Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

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Made in USA Toy SaleTo honor American workers this Labor Day, we’re offering one of our best sales ever:

20% off Made in USA toys

I noticed that some big toy makers and toy stores are having sales this weekend but I noticed that they didn’t mention anything about American-made products.  Then it dawned on me – it’s because they don’t sell anything that’s made in USA!

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According to the US Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

So let’s celebrate the wonderful craftsmanship of US toymakers!   Use code LABORDAY at checkout. Choose from among:

 

Sale through September 3rd. We carry other fine made in USA toys and furniture but are unable to include them in this sale.  Sale excludes Vermont Dory, Mountain Boy Sleds, Little Colorado Furniture.

Remember that when you buy American made toys you are supporting your neighbors and contributing to a strong US economy!

Please check out these groups support Made in USA:

Made in USA Challenge

Buy Direct USA

For more information on the value of buying made in USA, please read my earlier posts:  Toys Made in USA, Made in America Toys – At What Price? and Made in USA Still Matters according to Businessweek.

Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


best preschool toys for homeschoolers

School starts next week in Vermont.  Has your family already gone “back to school”? The learning never stops for homeschoolers but this is a good time to revisit the best preschool toys for your home classroom (or any classroom!).   Here are some of my favorite learning toys for preschoolers.

What are the best preschool toys for homeschoolers?

At this age, children are learning their alphabet, reading, strengthening fine motor and other skills and problem solving.  They are learning through play.  Guided but open-ended play are a must.  PBS Kids has a great grade-by-grade learning guide.  Here’s the one for Preschool.

  • Blocks – alphabet and unit.  So critical to a host of learning skills – especially spatial skills. A recent study showed how spatial skills are a great indicator of how creative or innovative a child will be later in life – more so than math or verbal skills.
  • Puzzles – any are great for multiple types of learning (fine motor, visual, spatial, cognitive) and can supplement other areas of learning such as reading and math.  Pattern & memory games are all great options at this age.

    Maisy Harvest toddler wooden puzzle

    Maisy Harvest Wooden Puzzle

  • Manipulative toys are more than just fine motor toys. They can be used for color & shape recognition, math, story telling & more.
  • Art materials – any drawing, painting, or other art activity!  Having the appropriate materials and area in your home is key to your organization and sanity!
  • Play Kitchens & other furniture  Children like to imitate the work of the adults around them.  Wooden play kitchens and furniture nurture this.

Alphabet & Unit Blocks Uncle Goose Classic Alphabet Blocks

With block play, the learning possibilities are endless.  Our Uncle Goose alphabet blocks are made in the USA and even come in different languages!   English, Greek, Chinese, Korean and Arabic.  A great way to practice spelling and even learn a new language!  Guidecraft unit blocks are perfect in the home and classroom and come in sets of 34, 53 and 110 wooden blocks.

Imaginets, Pattern Play & Color Stix from Mindware

Imaginets are an award-winning toy that lets your child play with colorful wooden magnetic blocks on a magnetic board that doubles as a dry-erase board so your child can incorporate the blocks into drawings. Pattern Play‘s colorful wooden blocks introduce kids to sorting, symmetry, matching and spatial relationships. Last year, I met the designer of Mindware’s Color Stix.  It was amazing to hear the concept behind the game (matching same colors along the “stix”) but the game can be used in open-ended play: stacking, building, sorting.  It’s fun to see what sculptures kids build!

Alphabet Puzzles & Number Puzzles

math puzzle toy for preschoolers

Wooden Numeric Puzzle

A fun way to learn your alphabet and numbers! Our wooden puzzles are high quality and will last for many years of enjoyment and multiple children.   Butterfly Alphabet PuzzleAnimal Alphabet Parade Puzzle, and the Dinosaur Alphabet Puzzle teach letters, shapes and colors.  The Number Snail Wooden Puzzle and the Wooden Numeric Puzzle teach numbers, counting, colors and shapes.

Memory and Teach & Play Tile Games

Maple Landmark preschool Memory Tile Matching Game

Memory Tile Matching Game

 Vermont’s Maple Landmark has beautiful wooden Memory and Teach & Play tile games.  The wooden tiles (made from birch) teach recognition, classification, grouping, sorting and matching.  Choose from among the following themes: the environment, animals & vegetables, or buildings & vehicles.  More made in the USA toys!

Manipulative Toys

Lots of great lacing, sorting & stacking toys to strengthen fine motor skills- I just posted about lacing toys in More Toys for Preschool Fine Motor Skills and sorting and stacking toys in Best Toys To Build Children’s Fine Motor Abilities.

Picture Book Puzzles

Goodnight Moon preschool puzzle

Goodnight Moon puzzle

Puzzles that depict favorite book characters can create a great opportunity to read, recite, rhyme and play!  Our favorites include characters from Eric Carle & Maisy & Goodnight Moon.  See my post on all of our great storybook puzzles.  Our wooden Maisy puzzles are made in the USA!

Art Activities

Any art activity encourages creativity, problem solving, eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.  Give your artist a dedicated space to create their art.  It keeps them – and you! – organized and lets them know that you take their art seriously. When our kids were young, we had both a standing easel and a child-sized art table with stool which gave our children a sense of ownership and responsibility.   Both the easel and the table and stool will last your children many years (probably through 3rd grade or longer.) The table features a large 24″ square work surface of dry-erase marker board, big pencil tray, safe wooden paper cutter bar, paper roll holder.  The easel features a dry-erase & magnetic whiteboard on one side, green chalkboard on the other side, 2 paint trays, center storage tray, hanging paper holder, and paper cutter.  Both the easel and table are made in the USA!   Don’t forget paper refills!

Play Kitchens & Furniture

 Yes – your children are watching you!  This is part of their development and learning opportunities abound in the kitchen.  Play kitchens are indispensable and I think are the #1 piece of play furniture.  If you have room in your kitchen, put your play kitchen in a corner so they can work  along side of you.  Or, have them safely reach the counter to help you with a KinDer-Perch.  The KinDer-Perch also doubles as a sturdy play unit (think fort).  Children love chores and it gives them a real sense of accomplishment.  

There are zillions of great toys out there and it can be hard to choose.  Just focus on the basics and invest in quality materials. 

What kinds of toys are your preschoolers playing with at school and at home?


diy giant alphabet blockLast weekend Turner Toys attended Essex Junction’s Annual Block Party – a great community tradition in our hometown.  In addition to putting out many of our fabulous educational and wooden toys, we made giant alphabet blocks for the kids to play with.  We used color in lieu of alphabet letters but I’m calling them alphabet blocks because they were cube-shaped like classic alphabet blocks.  Each side had a different color so they could be lined up like part of a Rubik’s cube or a preschool block puzzle.  They were a hit and it was great fun to see how kids played with them.  It was especially fun to see that they appealed to kids of different ages.

Some kids:

  • Stacked them
  • Knocked them down
  • Played tag
  • Solved the puzzle
  • Danced around with them

Giant Alphabet Block Tutorial

Here’s a tutorial on how my friend, Sue, and I made the blocks:

Figuring out what we wanted (size, materials, look)

  1. Theme – I wanted a color puzzle where the blocks could be arranged into a wall of color.  Harder than it sounds.DIY giant alphabet blocks
  2. Block size & material:  You can buy oversized wooden blocks but we settled on using 9 x 9″ cardboard boxes for our cubes. They were inexpensive and lightweight.  We nixed the 12″ because they might have been too big for toddlers to handle and bigger kids might have sat on them and crushed them.  We went with cardboard because it’s light and durable compared with styrofoam or other materials that might have chipped or crumbled with use.  This was important because we were using them on an asphalt surface rain or shine!
  3. Choose and test your materials!   Sue experimented with gluing felt and different textured and smooth papers onto cardboard.  The modge podge glue bled through the felt and anything “cloth-like”.   In all cases, the modge podge darkened the color.  We went with a light card stock and applied the glue underneath and also over to see the effects.  It darkened the paper color and gave it a striated texture that was a little tacky & sticky.   If you don’t like the tackiness you could always try a clear varnish coat.

These are the materials we used:  DIY giant alphabet blocks

  • 6 cardboard 9×9″ boxes
  • modge podge
  • brush to apply modge podge
  • packing tape to seal the boxes
  • newspaper or other filling for the box
  • paper cutter
  • Fiskars corner rounder
  • water bottle sprayer

Preparation

  1. Draw out your plan for each box & the overall theme.  I wanted to make sure that the colors lined up exactly on each box so I made a small diagram. Nothing fancy.
  2. For the colored area on each block side: Sue made a paper template.  Again, we played with the size because we discovered that our 9×9″ box was 9.5 x 9.5″!   Important to do your measuring!  We went with an 8×8″ template because we wanted to see the edges of the “cube”.
  3. We used a corner rounder on each sheet thinking that a) it would look nice (which it did) and b) it would prevent the edges fraying (which we think it did).  Your choice.
  4. Using the template, cut out 6 pieces of paper or whatever material you are using.    Remember to figure out how many of each color or pattern you need if you’re trying to arrange them in a theme.  For example, I needed 6 sheets of 6 different colors to make my set.

 Steps to making the alphabet blocks.

  1. Construct the box using clear plastic tape (you could use colorful tape or duct tape if you wanted).  Before taping up the final side, I added some crumpled newspaper. Sue thought this would give it some heft.  You can experiment.
  2. You can either paint the adhesive directly to the box or the back of the paper.  I modge podged the entire block face because I wanted to give the corners some extra strength.  Then I placed the paper where I wanted it.
  3. When we noticed that the paper was wrinkling we lightly sprayed the back of the paper with water before applying it to the box.  It seemed to help.
  4. I added a top coat to the entire block face.
  5. It took 20-30 minutes to dry.

diy giant alphabet blocksThere are so many things you can do with these blocks.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Textures – Kids love tactile toys! Think about sand paper, felt, textured or smooth wall paper, fabrics, etc.
  • Colors or Patterns– Primary, cool, hot colors and/or patterns?  Stripes, dots, stars…..?
  • Theme –  Do you want to supplement the inherent open play of blocks with an overall theme? Think of a block puzzle where each face makes an an overall image, or color or pattern.
  • Quantity of Blocks – The possibilities are endless. Most block puzzles are 3 x 3 (9 blocks).  I ended up with a 3 x 2 (6 blocks) mostly because I ran out of time.  I was going to stop at 4 blocks but thought that the extra 2 blocks would exponentially increase the fun!
  • Complexity– I’d thought about drawing simple line images like apples across all 6 blocks.  Then, the blocks would have to be arranged to complete the image.  Or, you could make it a sorting game – all animals on one side, all fruit on another. 

What other toys have you made?

 

 

 

 

 



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