Toy Review

Read all about the latest toys and toy trends to hit the nation. Learning Express Toys is a leader in educational toys for children and is constantly developing and searching for the best products in the toy industry. Learn about hot products and creative ways to use our toys for adaptive play!
  • 5 Retro Toys That Are Making a Comeback (Or Never Left!)

     

    5  Retro Toys that are Making a Comeback

    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):

    1. Simon

    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.

    1. Rubik’s Cube

    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)!

    Pac-Man Mini Arcade Game
    1. Pac-Man

    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!

    Lincoln Log House
    1. Lincoln Logs

    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.

    1. Spirograph

    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!

    Becki

  • 2 Great Toys to Build Visual-Spatial Skills

    2 Great Toys to Build Visual-Spatial Skills: Magformers and 3Doodler StartI was babysitting my 8-month-old cousin the other day, and watched her struggle with a problem: How to get the pacifier in her mouth the right way. She had the fine motor skills to pick it up and bring it to her face, but getting the nipple facing the right direction took several tries. Before my eyes, she was working on the visual-spatial skills needed to look at the pacifier, understand which way it needed to face, rotate it in the right direction, and bring it to her mouth.

    We use our visual-spatial skills - the ability to tell where objects are in space, how far objects are from you and from each other, and mentally rotate and transform objects – constantly. We merge in traffic and estimate how much furniture can fit in a room, for example. Architects, graphic designers and physicists rely on these abilities to do their jobs.

    Two of our Holiday Top Toys are excellent for developing visual-spatial skills: Magformers and the 3Doodler. Both of these toys involve creating 3D objects out of 2D pieces, boosting those object transformation abilities!

    3Doodler Start Essentials Pen Set

    With the 3Doodler Start, kids flex their visual-spatial skills by envisioning the 3D sculpture they want to create and figuring out how to build it with the 3D pen. The 3Doodler Start Kit includes an activity guide with two-dimensional shapes kids can trace, lift off the page, then connect together to assemble their structure. For example, the Eiffel Tower can be assembled by tracing four flat shapes. As they gain confidence, kids can move on to designing their own 3D creations!

    The 3Doodler is easy to use and safe for kids 6 and up. There are no hot parts, messy resins or glue. The pen charges up and is used either wirelessly or plugged in, making it even easier to doodle anywhere!

    Magformers

    With Magformers, children build 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.

    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 6 and up. 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.

    Both Magformers and the 3Doodler combine science, technology, engineering, art and math, making them perfect toys to promote the STEAM educational approach.

    Happy building!

    Becki

  • Top Educational Gifts for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers in 2016

    Munch Mitt, SpinAgain,, YBike and Gigantic Step & Play PianoHoliday shopping for little ones is fun – everything is so adorable! But how do you choose a gift that’s really practical and educational? Whether you’re looking for gift ideas for your own kiddo or another baby, toddler or preschooler in your life, think about the specific skills they’ll learn.

    Here are four picks for the 2016 holiday season with clear skill-building benefits. You can feel great about gifting any of these Holiday Top Toys!

    SpinAgain

    The SpinAgain is a colorful stacking toy with a new twist – the stacking discs corkscrew down the center pole. Toddlers (it’s recommended for 12 months and up) seem to never grow tired of placing the colorful discs at the top and watching them spiral down!

    Why it’s educational: The SpinAgain promotes cognitive skills, fine motor skills and visual-spatial perception skills as children manipulate, sort and arrange the discs and aim them for the center pole as it wobbles.

    Gigantic Step & Play Piano

    The Gigantic Step & Play Piano is a 6-foot vinyl piano mat designed to allow little feet to stomp out tunes!

    The piano plays eight different instrument sounds:  piano, saxophone, violin, accordion, trumpet, harp, xylophone and guitar. Kids can even record and play back their best compositions. Make music active by incorporating dance moves while stepping on the keys! It’s recommended for ages 3 and up.

    Why it’s educational: The Gigantic Step & Play Piano promotes gross motor development and sensory processing as children walk, crawl, and hop from key to key and hear the instrument sounds. As they compose their own melodies, children will use cognitive abilities such as logic and creativity.

    Pewi YBike Elite

    The Pewi YBike Elite is a unique balance guide and ride-on for little ones. Infants 9 months and up can grab onto the handles and push as they learn to walk, while older toddlers love it as a foot-powered ride-on toy. The multi-directional wheels and four legs allow complete freedom of movement and stability.

    Why it’s educational: The YBike is all about gross motor skills. Children develop their core strength and coordination of their arms and legs while riding the YBike or pushing it while learning to walk.

    Munch Mitt

    The Munch Mitt is a great teething accessory for babies 3 months and up! With bumpy textures, crinkle noises, and bright colors, it provides a variety of sensory input as baby chews on the silicone to relieve teething pain. The secure strap means baby won’t drop it, and it’s fully washable.

    Why it’s educational: The Munch Mitt provides oral, tactile, visual and auditory sensory input as babies explore the teether with their hands and mouths. The bumpy textures encourage babies to chew the mitt instead of their hands or other objects, and the crinkle noises keep babies entertained.

    Happy gifting,

    Becki

  • Four Reasons to Snuggle Up with Blankie Tails

    Two children snuggled up in Blankie tails under the Christmas treeI always loved the feeling of being wrapped in a blanket. As a kid, even in the summer, I’d drag my blanket downstairs to cuddle up with while eating my cereal and watching cartoons. To this day, I keep a pile of well-used throws on my couch.

    That’s why I love Blankie Tails! Blankie Tails are ultra-soft slip-in blankets shaped like mermaid tails or sharks. Cuter and more comfortable than a sleeping bag, Blankie Tails are perfect for staying cozy at sleepovers, on road trips, or while watching movies, sleeping or reading.

    Blankie Tails Boy and Girl

    Here are four reasons to get your feet into Blankie Tails:

    1. They’re playful! The mermaid styles transform you into a colorful mermaid, while the shark styles make it look like you’re being consumed by a cute, toothy shark. Your feet can slide right down into the tail fins.
    2. They’re soft! The fabric is extra-plush, double-sided minky fabric. Blankie Tails are machine-washable, so no worries about those cereal spills.
    3. They have great detailing! The mermaid blankets have soft polka-dot upper rims and gorgeously sewn fins with vertical stitching. The shark blankets feature soft felt eyes and teeth for an extra dose of fun!
    4. They keep you warm! Whether you’re reading by a window on a chilly winter day, opening gifts on Christmas morning or even hiding from a too-cold air conditioner, Blankie Tails are a fun way to warm up.

    Blankie Tails make a perfect gift for any ocean lover!

    Two girls in mermaid Blankie Tails

    Happy tails to you,

    Becki

  • 5 Reasons Your Kids Should Make Stop-Motion Videos

    Stikbots CollageIf you remember the classic movies “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” you know how impressive stop-motion animation can be. Yet basic stop-motion animation is so easy to make, even a 4-year old could do it!

    All you need is a smartphone, a tripod, something to appear in your videos, and a stop-motion video app. Stikbot, one of our Fall Top Toys, makes it super easy – just provide the smartphone!

    Stikbots are 2.5-inch-tall plastic robot characters with suction-cup arms and legs who love to star in stop-motion videos. Each Stikbot kit comes with 1-2 Stikbots, ready to dance, wave, or hold any pose you choose as you take photos. The Stikbot Studio kit includes a tripod to hold your phone steady, and the Stikbot Studio Pro kit includes a green screen stage!

    Stop-motion videos are more than just fun – they’re fantastic learning opportunities. Here are 5 reasons your kids should make stop-motion videos:

    1. Stop-motion videos are a great opportunity for creativity for a wide range of ages. Kids as young as 4 through teenagers enjoy setting up characters, developing a story, shooting photos for the stop-motion animation and adding sound. Younger kids may just have a Stikbot walk across the table, while older kids can create complex plots and experiment with green-screen animation.
    2. Making stop-motion videos promotes planning and storytelling skills. From storyboarding to planning each tiny motion the characters make, stop-motion animation requires thinking ahead.
    3. Making stop-motion videos boosts kids’ confidence. It’s fascinating to see a series of photos easily turned into animation through the Stikbot app! Your child will be eager to show off his work. If you post it online with the hashtag #Stikbot, Stikbot’s official YouTube or Instagram channels may share it!
    4. Stop-motion videos are a great teamwork activity. From director to set designer to camera operator, there are plenty of roles to go around! Whether it’s a family activity or a group of friends, making a stop-motion animation together requires communication skills, delegation of tasks and cooperation.
    5. Stop motion videos tie into STEAM education. Stop-motion animation is a great outlet for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math projects. How many frames per second should you use? How does the lighting affect shadows on the Stikbots? What props should you use to communicate the story? Making a stop-motion video is an interdisciplinary project rife with learning opportunities.

    What are you waiting for? Lights, camera, action (one frame at a time)!

    --Becki

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