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September 2006 | Vol. V - No. 9




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TDmonthly's Psychology Expert

Send Her Toys and She’ll Tell You How They Play


Beth Carroll, Psy.D., is a professional psychologist who specializes in child intervention and development. She works with children in many capacities, including providing early intervention services to infants and toddlers and conducting play therapy and psycho-educational assessment with children and adolescents. She has also provided private childcare for families for more than 22 years. Her diverse experience working with children has enabled her to see firsthand how playing with toys can be one of the richest sources of learning and communication for kids. In the following review, Dr. Carroll shares her toy recommendations with TDmonthly Magazine.

Qolf by BONFIT AMERICA INC.
Category: General Games
Age: All Ages
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
Qolf is a cross between golf and croquet that can be played indoors or out. The object is to score points by hitting as many balls as possible into the Qolf zone, created by placing an included yellow rope around three Qolf arches. Players can score additional points for hitting the balls through the base of the arches or through a raised hole in each arch.

Developmental Stage
The game targets gross-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Kids and adults of all ages and levels of golf skill can compete and have fun with Qolf.

Recommendation
This game is lightweight and fits in a small carrying case, which makes it easy to bring to the back yard, a park or a friend’s home. However, the game does not come with clubs to hit the balls. Although clubs and other accessories can be ordered online, consumers may be dissuaded from buying this game if they do not already own golf clubs and need to purchase them.

Chef Dramatic Dress Up by BRAND NEW WORLD
Category: Costumes and Accessories
Age: 3 to 6
Gender: Boys and Girls
Price: $29.95

First Impressions

This dress-up chef costume comes with a white chef shirt, a puffy white chef’s hat and a red-and-white checkered play oven mitt.

Developmental Stage
Children love to pretend to cook and help out in the kitchen. Young children may need assistance putting on the chef shirt, but this costume provides another opportunity to teach kids self-help dressing skills.

Recommendation
The Chef Dramatic Dress Up costume enables preschoolers to really get into character while exploring their culinary imaginations. A chef costume is a unique addition to any dress-up collection as it enables children to explore an occupation through pretend play.

Holiday KLIK Dispenser by AU’ SOME CANDIES
Category:
Candy and Food
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
Holiday KLIK Dispensers are small plastic holiday characters with treats inside. Each dispenser (Santa, Snowman and Reindeer) comes with a pack of Smarties candy and a pack of Smarties bubblegum. The sweet treats are placed inside and when a lever on the character’s neck is triggered, an individual treat is released.

Developmental Stage
Kids of all ages can enjoy KLIK Dispensers. The children with whom I work had fun loading the candy in the dispensers. Of course they had even more fun eating the sweet Smarties treats!

Recommendation
These amusing candy dispensers are a great gift idea. They are the perfect size for a stocking stuffer and kids will appreciate them much more than coal! And unlike other candy treats that are finished once they are consumed, the holiday characters inspire imaginative play, as children can continue to play with the dispensers once the candy is finished.

ArtShark by BIRDCAGE PRESS
Category:
General Games
Age: 8 and Up
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
Players learn about classic art, pretend to be art collectors, and steal works of art from opponents in this terrific educational game. Players aim to collect and fill up their “gallery” with cards that display famous works of art from the past four centuries. Each card contains the country of origin, the theme century, and the value of the artwork displayed. Players take turns picking art cards from the pile and trying to steal art from opponents. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Developmental Stage
ArtShark provides a great introduction to art appreciation. Kids can learn about classic works of art while displaying, exchanging or stealing art from opponents.

Recommendation
This unique, competitive game puts a creative spin on learning. The colorful art cards are miniature replicas of the original artworks.

Dinosaur Holiday by MUSEUM MUSIC INC.
Category: Audio and CDs
Gender: Boys and Girls
Price: $15.95

First Impressions
This silly, educational CD features 12 traditional holiday songs that have been rewritten with lyrics about dinosaurs. For example, some of the dino tunes include “Deck the Halls With Stegosaurus” and “Dinosaur Auld Lang Syne.” At the end of the CD, Al Roker recites the poem: “The Dinosaur’s Night Before Christmas.”

Developmental Stage
Children of all developmental levels love music — especially when familiar lyrics are turned in to something new and interesting. Music is a creative way to enhance learning, as dinosaur facts are paired with familiar holiday tunes.

Recommendation
This CD is a great gift idea for any dinosaur lover. Listeners may find themselves reciting the catchy dinosaur lyrics in their head over and over again: “Hark! The Pterodactyls sing. Flying high on reptile wing.” The combination of dinosaurs and holiday music is somewhat random, but I think that is what makes this CD stand out from other children’s music.

Always Play Fair by ALWAYS PLAY FAIR LLC
Category: General Games
Age: 6 to 12
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
How do kids learn to be a good sport? By playing “Always Play Fair,” for one. The object of this board game is to navigate around the board and be the first to reach the end. Players encounter various setbacks along the way, such as landing on a space or drawing a card that identifies an undesired social behavior. For example, one space contains the following: “You called your teammate a loser. Slide back.” Other spaces on the game board or in the deck illustrate positive, desirable social behaviors, such as congratulating a teammate who beat you in a race or helping an opponent to his feet after you blocked him down in a game.

Developmental Stage
Playing honestly and fairly is a hard skill for most kids to master, mainly because games often involve competition in which each player is encouraged to beat an opponent. This game teaches children not only how to play fair, but also how to treat others with kindness and respect.

Recommendation
A game that teaches kids how to play games appropriately is a great concept. Always Play Fair can be used by parents, teachers and even child therapists to encourage kids to develop manners and social skills. I plan to use this game as a group activity to help my clients develop their social skills.
My Baby Can Talk—Sharing Signs by BABY HANDS PRODUCTIONS
Category: DVDs
Age: 1 to 3
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
This instructional DVD teaches sign language to parents and infants. Puppets, video, and real babies signing are combined to teach words such as “monkey,” “please” and “daddy.”

Developmental Stage
Infants and toddlers develop the cognitive skills required to communicate needs much earlier than they develop the ability to produce language. Thus, “My Baby Can Talk” provides parents, infants and toddlers with signing skills that enable little ones to communicate at an earlier age.

Recommendation
Parents often share concern that if they teach their baby to sign, the baby’s speech development will be delayed. However, I always reassure them that this is not typically the case. In fact, providing babies with effective ways to communicate before they are able to express themselves verbally actually cuts down on frustration and promotes better communication between parents and infants. This DVD is an excellent resource for parents and babies. However, some common signs that infants and toddlers use to get their needs met, such as “more” and “up,” were not included.
TeleStory by JAKKS PACIFIC
Category:
Educational
Gender: Boys and Girls

First Impressions
This interactive “book” connects directly to the TV, combining reading and television into a single entertaining activity. Children use a hard plastic book to interact with a story on the television screen.

Developmental Stage
Reading, spelling, and listening skills are targeted by TeleStory. Words are highlighted on the screen as they are spoken in the story, which helps kids develop their word recognition ability.

Recommendation
I found this interactive reading experience to be a refreshing change from video games that children typically play in front of the TV. TeleStory actually teaches children while engaging and entertaining them.

Toss the Taggie by TAGGIES INC.
Category:
Infant and Toddler
Age:
0 to 3
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions
Toss the Taggie is a soft, fuzzy stuffed ball with decorative tags all over it. Each tag has different colors and designs that stimulate visual perception and captivate attention. The ball can be squeezed, thrown, rolled or kicked.

Developmental Stage
The unique feature of tags on this ball encourages fine-motor development in infants and toddlers. Children can grasp the small tags to handle or throw the ball.

Recommendation
The infants with whom I work enjoyed exploring this ball. Even the youngest were able to grasp the tags and roll the ball to me on the floor. Most balls are made out of plastic, rubber or other materials that are difficult for infants to grasp. The soft fabric in Toss the Taggie makes it safe and accessible for very young infants.

Gigglator by BASIC FUN INC.
Category:
General Toys
Age:
5 and Up
Gender:
Boys and Girls

First Impressions
The Gigglator is a wacky baton that makes 12 silly animated sounds. Kids can also record their own voices. As the baton is turned upside-down, the selected sound changes speed and pitch.

Developmental Stage
Kids of all ages and developmental levels can appreciate the humor created by the Gigglator.

Recommendation
Appropriately titled “The Gigglator,” the quirky noises such as “Buc buc buc buc-aaaa!” and “Aaahhhh Splat!” really seemed to draw a laugh out of both toddlers and school-aged children. My only constructive criticism of this toy is that the redundant phrases and sounds might become irksome for parents and other adults. However, it did not seem to bother the children I was with, as they seemed thoroughly entertained.



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Writer's Bio: Beth Carroll, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in child intervention and development. She works with children in many capacities, including providing early intervention services to infants and toddlers and conducting play therapy and psycho-educational assessment with children and adolescents. She has also provided private childcare for families for more than 22 years. Her diverse experience working with children has enabled her to see firsthand how playing with toys can be one of the richest sources of learning and communication for kids. Read more articles by this author

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