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Learning Express Toys
Magnets are magical.
At least, they seem so to young children.
Hold a paper clip near a magnet, and it flies toward it. Hold two opposing magnets near each other, and they seem to hover.
Magnets are great for encouraging children’s curiosity about the physical world. What are different objects made of? What are metals, and what does it mean to be metal, as opposed to wood or plastic? How much paper can I hold on the refrigerator with a single magnet, and why? With Magformers, children can safely enjoy exploring magnets while building 3-D creations from flat geometric shapes. Cylindrical magnets are encased in each side of the plastic triangles, squares, hexagons and other shapes, and each side of each piece sticks to any other piece. They’re one of our Spring Top Toys!
In addition to learning about magnetic properties, Magformers help children develop spatial thinking: the ability to picture the location of objects, their shapes and their positions as they move. By creating 3-D objects from the flat magnetic pieces, Magformers help kids understand and manipulate the elements of a structure. “Spatial thinking is associated with skill and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as art, graphic design and architecture.” —Nora S. Newcombe, Ph.D., What Does “Spatial Thinking” Mean?, learnnow.org
The sets come with diagrams to help kids get started with their 3-D shapes. Once they get the hang of it, they’ll be building castles, airplanes, towers, or whatever they can imagine.
Magformers construction sets come in various color schemes and are great for kids 3+ (but better suited for 5 to 6+). For the child who loves cars or electronics, the Magformers Walking Robot Set and Magformers XL Cruisers Set include a walking mechanism or wheels to set your creations in motion. They're also great building toys for younger children (with supervision). Since any side of a piece can attach to any other side, it's easy for preschoolers to grasp the concept and start building quickly.
So pick up some Magformers, and see what you can create!
Growing up in Southern California, I never understood the concept of spring-cleaning. Spring was usually sunny and in the low 70s, much like the winter that came right before it. But now that I live in the Midwest, I’m at the mercy of the four seasons in all their glory and all their fury. After the mud, salt, and grime of a tough winter is washed away outside, I understand the strong urge people have to get organized and start fresh inside as well.
And when I think of getting organized, there is one aspect of my space and life that is in the most disarray: the back door. More specifically, I mean getting out the back door. With a one, three, and four year-old, getting out the door in the morning is by far my biggest challenge of the day.
I interviewed a slew of moms and dads and begged them to divulge their best tips for getting their crew out. Here are some simple tips and tricks to make leaving the house a cinch!
1. Set clear expectations ahead of time. For example, during breakfast, remind your child that after she eats you expect her to wash her hands, gather her lunchbox and backpack, and put on her shoes and coat. If your child meets these expectations, offer descriptive praise to reinforce the good behavior, ie: “Great job following mommy’s directions the first time and getting yourself ready for school!”
2. Keep all socks and shoes organized by the back door. This way no one has any reason to wander back through the house and be distracted by what they find along the way.
3. Set an alarm for 10 minutes before you need to be out the door. When the alarm goes off, it will be the alarm—not you—nagging the kids to hurry up.
4. Plan as much as possible the night before. Check your calendar for the coming day and see what you need to prepare. Do you need to pack lunch? Bring show-n-tell? Check the forecast and set out weather-related items by the back door (i.e. coats and scarves in winter and sunscreen and baseball caps in summer).
5. Pack the car while the kids get ready. If you can pack the car before it’s time for everyone to leave, you’ll have more free-arm space to move them along. One mom quickly throws everything into the car while her kids are eating breakfast, and finds there are a lot fewer balls in the air when it’s time to make an exit.
6. Stay with your kids as they walk from house to car. Even if the car is only two feet from your back door or in an attached garage, make sure to lead the way. One dad noted that he had to “micromanage” his two sons’ 10-foot walk from their stoop to their Suburban, lest the rascals get distracted in the nearby plants and mud.
But most importantly, be consistent. The more you stick to the plan the easier it will become for everyone to adjust over time (including you). Here’s to cleaning up the messiest part of my day! Welcome, glorious spring.
– Katherine Riolo
It was the early 1990s, and recycling was all the rage. Captain Planet and the Planeteers were battling pollution on TV, and “reduce, reuse, recycle” was becoming a mantra. So when I was asked to make an invention for a science fair, I made a robot from recycled shampoo bottles.
To be honest, my robot didn’t do anything other than stand there. (I somehow walked away with an Honorable Mention.) But there are kids out there inventing every day and learning as they go. For some examples, see the kid inventions from last year’s White House Science Fair.
Whether fun or funcational, the child inventor is learning critical skills:
“The ability to invent requires something that comes naturally to most young children: creativity and imagination. Creative thinking is an important life skill that can be applied to everything they do, especially to problem-solving, which is what inventing is all about.” –Ellen Church, Let's Invent Something Together!, Scholastic Parents
Kid Inventor’s Day is Jan. 17. What will your child invent?
Kids that invented things from the trampoline to earmuffs.
Here are five toys and books to encourage your kid inventor:
50 Science Things to Make and Do offers kids easy instructions for activities ranging from physics (Fire a Balloon Rocket) to nature studies (Butterfly Feeder) to chemistry (Making Gloop). These hands-on activities will inspire kids to think about how they interact with their world and wonder, “What else can I make?”
LEGO bricks allow kids to build entire creations out of small elements. LEGO builders visualize an end product and use problem-solving to get there, using the tools available and revising as they go. The possibilities are limitless – just check out this LEGO car, full-sized LEGO house and LEGO piano!
3. Snap Circuits
Snap Circuits teaches kids about electrical circuits with the parts and instructions for hundreds of projects they can complete solo. Kids can also make their own creations, experimenting with batteries, lights, fans, speakers and more! Just watch this kid explain the circuitry—will he grow up to invent the next smartphone?
4. Crazy Aaron’s Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Kit
Mix, stretch, and observe the results with Crazy Aaron’s Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Kit. Kids can experiment with three special-effect putties and three concentrated-color putties. Does blue putty glow in the dark better than red? Does glitter affect the stretchiness? The combinations are endless!
5. Air-Stream Machines Kit
Hovercrafts aren’t just science fiction! Kids will learn about how air pressure works while building their own hovercrafts that can traverse water or land. The impressive and functional results will build kids’ confidence and even spark an interest in engineering. What vehicle will your child dream up next?
I’m inspired by all the kid inventors out there! Keep your kids motivated with opportunities to stretch their imaginations in new ways. I can’t wait to see what they create.
My husband and I are expecting our first baby this month, and it has been so much fun to buy our baby-to-be gifts that remind us of our own childhoods: books we remember reading like Pat the Bunny, Winnie the Pooh cartoons, and Peter Rabbit room décor. We can’t wait for when our daughter is old enough to enjoy some of the same toys we did as kids, too!
Retro toys can help us connect to our kids and remind them that we, too, were once young. We love that so many great toys have stood the test of time – and some are more popular than ever before!
Here are 5 retro toys that are making a comeback (or never left):
Simon, the electronic memory game from the late 1970s and 80s, is still entertaining kids today while helping them sharpen their memory skills. The battery-powered game is shaped liked a flying disc with four large buttons: green, red, blue and yellow. Simon lights up the buttons in a specific order that the player must repeat, with progressive difficulty. Each button lights up and makes a unique tone when pressed – the same classic sounds I remember from childhood! The only upgrade is that the buttons are now touch-sensitive instead of physical, clunky plastic buttons.
This puzzle toy, invented in 1974, has fascinated generations! The Rubik’s Cube is a 3x3 cube the player twists and rotates to match up the colored tiles on each side. The puzzle has exploded in popularity with a sport called “speedcubing,” a worldwide phenomenon with many official and unofficial competitions. Today’s version has fully-plastic tiles, so there are no more peeling and fading stickers (and no cheating)!
The arcade game Pac-Man was first released in 1980, and quickly became one of the most famous video games of all time. The yellow, pizza-shaped Pac-Man character navigates a maze, eating pellets and fruit and being chased by ghosts. Many versions of this game exist today, including the Pac-Man Mini Retro Arcade Game. This portable game brings home the nostalgia of an arcade cabinet while being just 6 inches tall!
Believe it or not, Lincoln Logs are celebrating their 100th anniversary! Named for President Abraham Lincoln (and the log cabin he was born in), Lincoln Logs are miniature notched, wooden logs for building structures. The 100th Anniversary Tin includes 111 all-wood logs and all pieces are made in the USA.
Spirograph is the geometric drawing toy that has helped kids make mesmerizing works of art since 1965. Place a pen tip in one gear, hold the anchor gear to your paper, and use the pen to turn the gear around and around as you draw. Soon you’ll have an incredible curve design! Today, Spirograph is better than ever, with a variety of updated features to make it easier to use. Many of our design kits include Spiro-putty, which holds the anchor gear in place. The Spirograph Cyclex and Spirograph Junior kits keep the gears self-contained within a plastic frame to prevent slipping. There are options for all ages (3 and up)!
In a world of smartphones, virtual reality games and other cutting-edge technology, there’s something satisfying about pulling out these retro toys and watching kids enjoy them. Try your hand at these too – it’s amazing how quickly it comes back.
Cheers to the toys of decades past!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and with all the Pinteresting parents out there, you can bet that this year’s school Valentines will be more creative, unique, and punnier than ever. V-Day is typically a day filled with candy and sweet treats, but in today’s health-conscious society, parents are trying to find healthy alternatives for their kids. So how do you enhance the holiday excitement while cutting out the candy? Here are 6 valentine gift ideas that will help you keep up with the pack and swap out some sweets at the same time!1. Plush Craft Heart Pillow Forget paint-by-numbers, this fun and easy craft lets kids punch rainbow colored fabrics into corresponding number slots to create a pillow full of pizazz! This is a great gift idea for kids ages 5 and up. Your little Romeo or Juliet might even want to give their finished product to a special someone.2. Bee Mine Valentine This adorable Valentine from Crafty Morning is the bee's knees! Follow the easy instructions and have your busy little bees help cut out the heart shapes and create the most Beeautiful Valentine. You can add a decorative pencil to serve as a Valentine goody. Get creative with your sayings—in addition to Bee Mine, try “What's Buzzin", "My Honey" "Bee your friend” and "Beeautiful”!3. Out of This World Valentine This galactic gift from Zakka Life is perfectly gender-neutral and packed with fun. You and your space pioneers can work together to explore your creative sides. Design these unique cards using black construction paper, silver pen, and bouncy balls. Add space-themed sayings like “I love you to the moon and back”, “I’m stuck to you like gravity”, “you are my sunshine”, and “you’ve got me seeing stars”!4. Sticky Mosaics Heart Box kit Give your sweetheart a keepsake craft that is a blast to decorate. The Sticky Mosaics heart Box kit comes with over 500 glittering jewels. Kids five and up will love matching the jewels by number to reveal a beautifully bedazzled box that is perfect for storing jewelry and Valentine’s cards.5. You Rule Valentine Rule the school this Valentine’s Day with these vintage-inspired cards from Relocated Living. This craft is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Have your star pupil help you pick out rulers from an office supply store—they can be old-fashioned wooden rulers, clear, or colorful. Print out valentine messages like “You Rule”, “You’re growing on me”, and “our friendship is off the meter” on red construction paper and create slits on either side to slide the ruler through. Add stickers or hearts for a bit of Valentine’s flair.6. Craft-Tastic String Art Kit Let your littlest sweetheart pull on your heart strings this Valentine’s Day. This kit provides all the materials to create a beautiful multi-colored string art heart and two other fun designs. Any Mother, Father, Grandparent or relative would be honored to hang these colorful masterpieces in their home.
Thanks for reading!