TDmonthly Magazine!
August 2006 | Vol. V - No. 8
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TDmonthly's Developmental Expert

New Toys Help Kids Communicate


Christina Liu has a B.A. in Child Development and Family Studies from California State University and has worked for more than three years as an early intervention specialist, concentrating on children 0 to 3 years old. Her goal in working with children with or at risk for developmental delay is to educate parents on how children develop and to sensitize them to the uniqueness and individuality of their child. She uses toys to foster development, which makes the whole process a lot more fun. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Human Development at Pacific Oaks College and Children’s School.

Age: 5 and up
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions

This new sculpting material can be squeezed, molded, rolled and used with cookie cutters. Creations can be saved or reused. These sculpting beads come in six colors and they never dry out. Colors can be combined, because each “pearl” of Playfoam is discrete; the colors will never mix or muddy.

Skill Reinforcement

Children can use their creativity to make anything their imagination directs. Fine motor skills are being developed as children squeeze and mold different creations.

Recommendations

Playfoam is a new and fun way for children to be creative without a mess. It is easy to clean up. However, I would recommend placing a cover over the table because some of the beads do fall off. Because the pieces are small, care must be taken around young children and pets.

Signing Time! My Favorite Things Volume 6 DVD by TWO LITTLE HANDS
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions
Rachel Coleman and her helpers Alex, Leah and their frog Hopkins teach kids how to “sign” different words on a 30-minute DVD. The short video incorporates music, singing and footage of children signing.

Skill Reinforcement

Signing reinforces the learning of new words and encourages language development. The DVD’s stated purpose in teaching hearing children to sign is to enhance speaking, reduce frustration and tantrums, and increase bonding with parents.

Recommendations
I highly recommend teaching children to sign before they begin to speak. Signing allows them to communicate with adults before they are able to articulate their thoughts. The book and DVD has everyday words such as colors, vegetables and action words that are easy for children and adults to learn. I use simple signs such as “more, please, eat and drink” with children as young 6 months old.

Dimity Duck by PHILOMEL BOOKS
Age: 2 and up
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions

Dimity Duck is the tale of how a duckling spends her day, from waking up and having breakfast by the pond, to playing seek and hide with her friend Frumity Frog. The story is beautifully and rhythmically written, and the illustrations capture the words so that all children — young and old — will enjoy the story.

Skill Reinforcement

Reading to young children begins the development of their language skills and exposes them to new words. As the children get older, cognitive development can be encouraged by asking them to find certain objects or name those that you point out.

Recommendations

This rhyming book had creative words that really worked well with the whole story. The children that I work with loved looking at the pictures and wanted Dimity Duck to be read over and over again.

My Little Pony: Sing & Play Piano Songbook by BRIGHTER MINDS MEDIA
Age: 3 and up
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions
This Sing & Play Piano Songbook contains 12 classic children’s songs written for My Little Pony. The pages are colorful and very durable. There are three options for playing: 1) a recorded demo lets kids hear what the song sounds like, 2) kids can play on their own, following the numbers on the book and 3) the keys light up so kids know which key to push next to play a song.

Skill Reinforcement

Children are introduced to music and are given the opportunity to be creative. The different options teach them to follow directions either by following the lighted keys or the songbook. This allows them to succeed in playing a song more easily. Children learn about cause and effect because when they push a key, it lights up and makes a sound.  They also develop their fine motor skills as they learn to use their fingers individually.

Recommendations

My nephew had a similar toy, but it didn’t play the song or light up the keys. These features make the Sing & Play Piano Songbook a lot more fun and easier to learn than others. The volume was quite loud, so I just placed a clear tape over the speaker to muffle the sound. Another problem was that there was no “off” button.

The children loved this songbook. They loved seeing the lights and the music as they hit the different keys. They were also amazed when the music played on its own.


Uglydoll Card Game by GAMEWRIGHT
Age:
6 and up
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions
This card game brings the loveable characters of the Uglydolls into a game. One game takes about 15 minutes and up to six children can play. There are 70 cards and the goal is to get as many sets of three matching Uglys as possible.

Skill Reinforcement

Hand-eye coordination, matching and social skills are reinforced by playing this game. Children learn to concentrate, play cooperatively and develop quick reflexes.

Recommendations

This is a simple card game that children can play over and over again. The premise behind the Uglydolls is that although they may not have the classic good looks of other dolls, they make it up with their warm and loving characters. Each doll has its own unique personality so children can choose which one best matches them.

Satryan Ball by ECLIPSE BALL INC.
Age: 5 and up
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions

The Satryan Ball is soft, flexible and shaped like Saturn. It comes in two sizes (3 ½ “ or 8” in diameter) and in three colors: purple, yellow and red. You can throw it like a flying disk, catch it like a ball or bounce it.

Skill Reinforcement

This new ball is a flying disk and ball in one. Children need hand-eye coordination and use their gross motor skills, such as throwing and catching.

Recommendations

Throwing the ball was difficult at first for the children. As with any flying disk, it takes some practice to get the right motion to get it soaring. Its soft texture makes it gentler on kids’ sensitive hands and easier to catch.
Happy Cube by KYP HENN SALES
Age: 5 and up
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions

The Happy Cube looked very simple and was packaged like trading cards. Kids punch out the six puzzle pieces and begin putting them together to make a 3D cube. It can also be a 2D puzzle for younger children. They come in a variety of colors and difficulties and are uniquely named by cities, such as “Tokyo.”

Skill Reinforcement

Logic and concentration are needed to put together this puzzle. Since it’s 3D, it’s a bit more difficult than standard puzzles. Children use trial and error, but when completed, they get a really cool 3D creation.

Recommendations

Happy Cube is a new logic game that children who enjoy puzzles-like activities will like. It’s a boon that it can be both a 3D and 2D puzzle. You can also combine other sets and make one big multi-dimensional design.  There are different models, depending on the child’s age. For the younger child, there’s “Little Genius” and for older child, there’s “Profi Cube” and “Marble Cube.”

Boyz & Girlz Puzzles by PLAYROOM ENTERTAINMENT
Age:
4 and up
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
The set includes 18 cards and 12 layout designs. Kids can play by themselves or with other players. They choose one of the 12 layouts and deal out that number of cards to each player. Kids try to connect the pieces to make a complete picture of a boy or a girl. The first person to use all their pieces and solve the puzzle wins.

Skill Reinforcement

Children won’t become discouraged when they can’t find a solution. They learn to be patient and to experiment using different alternatives until they complete the picture.

Recommendations

You will need more than one set in order to play the bigger layouts with more than one person. There are billions of solutions and pictures to Boyz and Girlz, which is fantastic for children just being introduced to puzzles.

Children Are The Sunshine by COV PRODUCTIONS
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions
Children Are the Sunshine is a lively, upbeat CD filled with songs to which kids can sing and dance. Asheba introduces his own “ABC” and “Birthday” song and his own rendition of the beloved “You Are My Sunshine.”

Skill Reinforcement
This CD introduces children to different cultures and types of music. Musical instruments can be brought out and the children can dance and make music along with the CD.

Recommendations

This CD can be incorporated when teaching about different cultures. Books and videos can further educate children about the people and culture of the Caribbean. The children that I work with loved the different beats and rhythm. We took out tambourines, sticks and bells and played along with the music.

Scaredy Squirrel by KIDS CAN PRESS
Age:
4 to 8
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
Scaredy Squirrel is a story about a squirrel that is afraid to venture out of his tree in fear of the unknown, such as killer bees and germs. His adventure begins when his emergency kit falls out of the tree and he goes flying out to catch it. He discovers more than his fears and learns not to be too scared.

Skill Reinforcement

This is a cute story that assures kids that it’s okay to be scared but shows them that fears shouldn’t keep you from discovering the world and yourself.

Recommendations

This book is a cute read for children. It has a lesson to share, but it doesn’t over-emphasize it. Although the children I work with are not yet able to understand the lesson, they loved the colorful illustrations.



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Christina LiuWriter's Bio: Christina Liu has worked for more than three years as an early intervention specialist, concentrating on children 0 to 3 years old. She uses toys to foster development, which makes the whole process a lot more fun. She has a B.A. in Child Development and Family Studies from California State University and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Human Development at Pacific Oaks College and Children’s School. Read more articles by this author

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