September 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 9
TDmonthly´s Top 10 Most Wanted Unschooling Toys
"What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child." — George Bernard Shaw
Looking to create a new marketing niche for your store? How about selling to the unschooling parents? Unschooling, or “natural learning,” is a growing branch of homeschooling that is without curriculum or predefined structure. It follows the path of most interest and educates from that. Every child is fascinated with ants. In unschooling, as soon as the child shows an interest in ants, say, while walking down the sidewalk, the parent/teacher would begin to expand: ants in the biological sense may be one moment. Then mathematics may become involved as counting of the ants creeps in. Physics in the form of optics may become involved if a magnifying glass is used. And because it’s an interest driven by the child, the education is more enduring.
But the unschooling parents have their hands full. A “lesson” can occur any time, any place. But are they prepared? TDmonthly Magazine talked to manufacturers and retailers to find the Top 10 (we found 11) Unschooling Toys — those products that are easily used to educate, easily carried … and are fun. Try having an unschooling corner in your store. Even parents with children not homeschooled will gravitate towards it.
This is a super-deluxe magnifying glass: Big, bold and brightly colored, with a large handle (easy for the younger kids to hold) and a wide wood boarder around the glass (tougher for those same kids to break), this is a must for the unschooler.
? As the people at the Maukilo store said: ?The name HABA stands for high-quality products and age appropriate materials.?
? Jason Oliver of Oompa Toys, had this to say: ?We just started to carry them, but they are selling well already.?
? According to the British Society For Cell Biology, ?Great fun can be had by looking at small organisms. A good magnifying glass will help your observations.?
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4402 (added 8/31/2005)
This 10-piece set of musical instruments (heavy on the percussion with maracas, a tambourine and a triangle) lets a child explore the wonders of sound, music, anthropology or just the fun of making some noise.
― Richard Gibson, owner of Learning Express of Newton, Mass., says his store sells about 6 or 7 of these sets per month.
— In summer 2008, Meredith Zellweger, owner of Toy Jungle in Manhattan Beach, Calif., touted this set as her “go-to musical toy.” Melanie Anderson of Daly City, Calif., said, “The kids have so much fun playing with them. They are real instruments, not plastic imitations that don´t sound quite right. This was a purchase I don´t regret.”
— Three of 45 retailers cited Band in a Box when asked about best-selling musical toys in mid 2007, citing sales of between three and 10 units per month. Seven of 48 retailers named it as a musical best seller in January 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4401 (added 8/31/2005)
Need a math game at a moment’s notice (and one that doesn’t seem like math, to boot)? This can teach addition, subtraction, probability and general counting to the younger ones.
— The Game of Chips comes in a handy-dandy tote bag and includes a set of dice and a set of numbered (1 through 10) chips (like poker chips).
— Cindy Jonq of Dublin, Calif. waxed about this game: “Chips is a fun, easy to learn, portable game that can really help your child with his/her addition facts and mental math skills. My 7-year-old son, who is smart, but anti- workbooks and drill sheets, LOVES this game.”
— According to Ross Manion of 1, 2, 3 – Play, a toy store in Vacaville, Calif., “It’s sort of a cross between math and a casino. It’s simple enough for the little kids, and has been selling well since I first got it.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4400 (added 8/31/2005)
Magnetic, geographic and just plain cool, this levitating globe is suspended by the force of the magnet and floats in mid-air. This ball of questions in the making is a real attention-getter.
— Kids can pass their hands above, below and around the sphere as it continues touching only air. Featuring electro-magnetic levitation and elegant styling, it includes an innovative automatic revolving feature.
— “It’s amazing. My 3-year-old was mesmerized, and so was I. We talked about magnets, levitation — real and ‘trick’ — the earth and then about things that fly. It was a great way to learn without even trying,” said Donna Kahn of Miami, Fla.
— Josh Cusher of The Museum Place in Spokane, Wash., explained: “Everyone wants one. They’re uncanny in how they defy gravity. They are sold both for the child, the adult and gifts. It’s an unusual conversation piece.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4399 (added 8/31/2005)
Color, refraction, light, Isaac Newton (in all his glory), rainbows and a kaleidoscope. It’s a one-stop optics lab and just plain cool. Plus it’s a door of introduction to history, engineering and even mineralogy.
— This quality acrylic prism works for fun and exploration. Kids learn how to split a beam of light into a multicolored rainbow or look through the top beveled edge to reflect images into kaleidoscopic patterns.
— “Prisms are perennial sellers, always fascinating, always interesting, always a must-have once a child begins to look through them. No matter what the season, prisms are always an item,” said Martin Fong, owner of Dis & Dats toy store in San Francisco.
— Kyle Davies of Brainee Bunch in College Park, Md., said the smaller ones are selling particularly well for them.
— “You could look at a simple toy prism and say ‘whatever’ or you could look at it and remember that people like Einstein, Boyle, Newton and hundreds of other great minds used to play with them when they were kids, too,” Sue Ellen Childs of Tedco told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4398 (added 8/31/2005)
One of three sets belonging to the Early Maths 4-5 series, this product helps children learn to estimate and includes special activity cards.
? This 101-piece set features: 2- and 3-dimensional play, plenty of counters, activity cards for the children, a lot of special elements and a plastic storage solution.
? ?LEGOs are always fun,? said Michelle Goodling, then laughed, ?but to be able to sneak a little education in at the same time? Both my sons love this set and will fight over who gets to play. I try to teach sharing, but brothers will be brothers. When was the last time a kid fought over a school supply? Never.?
? LEGO toys are historically excellent sellers, the company having remained strong for more than 50 years.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4397 (added 8/31/2005)
Art is an education in itself, and every child has an interest in drawing and coloring. What makes these art tools unique is that they come in an assortment of skin hues that give a child a realistic palette for coloring his or her world.
? These crayons open the door to discussions of cultural traits and insights, as well as set the grounds for historical and societal discussions.
? ?At first I was reluctant to endorse these,? explained Mary Waterson of Portland, Ore. ?I thought they were too PC. But then my daughter, Leslie, started playing with them in the car and matching the color of the crayon to the color of a person she saw. This began an hour-long discussion about the history of mankind and the origin of races. I was impressed.?
? They are thick for an easy grip ? perfect for little hands ? and come in black, sepia, peach, apricot, white, tan, mahogany and burnt sienna.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4396 (added 8/31/2005)
It?s a fast-paced game to create and swap words based on the throw of the die. With the simple goal of creating and keeping as many words as possible, opposing players try to take words off the table and even right out of one another?s hands!
? Act Games? Ron Roberts, creator of the Fast Word game, comes from the world of management psychology and corporate training, and looks for games to foster social interplay as well as be fun.
? ?In creating Fast Word, our goal was to create a fun way for children to learn to spell small words initially but also to incorporate prefixes and suffixes so that older and younger children could play together,? explained Ron Roberts.
? This is a great game for proto-spellers and real spellers alike. It?s not always the best speller who wins, but the luckiest, which makes it a great leveler for all ages.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4395 (added 8/31/2005)
Puppets and marionettes are intriguing for all ages, as well as educational. Educational?
? Well, a pirate opens up the fascination of history, sailing, oceanography, literature and just good fun playacting. It also can begin a lesson on acting, entertainment and the Renaissance. A marionette is an encyclopedia of unschooling information.
? These wooden marionettes are skillfully dressed for creative, imaginative play. They are approximately 15 inches tall, excluding the strings. The marionette comes in a window presentation box.
? ?My son and I spent a whole day playing games, making up stories, and at one point, we even read part of Robert Louis Stevenson?s Treasure Island ? the marionette playing all the pirate parts while Danny and I did the voices. Arrgh,? explained Susan Kentac of Marin, Calif.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4394 (added 8/31/2005)
With two decks, 75 cards per deck hinged together by a plastic bolt, and a 150-page book with full-color illustrations throughout, this small version is as big mentally as its older big brother.
? Sesame Street Magazine named it one of the Top 9 Products for kids, and Money magazine called it one of the 50 Best Values in the USA.
? Said Darren Webb of HomeschoolingSupply.com, ?My own 3-year-old son, Jackson, really likes his Brain Quest book ? the illustrations capture his interest and the format is really convenient.?
?The latest editions have 50 percent new material keyed to what students in grades 1-7 need to know today.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4393 (added 8/31/2005)
Worried that your child will not be prepared for the real world of math? Try this game out. Kids learn smart consumerism at the shopping mall as they practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
— This fun-filled game builds money math skills and involves all players at every turn. Question cards feature two difficulty levels, allowing up to four players of different skill levels to play together.
— “It’s a hoot,” explained Ashok Gupta Kumaar, father of five daughters. “I use this as a fun object lesson when teaching my girls about the pitfalls of capitalism and the strengths and weaknesses of various economic polices. Then we smile and just have fun.”
— The game comes with a durable 17" x 22" game board, 120 cards with 240 questions, six shopping lists, three two-sided shopping scenes, 25 "Impulse" cards, 32 "Buy-it" disks, four pawns and a pair of dice.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4392 (added 8/31/2005)
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