Edu-taining toys recommended by experts

November 23, 2009 11:56:21 AM PST
Even in tough economic times, many parents try to keep their children from feeling the pinch. (PRESS RELEASE) While children might not get every item on their wish lists, they probably will be getting some toys during the holiday season. Parents who want to get the most from their toy-dollars should look for toys that edu-tain, says Reyne Rice, Toy Trend Specialist from the Toy Industry Association of America (www.toyassociation.org). Many mass retailers, like Wal-Mart, are focusing on this trend and featuring toys that teach and entertain, she adds.

Making learning fun is also one trend you'll spot at this weekend's Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG) at Navy Pier. At the fair on Saturday and Sunday, November 20 and 21, you can preview and play with the hottest new toys and games on the market, meet the inventors and enjoy a Star Wars "Droid Hunt," entertainment by Radio Disney.

The Toy Industry Association, the not-for-profit trade association for producers and importers of toys and youth entertainment products sold in North America, has gathered a few examples of fun toys that encourage learning through play:

1. Uno Moo! (Mattel)

  • UNO Moo's 28 farm animal figures will immediately attract the attention of your toddler, but it's the simplified game play elements that will keep them coming back.
  • Made specifically with the preschooler in mind, instead of traditional UNO cards which are tough for little hands to hold, kids simply match the colors and critters and drop them off back at the barn, teaching valuable developmental skills while also having fun. When the players are down to one figure -- they must yell "UNO Moo!" If you are the first to get all of your animals back home in the barn, you win!
  • The barn also doubles as a storage case and its convenient handle makes the game portable and practical.
  • SRP: $19.99
  • Ages: 3 and up

2. Lego: Builders of Tomorrow (Lego)

  • The LEGO Builders of Tomorrow box features 650 basic LEGO bricks that can be used over and over again, each time becoming a new toy.
  • For inspiration, kids can visit www.LEGOFamilyTime.com for monthly building instructions, including seasonal models, tips and tricks from master builders and family games to play using LEGO bricks.
  • SRP: $29.99
  • Ages: 4 and up

3. Curious George Hide and Seek Zoo (I Can Do That!)

  • The man in the yellow hat calls players and to gives them missions all over the zoo.
  • Curious George Hide and Seek Zoo will have children up on their feet and using their problem solving skills.
  • The game includes 4 crazy animal masks, a walkie-talkie, 25 cards, a "bus mover", and a game board.
  • SRP: $19.99
  • Ages: 4-8 years

4. WEDGITS: Imagination Set (ImagAbility)

  • With unlimited ways to create original designs or re-create formations using the included WEDGiTS Design Cards, WEDGiTS are unlike any other building or construction toy.
  • By turning the pieces on different angles, you can literally "lock" or "wedge" pieces together for amazing formations that don't seem like they should not be standing.
  • WEDGiTS demonstrate simple patterning, spatial relationships, gross motor skills, and size and sequencing.
  • SRP: $22.99
  • Ages: 3 and up

5. Know It or Blow It (Patch Products)

  • In this teamed game, players will be tested on their knowledge of fun facts.
  • Each team picks a captain, who chooses the order in which the teammates respond.
  • The game is made for teams of over 4 players.
  • SRP : $24.99
  • Ages: 10 and up

6. Touch and Learn Super Duper Computer (Learning Curve)

  • Parents are always looking for toys that balance fun with education?and what better way to do it than with the brand new fully interactive electronic learning aid, the Super WHY! Touch & Learn Super Duper Computer from Learning Curve.
  • Based on the adventures of reading-ready superhero characters from the popular PBS Series Super WHY!, this hands-on laptop is loaded with more than 35 fun and exciting literacy activities that help teach important early literacy skills like spelling, reading and problem solving in a really fun hands-on way.
  • The best part about the Super WHY! Touch & Learn Super Duper Computer is its "grow with me" curriculum that offers multiple levels of play. So as your child's literacy skills grow and develop, the learning becomes more challenging and offers extended play value along with the educational value.
  • SRP: $34.99
  • Ages: 3 and up

7. 1-2-3 Stomp! (Wild Planet)

  • Exercises the body and the mind
  • Stomp on the central unit to send numbers flying, then race to retrieve the pieces that solve the puzzle (if the game calls out "2 plus 2," run and get the 4; if it asks "what comes between 7 and 9," go get the 8)
  • Game keeps track of each player's time
  • A great way for kids to release pent-up energy when they're stuck indoors during the cold winter months
  • SRP: $20.00 in mass stores, $30.00 in specialty stores
  • Ages: 3 and up

8. Leap Frog GIDJ -- Star Wars Jedi Trials (Leap Frog)

  • The first-ever gaming handheld that connects to your computer to customize both gaming and learning.
  • The Didj system is designed for kids aged 5 to 10 years, it lets them play action-packed, high-resolution games while studying what they need for school.
  • The Star Wars: Jedi Trials focuses on physics. Players learn about simple machines, electricity, magnetism, gravity, and other forces with activities like completing electrical circuits and experimenting with magnetic poles.
  • System SRP: $ 89.99
  • Game SRP: $24.99
  • Ages: 5 to 10 years

9. Eric Carle's ABC Game (University Games)

  • Inspired by Eric Carle's ABC book comes ABC the game.
  • While playing this fun filled game, your children will learn the difference between upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet, and will also strengthen their counting skills as they move about the game board.
  • The game includes 4 playing pieces, 52 different animal cards, and a spinner to move around the board.
  • SRP: $17.99
  • Ages: 3 and up

10. Chimp and Zee Silly Socks Game (Pressman Toy)

  • SRP: $15.00
  • Ages: 3 and up

11. Number Knockout Electronic Math Game (Learning Resources)

  • Slug your way to the heavyweight math title in the Number Knockout Electronic Math Game!
  • An electronic dice roll gives you a target number, and kids (or parents!) race to add or subtract the light-up numbers 1-9 at their station.
  • Once you've used all your numbers, you've scored a knockout! You can also train for matches in solo mode. The announcer's voice, starting bell and roaring crowd send fighters into the ring ready to rumble.
  • SRP:42.99
  • Ages: 7 and up

Toy Safety Tips

No matter what the hottest toy trends are, safety should always be a priority.

The Toy Industry Association offers the following tips for holiday shoppers this year:

  • Check age grading and all toy packaging labels to make sure the toy is appropriate for your child
  • Avoid toys with small parts for children under age 3 or children who mouth toys
  • Look for toys with sturdy parts and tightly secured joints
  • Shop at a reputable retailer, one you know and trust
  • Inspect the condition of second-hand toys and make sure you have the original packaging and instructions
  • Listen to toys that make sounds before purchase to make sure it's appropriate for your child
  • Avoid all toys with sharp points or rough edges
  • Labels and instructions on packaging can provide excellent guidance for safe purchasing decisions

And being safe doesn't stop in the shopping aisle. After new toys are given and unwrapped, it's important to ensure safety measures are taken at home.

Dispose of Gift Wrap, Packaging

  • Dispose of all unnecessary toy packaging and gift-wrap as soon as possible.
  • Piles of discarded gift-wrap can conceal sharp objects like scissors and the edges of hard plastic packaging that can cut small fingers.

Read the Label

  • Read instructions carefully. Read directions aloud to children and others, explaining the importance of proper use.
  • Save toy directions, warranties and assembly hardware and keep them on file.

Check for Broken Parts

  • All toys should be regularly inspected throughout the year by an adult.
  • Any toys that are broken should be repaired or discarded.

Organize and Supervise

  • Supervise children as they play
  • Be a good role model and set an example for safe play
  • Teach older children to keep their toys away from younger siblings.

Let's Play: Nation's Only Public Toy and Game Fair Comes to Chicago Nov. 21-22

Preview and play with the hottest new toys and games on the market, meet the inventors and enjoy a Star Wars "Droid Hunt," entertainment by Radio Disney and more at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG), Saturday, Nov. 21 and Sunday, Nov. 22 at Chicago's Navy Pier.

Fairgoers will be able to meet toy and game inventors, including celeb/actresses Daryl Hannah and Hilary Shepard, inventors of Liebrary; Leslie Scott, inventor of Jenga; Bruce Lund, inventor of TMX Elmo and founder of River Forest-based Lund and Company Invention, LLC; Chicago area resident John Spinello, inventor of Operation and Reuben Klamer, inventor of The Game of Life and winner of this year's Toy Industry Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

A Star Wars Breakfast featuring Star Wars characters and prizes, chess tournaments in the Renaissance Knights Pavilion, and a free Games in Education conference for educators are just a few of the many fair events planned. For full event details, visit www.chitag.com.

Fair hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Children under three are admitted free; Scouts in uniform, teachers and librarians are also admitted free of charge.

"ChiTAG is the nation's only public toy and game show and this year's event will feature something for everyone. Kids, teachers, parents, toy and game enthusiasts and other curious minds are invited to play and learn," said Executive Director Mary Couzin.

For the third year, ChiTAG, along with sponsors, including the Toy Industry Association and Lund and Company Invention, LLC, will also hold the Young Inventor Challenge. Students 18 and under are invited to submit original game and toy inventions by October 31. Voting for the Young Inventor Challenge winner will take place by popular vote during the fair.

ChiTag exhibitors and sponsors include Hasbro, Lund and Company Invention LLC, Family Time Magazine, Discovery Bay Games, Buffalo Games, Rio Grande Games, ideasplash, Playthings Magazine, Top Trumps, Out of the Box Games, Strong National Museum of Play and the Toy Industry Association.


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