Learn and Play: Educational Tools Make
By Tamara Halbritter
Kids may grimace at the word “educational,” but the latest educational
toys give the word new meaning. For children both at home and in school,
these toys help them open up a whole new world of sound, movement, color
Let’s Play Drums!
Five fascinating drums by WJ Fantasy (ToyDirectory)
introduce children to other cultures and the gift of making music. Let’s
Play Drums! – Building Blocks ($19.95) comes
with drumsticks and multicultural images of societies around the world:
Early America, Asia, Africa, Native America and South America.
Piano Stepper by Imagiix ($44.95) (ToyDirectory)
is an oversized piano keyboard (31” x 43”) that plays piano and organ sounds
with the touch of a hand or the stomp of a foot. Kids ages 4 and up can
create their own compositions or use instructions to play six classics.
The oversized keyboard mat is made of foam and is also surrounded by 16
colorful jigsaw pieces for added construction play.
Writing Skills Table
Future Hemmingways (or any 4-5 year old) can hone their writing skills with
the Writing Skills Table by Tag Toys ($110)
. The table holds a 400-foot roll of paper, plexiglas tracing plate, worksheets,
templates and writing instruments for preparatory exercises that develop
fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Chair, paper and templates
are sold separately. A smaller version, Tag Toy Table Top Only ($24.50),
can be placed on a standard table or desk to help develop memory and sensory-motor
Expanding the Universe
has expanded the universe for children ages 6 and up. The Hoberman
Mega Sphere (big version $64.99, four and a half feet in diameter)
is big enough for kids to climb in and create their own earth. This bendable
playhouse ball has six latches and expands and contracts for indoor and
outdoor fun. For younger children (ages 3 and up), Carson Optical’s
TwistLight Kaleidoscope ($25) (ToyDirectory)
also creates a magical environment. When you twist the body, it provides
lush images, and when you flip the switch, the colors and shapes intensify.
Carson TwistLight Kaleidoscope
Aquaria People Places and Things
While most building blocks and construction toys are geared toward boys,
Mattel has hopped on the “Go Girl” train with their 2003
Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum award-winning Ello Creation System
The Ello-opolis set lets girls work on their spatial
relations and math skills through Matisse-inspired cutout disks connected
with square and circular parts, string and slender sticks (201 colorful
pieces, $19.99). The 168-piece Ello Aquaria People Places and
Things Set ($19.99) has young artists finding the lost city of
Atlantis in a room with ocean-like creatures and pieces that kids can
use to design their own underwater environment.
Writer's Bio: Tamara Halbritter has been teaching
creative movement and dance to children for over 15 years. As a professional
dancer and freelance writer, she puts plenty of playtime into her schedule.
Currently, she is writing a book about a gifted pair who see other people’s