time at our cooking demonstration and you can catch a glimpse of our afternoon activities with our short video. Via and I joined several other families to play upstairs and in the lower play space. We made delicious apple cream cheese filled tortillas with a watermelon mint smoothy. Oh so yummy. Our playdate was scheduled before the fall class session began so we had the extra privilege of romping around on the soft gym equipment that would otherwise we used for various movement classes. As you can see from our pictures and video, we had a fantastic time and will be visiting regularly.
Disclosure: We were invited to a preview event including a cooking demonstration, given a complimentary session and a facility tour. Via is enrolled in the Me and My Little Sous Chef.
Sale, Discount, Bargain… Consignment
Easily these signs get me excited because like most, I love a good bargain. Finding toys, books and clothing at a fraction of a price, just makes my day. Naturally, I jumped at the invitation to a presale event with Just Between Friends Consignment earlier this week. Check out my video below for a peek at my sale finds.
Consignments sales are perfect for building your personal library of resources. Creating a lesson plan around animals or pirates, multiplication practice or chemistry… definitely check out the treasures to be unburied at these sales. I like to look for educational puzzles and games, items for teaching geography, tools for learning states & capitals, and period costumes. I picked up some items to round out our Adventure Series: Horsing Around lesson, including an American Girl riding outfit – cap, boots and all. I also grabbed a toddler Renaissance outfit and a microscope, among some other toys and shoes for everyday events. Beyond the learning toys I found, I also came across larger sizes of Renaissance dress-up wear (girls and boys), pirate costumes, 20’s Flapper Dress, arts & craft supplies, science experiments, and building kits. There was such a variety!
Just Between Friends makes shopping (and consigning) easy with two fall events:
JBF Western Main Line (Oaks)
Thurs, Sept 13 – Sat, Sept 15
Greater Philadelphia Expo Center – Hall C
JBF Reading Fall Event
Thurs, Sept 27 – Sat, Sept 29
Greater Reading Expo Center
Saturdays at both sales are Half Off Days!!
You must check out these articles on this event with excellent tips for shopping on consignment and the advantages of becoming a consignor. Super Exhausted with Sherry and Delco Deal with Kelly and A Life In Balance with Barb.
Disclosure: I was invited to a presale blogger event at JBF Consignment and given a shopping credit in exchange for this post. All the opinions and tips expressed here are strictly mine.
Favorite Children’s Classic comes to theater…
Appel Farm Arts and Music Center of Salem County is offering a theater performance: A Year With Frog and Toad on February 11th at 2 PM. For ticket information, directions and details please visit their website at : www.appelfarm.org.