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Learning Express Toys
...always the perfect toy.
It’s a free art day. Kids can make anything they want. This used to be a golden day for my students. But now, I’m bombarded with questions and concerns: What should I make? Give me an idea. I don’t know what to do.
Why is using their imagination so difficult?
Kids love working with devices. It’s hard to get them to put their devices down, even in school. Whether they are playing games or learning programs on the computer, there is usually a well-defined goal to accomplish. This is like taking a test. They know that with repetition and problem solving, they can come up with the “right” answer. How do I get through this maze? How do I win this battle?
But with imagination, there may not be a right answer. And sometimes, kids get confused when they don’t know exactly what the final goal should be.
So how do we encourage imagination and innovation?
Stretching the imagination begins with thinking outside the box, participating in open-ended activities that don’t have a “right” answer for solving them. This can be as simple as doing something that you do every day, in a different way.
For example: What if they had breakfast for supper? What if they had a picnic breakfast on the living room floor?
By trying different ways of doing a traditional activity, kids begin to imagine other ways of changing them. What if we only ate yellow foods for lunch or foods that started with the letter L? What if we #PlayUnplugged and act out the video game instead?
Thinking of alternatives opens their imagination to a multitude of answers.
Summer is a great time for open-ended activities.
Stretch kids’ imagination by doing activities that don’t follow traditional rules. Could they invent a way to play Quidditch from the Harry Potter books, even though in the books it requires flying? If they were to make up an entirely new type of game, what would it be?
Try activities that require kids to experiment to find the answer. My kids spent an entire summer finding acids and bases from things around the house, by dropping them into red cabbage juice and watching it change color. Is there a better way to design a paper airplane? Could you build a catapult that would knock down a wall of milk cartons?
Use art to expand their ideas by filling every square in the sidewalk with a different chalk drawing. Make your own playdough or slime and the tools to work with it.
You don’t have to think up all these activities yourself.
Books such as “100 Screen Free Ways to Beat Boredom” can help. It is filled with ideas that can be expressed in many different ways.
For example: Put on a fashion show, make string art outside in the yard, start an herb garden, or make alien hats out of tin foil. These open-ended activities allow for surprises and unexpected results, delighting kids with what they can accomplish.
To help push the imagination a little further, ask questions such as: What else can you add to this? Are you missing anything? Does this work or look the way you imagined it would?
Unplugged and open-ended.
Now when kids ask me what to make, I steer them away from the iPads, and challenge them with open-ended questions. It doesn’t take long for their imaginations to kick into gear with all kinds of possibilities. And before you know it, comments like "I don’t know what to do," disappear altogether.
Diane Davis has been an art teacher for over 30 years. She has two grown children, and a new granddaughter who she can’t wait to start creating with.
As the universe evolves and scientists explore the vastness of space, they have made numerous discoveries. One such discovery is Dark Matter: an unseen, unidentified type of matter. Then you have Ordinary Matter: everything you can see and touch. But a new type of Mattr has been discovered in Sweden: Mad Mattr! I imagine the scientists that created Mad Mattr accidentally combined two different compounds, and in a puff of smoke, created this incredibly fluffy and soft material that stimulates your sense of touch. I can only suggest you dig your fingers into this luscious material.
It’s very difficult to describe how this “Doh that Flows” feels. You can feel the minute grains that are sand like, but it’s more of a dough than sand. However, it doesn’t have the stickiness or the residue of a traditional dough. It’s super soft and very smooth when compacted and fluffy when separated.
Mad Mattr is great for shaping, molding and building. When the Mattr is compacted, it maintains its shape like clay - it can be cut and molded - but stretch this compound, and it looks like the molecular structure of the dough is disintegrating! In this stretched state, the dough is super soft and fluffy and will flow through your fingers like sand on the beach. It will even float!
If you are looking for a sensory toy for your child, Mad Mattr will deliver. This toy will allow your child to knead the dough to improve finger strength and manipulation and strengthen his or her fine motor skills. This dough is a great fidget tool that will enhance focus and help develop sensory processing skills.
Mad Mattr is wheat, gluten and casein free. It’s easy to clean up. When small pieces of dough become separated from a larger piece, just dot them up with the larger piece of dough. If the Mattr gets on the floor or carpet, a quick vacuuming will make the Mattr disappear. The best part of Mad Mattr is that it never dries out!
Mad Mattr is an addicting and unique modeling compound that you and your child need to experience. It will open up a universe of molding possibilities. You will not want to put the Mattr down!
Enjoy the madness!
My first encounter with BulziBucket was at my local Learning Express Toys store. Two sales associates were playing it in the middle of the store; my friend and I watched and then joined in the game. We started playing it like a game of cornhole, however, the sales associates taught us two variations on the game—and tipped us off that the dotted bean bag was worth double points.
BulziBucket is a combination of cornhole and hacky sack. The game comes with two 3-tiered targets and 8 hacky sack bean bags, which all collapse into a convenient carrying case. BulziBucket is perfect for playing in the yard, the pool, tailgating, indoors or anywhere you see fit.
I highly recommend BulziBucket if you are looking for an outdoor game for the entire family. It’s ideal for pool parties, cookouts or the beach! The BulziBucket targets float on water and fold up compactly, so you can play on land or at sea and bring it everywhere your summer travels take you.
There are three ways to play BulziBucket:
- The traditional cornhole style, where partners line up on opposite ends and throw the bean bags directly into the buckets. Scoring is easy—the top tier is 3 points, the middle tier is 2 points and bottom tier is 1 point. However, the bean bag with the green dot is worth double points!
- The trademark style of playing BulziBucket is called Assist It. In this style, your partner can assist you by “hacking” (kicking hacky sack style) an overthrown bean bag into the bucket. No hands allowed!
- For the hacky sack aficionados, the Hack It style of play may be for you. In this game scenario, you must receive the bean bag from your partner and hack the bag twice before taking a scoring shot at the bucket. Again, no hands allowed!
Any fidget fan will tell you—one spinner is not enough! Learning Express Toys carries spinners in a variety of patterns, shapes, weights and materials. New to our selection are LED spinners and glow-in-the-dark spinners, so you can spin day and night!
Check out some of our latest fidget spinner and fidget cube styles to add to your collection.
This Spinner Squad glow-in-the-dark spinner by Top Trenz spins for 2+ minutes! It features a high-quality injection molded POM frame. This spinner comes in a variety of colors and is perfect for after-hours spinning. Stack them up for an awesome glowing spin tower.
LED spinners by Trend America will impress all your friends! Spin up a light show day or night. The light-up spinners come in yellow, green, white, black and red and feature colored LEDs in each of the outer bearings.
Aluminum spinners are lightweight, offer ninja-like speed, and they’re super quiet. These spinners come in metallic black, silver, gold, blue and pink.
The camo print fidget cube comes in either a blue or green camo pattern. They’re perfect for fidgeting in the wild!
We have many more styles to choose from in-store, from basketball pattern to princess print, heavier weighted spinners and more! Try before you buy and find the perfect spin.
Fidget toys are all the rage, and it’s not just spinners and cubes. Fidget puzzles, like the classic Rubik’s Cube and modern Fidgitz game, are brainteasers and fidget toys all in one!
The beauty of both of these brainy toys is that you can use them two ways: To focus your brain, or distract it. Mindlessly twist and turn Rubik’s or Fidgitz to release nervous energy and focus on a project, or give your brain a break from work (and your eyes from the screen) by attempting to solve the puzzles.
The 3x3-tile multicolored cube is the classic Rubik’s Cube. This puzzle toy, invented in 1974, has fascinated generations! Today’s version has fully-plastic tiles, so there are no more peeling and fading stickers (and no cheating)!
Solving the Rubik’s Cube isn’t luck—there’s a science to it. The trick is learning the algorithms. By learning to recognize certain color patterns and memorizing the corresponding sequences of twists and turns, speed cubers can solve the Rubik’s Cube in mere minutes – or as quickly as 5 seconds!
For a simpler puzzle with a more rounded feel in your hands, try Fidgitz. It’s similar to Rubik’s in that the goal is for each side to be all one color. With Fidgitz, there are only two colors—blue and white. The connected balls rotate and turn in a unique fluid motion.
As you manipulate the puzzle, the sides of each ball twist, so some will be white and others will be blue. With a bit of luck, you’ll get them all the same color in a matter of minutes while giving your hands a nice fidgety workout!
Whether you solve them or just enjoy rotating them in your hands, these two fidget puzzles are great for quick brain breaks from homework or between meetings. They’re both Summer Top Toys!
Let’s do the twist!