Experts at the Toy Industry Association (TIA) have spotted three trends that reinforce the basics of reading, math and science and that encourage the development of problem solving skills and creativity before or after class:
Empowering Early Readers
A balance of online and offline play options will help to facilitate learning and improve literacy for kids of every age. Well-recognized characters from film, television and toyland can capture the attention of children and draw them into the written word. And exciting new technologies allow young readers to help set the direction of various characters as storylines unfold.
For young fans (ages 3-7) of the PBS Kids series, the Super WHY! Touch and Learn Super Duper Computer from Learning Curve uses touch screen technology to engage kids in literacy-based activities such as spelling, word families, rhyming, reading and interactive storybook adventures.
Reading comes alive for children (ages 4-8) via the magic of LeapFrog’s Tag Reading system which strengthens skills by using classic children’s literature titles like Green Eggs and Ham and Olivia, along with popular characters such as Ben 10, Dora the Explorer and Spiderman.
For older readers (ages 6-10), the LeapFrog Didj Custom Gaming System fosters learning in reading and writing – as well as math and science-based skills in physics and electricity – with subject-specific games featuring Wolverine and the X-Men, Star Wars and Neopets. Parents can track their child's progress in each subject via the free LeapFrog Learning Path (www.leapfrog.com).
Interactive board games and puzzles are lower-tech learning options that families will enjoy together.
For toddlers, there is Goodnight Moon, 1-2-3 Counting Games, a hands-on counting and memory game based on the children’s classic.
Frog and Toad Adventure Game and Frog and Toad Bicycle Built for Two jigsaw puzzle, both from Briarpatch, are great for fans (ages 5+) of the beloved Arnold Lobel books.
Games based on the latest cult classics are a hit with tweens and teens. Popular items include The 39 Clues: Unlock the Secret Chambers Game from University Games; Harry Potter Clue from Hasbro Games; Twilight New Moon Board Game by Cardinal Industries; and Scene It? Twilight Deluxe Edition.
Making Science + Discovery Fun
Kids can bring science and discovery home with kits that combine learning with fun.
Young scientists (ages 6-14) take an eye-popping peep into the world around them when the EyeClops Bionic Eye SE from JAKKS Pacific plugs into a television and enlarges images up to 400 times.
Based on the bestselling The Dangerous Book for Boys, Thames and Kosmos fill two popular kits – one for Electricity and the other for Classic Chemistry — with more than thirty experiments and projects (ages 8 and up).
The offbeat discoveries of the Discovery show MythBusters come to life for kids (ages 8 and up) with Elmer’s MythBusters Force of Flight.
Star Wars fans (ages 6 and up) will be captivated by The Optical Command Unit by Uncle Milton, a multi-functional reconnaissance device that can be turned into binoculars, a microscope and mini-projector. The Darth Vader Robotic Arm kit allows kids how to build their own robotic arm, which can actually grip and move objects using interactive controls.
Igniting Imagination with Digital Media Tools
The explosion and accessibility of digital media – cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, computers and the Internet – have created a virtual treasure chest that fuels a new generation of imaginative thinking:
Young photographers (ages 3 and up) will love the instant photos generated from Fisher Price’s Kid Tough digital camera; parents will appreciate its sturdy kid-proof exterior.
Sakar and Crayola collaborated to create a digital camera (ages 3 and up) while Lego has partnered with Digital Blue to introduce a LEGO 3 Megapixel digital camera (available this fall for ages 11-14).
And wrapping up this trend list with another example of online and offline play, parents and kids can log on to Crayola’s “Lights, Camera, Color” (Crayola.com/colorme) to create their own personalized coloring sheets.
From science experiments to arts and crafts and from games to puzzles, educational toys and creative play reinforce learning and open new windows of imagination for kids of all ages.
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