Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Imagine Toys Review ~ Pretend & Play Birthday Set

I just learned of a great website, Imagine Toys. They carry toys for children birth through 11+ years. Toys are organized into categories, age groups, price range, and brand so parents can really explore all of the different types of toys they carry.

I was so excited to receive the Pretend & Play Birthday Set in the mail to review, just in time for Lydia's birthday! Birthdays only come once a year, but with this pretend play set, your child can pretend it's his birthday every day of the year. The set comes with everything pictured below:

 48 Pieces include:
  • A birthday crown
  • 5 numbered candles
  • 3 nesting presents
  • 5 slices of cake
  • 5 plates
  • Pretend camera
  • Wipe off crayons and more!
I think people often disregard the value of imaginative play in learning early, fundamental skills that are building blocks to learning more advanced skills. This pretend play set targets so many of those skills! Here are just a few of the variety of skills children can learn while playing with this great set from Learning Resources:

~Social skills - With 5 slices of cake, 5 plates, and just one birthday crown, children are required to take turns to play with this set imaginatively. One child can be the 'birthday kid' while the others are guests at the party. Children can also play different roles, like the invitation maker, cake baker, cake slicer, and gift giver. Role playing is such an important part of a child's development.

~Early math skills - Some of the early math skills targeted in this set include number identification, counting, and one-to-one correspondence (understanding that each guest receives one slice of cake, one plate, and one invitation). The nesting gifts also work on teaching size concepts.

~Fine Motor development - Fine motor skills are those that require use of your hands. Children can work on placing the candles in the cakes, similar to placing pegs in a peg board. They can work on placing each lid on the corresponding gift before arranging by size. Adjusting the crown to the proper size and taking pictures with the camera also require the child to use both hands together.

~Language skills - Most importantly, pretend play allows children to practice their language skills. Parents can provide their children with directions to play with each piece in new ways. Here are some examples:
  • "Put the candle in the cake and put the cake on the plate."
  • "Take a picture of daddy wearing the birthday crown."
  • "Show me what you do with the birthday candles."
Children can also work on their own spontaneous language as they explore each piece in this set and use it to make up pretend games with parents and friends. Here's a video clip of Lydia (age 2) and Daddy playing together. The recommended age for this toy is 3+, but with supervision, I think this set is appropriate for children who are 2 years of age. As you can see in this clip, children naturally work on imaginative and imitative play, expressive/receptive language skills, motor skills, and social skills when playing with the Pretend & Play Birthday Set.

Even though this toy has a lot of pieces, they all fit together into a small container for easy clean up!

BUY IT! Interested in owning a Pretend & Play Birthday Set for your child? It's on sale now at Imagine Toys for just $19.99.

Imagine Toys offers many other wonderful pretend play sets, like a Standing Puppet Theater by Alex, Lil' Shopper Play Set by Earlyears, and the Ice Cream Social play set, which is on sale now for just $9.97.

You can also 'like' Imagine Toys on Facebook and 'follow' Imagine Toys on Twitter, where they host fun Twitter parties with great giveaways.

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Creativity and Child Development

Since Lydia was about a year old, she's been really into Arts & Crafts. I started to think about how her artwork as evolved over the past year, how she has explored different media and materials, how her grasp has improved, etc. I thought I'd arrange some of her creations in chronological order to compare them.

Lydia's first marker drawing at 14 months

Lydia's first painting at 17 months

Lydia's first 'food' collage at 18 months

At 21 months, Lydia painted a picture for daddy for Father's Day - First time painting on a canvas surface.

Lydia's 1st set of finger paints at 22 months. She was hesitant at first, but then dove right in!
At 22 months, this is the first drawing Lydia identified as being something. She said this was Daisy (our dog). You can see where she has drawn the head, body, and legs.
Lydia made these at 22 months. I applied the glue to each piece, but Lydia placed the pieces where they went. She had a model to refer to for the owl, but we talked about where different parts of the face go as she pointed to them on herself and on me.
I think it's pretty fascinating to look back on how her pencil/paint strokes have changed, her interest in creating a variety of projects has expanded, and her desire to work with different textures has increased. I hope she always enjoys being creative and expressing herself through artwork!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guidecraft Educator Review #1 ~ Nordic Rocker

This is my 100th post - A time for celebration by doing something extra special ~ Introducing my readers to an amazing group of bloggers I am so excited to be a part of, the Guidecraft Educators, each of whom I know will bring a different perspective to reviews of products we have been generously given. As co-director of a nonprofit organization for children with disabilities and mother of a toddler, my reviews will focus on how each product can be used with children with special needs and/or toddler and preschool-age children. 

The first product we are reviewing is the Guidecraft Nordic Rocker.
This is a wonderful seating option for children with special needs. Some children have difficulty with sensory integration. Simply put, they are unable to organize all of the information their bodies are receiving. The interesting thing about our sensory system is that we actually have seven components, even though we only really learn about five senses.

Five commonly-taught senses:
1. Tactile (touch)
2. Sight
3. Sound
4. Taste
5. Olfactory (smell)

Our two other senses:

6. Proprioceptive (being aware of where our bodies are spatially)
7. Vestibular (movement)

There are a number of sensory-related activities you can try with a child - some may be calming, some may be alerting. Some may help a child to concentrate better, while some may be distracting. The great thing about the Guidecraft Nordic Rocker is that it allows children who crave vestibular input (movement) to move while still being seated safely. However, unlike most rockers, the Nordic rockers have flat bases (not curved bases). This allows for some rocking movement, but stops the child from tipping the chair over or rocking excessively.

Fabian (left) and Ryan (right) are enjoying circle time at school. They are able to move to the music while safely seated in their Guidecraft Nordic Rockers. 
These are great for large group activities when some children are sitting on the floor or small group activities when children are sitting at a table. The birch ply wood construction can accommodate children of different heights and weights, as well as different physical abilities and limitations. 

In addition to being used as a seating option for children with special needs, these are great in a reading area at home or in the classroom setting. The chairs are comfortable, colorful, and great for relaxing with a good book. Overall, this is a wonderful product for special education classrooms, general education classrooms, and children's bedrooms or play rooms. 

BUY IT! You can purchase a Guidecraft Nordic Rocker for just $70.

WIN IT! What's great about this Guidecraft Educator group is that each month, one of us will be hosting a giveaway of the product that we have all reviewed. Visit Katie's {Little Ones} Learning Lounge for a chance to win a Guidecraft Nordic Rocker for a special child in your life! This contest is open to the US and Canada. 

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.