TDmonthly Magazine!
June 2006 | Vol. V - No. 6


Tools:


Reaching a New Generation of Educators

Educational Products Find Fresh Voice


“The key to effective teaching is not just presentation, but real learning which comes about through experiences someone has.”Mark Lacy, LetterPress Software Inc.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are as important now as they were 100 years ago. And new products come on the market every year that teach these same skills — and many more — to a fresh crop of kids. How do educational product manufacturers keep kids interested?

“Even though the skills are the same, new product materials and new research on how children learn continue to drive the development of new educational materials,” explained Carolyn Hurst, president of Barker Creek.

Sam Reich-Dagnen, founder of Braincandy, said that while the three “Rs” are important, also essential is “ensuring that we create products that embrace and honor the ‘whole’ child their cognitive ability as well as their social and emotional development, which are increasingly important in the complex culture we live in.”

Luna Russo of Wonderland Inc., makers of Onionhead educational products, agreed that there is raised awareness in this field. “People are just now beginning to understand that people’s EQ (emotional quotient) is more important than their intellectual IQ,” she said. She added that one out of every 166 children is now being diagnosed with some degree of autism and that an expanded market is springing up to address this new understanding.

“Everybody’s kind of had to get on the bandwagon for toys that teach or play with purpose. It’s become such a big part of the toy world,” said Angela McNamara, director of marketing with Moonjar(ToyShow). Her company’s newest line of products, Conversations to Go, provides children and parents an opportunity to practice the art of conversing. “Life skills still fall under a learning category,” she said.

From a moral standpoint, Daina Bennett, CEO of Educational Materials Distributors (ToyDirectory), said “we’re just trying to make sure we do a good service to the Christian body at the same time” when it comes to marketing her company’s product, The Books of The Holy Bible Learning Activity. While the bible has been around for quite some time, Bennett said it’s never been broken up across different books before in an educational format.

On a different note, Emma Crawford, marketing communications specialist with Creative Teaching Press, said “we try to do things associated with what’s current.” The product development division of her company is made up of former teachers who “have access to what’s going on in the classroom” and can develop new products based on those needs as they emerge.

Becky Geist, creator of Speedspell (ToyDirectory), agreed with Crawford’s sentiment. “Even though the basic standard topics may not change much, the kids we're teaching are changing rapidly, their world is changing rapidly, so we need tools that work with the kids of today,” she said.

Similarly, Mark Mashaw, vice president of marketing for Educate Inc., makers of the Hooked on Phonics product line, said the company tests products with moms, kids and teachers to hear feedback on how products can be improved. Such feedback has helped shape the product line, which “builds success into each program,” Mashaw said. “Kids accomplish the task at hand which means they get confident as they go. It’s less daunting for them each time.”

Finding new ways to captivate children works for Richard Vincent, president of Kutoka Interactive, as well. “A great story, engaging characters and a clear goal are what get kids and will keep kids involved in playing,” he explained of his computer software programs. “Once they are ‘hooked’ you can add the pedagogical content and they won't even notice they are learning.”

Board game manufacturer Ron Toelke, president/head of development of Chatham Hill Games Inc., said that educational software games provide “an interesting complement to what we do. We like it because it gives us a foot in that world.” His company’s games are put into software format by LetterPress Software Inc. and sold on CD-Rom by Chatham Hill. LetterPress sells the online version to schools and educators.

“There’s a science to teaching,” explained Mark Lacy, principal and senior vice president of product development at LetterPress. “The key to effective teaching is not just presentation, but real learning which comes about through experiences someone has. Software provides the opportunity for learners to try out what they’ve just been taught.”

Julie Gibbons, vice president of marketing with Digital Blue, noted that today’s young learners are increasingly interacting with computers and that this is continuing to drive development of new products. “Digital Blue’s products combine cutting-edge consumer electronics hardware with our innovative educational software,” she said of the company’s new microscopes. “By encouraging creativity and innovation we allow the user to share his or her ideas digitally.”

What follows is more detailed information on individual educational products that manufacturers think will sell well during the 2006 holiday season.





MSRP: $89.99
Age Range: 5 to 9
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



For over 30 years, elementary school students in Marie Hablitzel's classes started their day with a drawing and writing lesson. When they studied pond life, they would draw and write about herons and frogs and beavers. When learning about Native Americans, their drawings and writing projects included buffalo, pueblos and totem poles. When they studied world geography, they circled the globe drawing and writing about animals from the seven continents. Her wonderful collection of 168 lessons is now available in the eight-book Draw Write Now series — winner of six national education awards. Boxed in a beautiful library case, this set is a perfect holiday gift.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7921      (added 5/22/2006)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 0 to 4
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Videos & DVDs



"Braincandy, My 5 Senses" is the first DVD in a series of six, whose content focuses on young children learning about themselves as they learn about the world. The Braincandy recipe encourages active experimentation rather than passive drills and repetition. Braincandy uses a creative combination of engaging puppet characters representing the five senses introducing the host, Bruce Brain, “real” kids engaged in captivating, sensory oriented activities, and innovative animations that show how the senses work. A variety of multi-genre, "kidified" music forms a textured backdrop that gets young children up and moving! Ideal for children ages 6 months to 4 years old, the DVD/video lays the foundation for independent thinking as well as social and emotional development. Winner of 10 toy industry awards and endorsements, including Dr Toy's "100 Best Toys for 2005" and the "Top 10 Audio/Video Products" for 2005. (Read Review)
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4162      (added 8/15/2005)
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MSRP: $12.98
Age Range: 5 to 10
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Safety
Videos & DVDs



Julie Clark, founder of The Baby Einstein Company, and John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, have created The Safe Side to give parents simple, fun and interesting ways to discuss difficult topics with their children. Stranger Safety is a laugh-out-loud video that kids will love watching again and again. As they watch, important safety tips are presented by Safe Side Superchick, the zany lead character, in ways kids can understand and remember. Following The Safe Side credo – Smart. Cool. Safe. – children are empowered to make good decisions in potentially harmful situations. The Safe Side creative team includes Julie, John, production members from the Spy Kids movies and an upbeat, danceable theme song by Gary Greene of Hootie and the Blowfish, all of whom are parents of young children. It's also available on VHS. READ MOM REVIEW
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6318      (added 1/4/2006)
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Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Each bulletin board set includes 8 sheets with a total of 53 pieces. Each sheet has information on and pictures of snowmen and snowflakes. In addition, the main topic of each board is teamwork and how to get the job done by creating a supportive environment. An educational as well as an organizational tool, the bulletin board is meant primarily for classroom use.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7922      (added 5/22/2006)
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Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Each bulletin board set includes 8 sheets with a total of 32 pieces. Each sheet has information and pictures on four different kinds of penguins. An educational as well as an organizational tool, the bulletin board is meant primarily for classroom use.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7923      (added 5/22/2006)
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Motivate students in the areas of reading, writing, and math using "Ring-Its!"
This new product replaces difficult-to-use brads and metal notebook rings. Ring-Its!  are durable, lightweight, easy-to-use plastic rings that are perfect for bookbinding,flash cards, student stories, patterning and more. Ring-Its! won't pinch fingers, rust, or "chew up" paper. Choose from rings with 3/4" or 1 /1/4" diameter, packaged in a resealable bag of 30 rings. Small 3/4" rings come in Black, Red, Yellow, Green, Blue. Priced at $4.59 per pack. You can also purchase a variety 4-pack (Includes red, yellow, green and blue) for $17.99  (30 each of 4 colors).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7924      (added 5/22/2006)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 5 to 7
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Software



Didi & Ditto — two zany beavers — work hard to save their land from the Wolf King and his evil Lieutenants. This CD-ROM offers fun activities related to math, reading and writing, science, music, social studies and art — all wrapped up in a grade-based adventure. Each game has three levels of difficulty, which means kids will go back to play again and again.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3700      (added 5/26/2005)
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Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Digital Blue continues its focus on educational technology through this new licensing agreement. The first product to be introduced is the Smithsonian Computer Microscope, which magnifies images 10x, 60x and 200x directly onto a computer screen. The microscope comes with software that lets the user view, edit, animate and measure samples and create slideshows or videos. Budding Einsteins can share scientific data collected and documented with the microscope through their e-mail, further illuminating dialogue and research.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7926      (added 5/22/2006)
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MSRP: $14.99
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



One of nine new DVD packages for toddlers, this 15- to 20-minute disc includes fun songs and activities for little ones. The disc features entertaining characters with whom kids can easily relate as well as confidence-building tasks. Other titles in the series include “Hooked On Colors” and “Hooked on Trucks.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7928      (added 5/22/2006)
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Age Range: 4 to 6
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



Ready in time to put under the tree this 2006 holiday season, this package teaches children basic greetings and other simple phrases in Spanish.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7929      (added 5/22/2006)
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Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational



One of the longest running and best-loved children’s series, Reading Rainbow inspires a child’s love of reading and builds a lasting connection between children and books. The Favorites Collection includes episodes narrated by Jane Pauley, Jason Robards, Gregory Hines and Isabel Sanford. Each DVD will include two 30-minute episodes, plus 30 minutes of related bonus material. There are four DVDs in total, which are organized around themes that celebrate a child’s world, such as “Man’s Best Friend” and “Family Matters.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7930      (added 5/22/2006)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $12.00
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: October 2004
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



In this fast-paced game, the players race to complete words from multiple letter groups, building from the inside out. The more words players complete — or steal — the more points they earn. The rules contain several versions including the Solitaire, Switch, Molasses and the highly competitive Challenge versions. "[Speed Spell is a] unique blend of competition and cooperation that is super fun and helps build spelling skills without working at it," Becky Geist, creator of Speed Spell, told TDmonthly. The greatest educational benefits are reaped as kids play "out loud," naming possibilities for all that the less-skilled may not recognize. Jerrilee Geist, selected by By Kids For Kids as one of their kid inventors, created this game at age 9 with assistance from her mom. This game is a winner of the 2005 Dr. Toy Smart Play/Smart Play Children´s Products Award. Launch date: October 26, 2004. READ MOM REVIEW
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4165      (added 8/15/2005)
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Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Gifts



Wealth, thrift and luck ... This game puts the curious conversation about money on the table. Families and friends can share their dreams and lend their thoughts, culminating in a rich experience for all who partake. The kit of questions comes in a handy Chinese take out style container.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7946      (added 5/23/2006)
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MSRP: $12.95
Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Gifts
General Games
Family Games



This "to-go" box is one of our Conversation to Go options – there are three total. This box is filled with 100 unique conversation starters about Vacation and travel. It’s not about where you have been, it’s about where you are going with this conversation game. It will bring you to places you never dreamed of.
 
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7947      (added 5/23/2006)
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