Monday, April 19, 2010

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton

This is yet another fun and toe tapping book by Sandra Boynton. Boynton combines wonderful pictures of dancing farm animals with great rhymes like "Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how." It's a great way of teaching verbs/action words to young children because you can pair the story with actual movements. Children seem to love to dance the way the animals dance in the story! It's an easy book to read and seems to be one that children keep coming back to time and time again. Where to Buy: You can naturally find this book on Amazon, but it's also available through children's book sellers, as well as large bookstores with a children's section.

Amazing Animals Roll Along Musical Ark by Fisher Price

This is a fun addition to all of the other Amazing Animal toy sets. The ark is nice size and can comfortably accommodate several animal friends. It rolls easily on hard surface floors and the sounds it makes are not as annoying as some toys. Strengths: This is a great toddler and older infant toy because of the animals. They are a wonderful size for gripping and each of the larger animals has movable parts that click and make other fun sounds. Weaknesses: The rolling action of the ark doesn't work well on anything but a hard, flat surface, but that is fairly standard for most rolling toys. Price:$26 - $30. Where to Buy: The toy is difficult to find because I don't believe that Fisher Price is still producing it. However, there are some available through retailers like Amazon and eBay .

Amazing Animals Polar Friends Tote by Fisher Price

This is a cute and compact little toy that's easy to take along on car trips. It comes with three animal figures and an "ice" block that has a little fish that rattles inside of it. The Mama polar bear, baby polar bear, and penguin are a nice size for little hands to hang on to. Strengths: The Mama bear makes fun growling sounds when you push her head down and all four of the pieces fit neatly into the carrying tote. Weaknesses: It doesn't have great educational value as a toy, but it's fun to play with. Price: $20 - $24. Where to Buy: There aren't many of the Amazing Animals series of toys that are available in outlets like Toys R Us, but you still find it on Amazon and eBay.

Drop & Giggle by Bright Starts

This is a cute little cause-effect toy that makes sounds when you drop a ball down one of three chutes. The balls roll out of the holes in the giraffe's feet and the game can start all over again. The toy is made of a durable plastic and is a nice height for toddlers when they are sitting on the ground. In my experience there is very little middle ground for this toy - children either love it or completely ignore it! Strengths: It's a very simple toy that is easy for older infants and toddlers to access. Weaknesses: The speaker is located on the bottom of the toy, so the sounds don't have a clear quality and can be difficult to hear. Also, there isn't a base that catches the balls when they roll out of the bottom of the toy, so you sometimes spend a lot of time chasing the balls. Price: $8 - $15. Where to Buy: The outlet with the best price for the toy is Amazon, but you can also find it on the Sassy website.

Stacking Cups by Sassy

I've had these cups for a long time, so I'm not sure if they are even available any more, but they are a wonderful set of stacking cups. While there are only four of them, they still build a fairly decent sized tower and they are a great size for little hands to manipulate. Strengths: These are durable little cups and each one has a plastic ring around the rim that makes stacking a little bit easier. Weaknesses: There isn't a big difference in the size of each cup, so sometimes it's difficult for little ones to be successful when stacking them. Price: $8 - $10. Where to Buy: I haven't been able to find this exact set of cups in any of the usual on-line vendors, but Sassy does have a set similar to this called Stacking Sensations on Amazon. But since I haven't used that set I'm not sure how similar they are to these.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton

This is another sweet and whimsical book by Sandra Boynton. Her board books are wonderful for babies of all ages! Any children's book that uses the word "cavort" on the first page is a winner in my mind! Boynton uses language beautifully but keeps the meter of the story very predictable and simple (a must for young children!) The premise of the story is that all of the other animals have fun and exciting activities that they like to do together, except the hippopotamus, who always seems to be left out. Finally, at the end of the book, the hippo is invited to join all of the other animals in their fun. But then we are introduced to a new friend who seems to have a hard time finding his place. Generally it's a great book that will keep young children coming back for more. Where to Buy: Boynton books are widely available. Most children's book sellers carry a variety of her stories.

Bounce & Giggle - Pig & Elephant by Fisher Price

The Bounce and Giggle toys by Fisher Price are predictably fun for most young children. The idea behind these toys is that if you push the nose of the animal, it starts to play music, bounce, and vibrate. Strengths: The toys are bright and colourful (there is also a cow in the series) and they are made of durable plastic. They're easy on batteries and produce a big effect when activated. They can help to promote different developmental skills, such as gross and fine motor skills, eye tracking, cause-effect, and hand-eye coordination. Weaknesses: It is difficult for children to activate they toys because the switches that are located on the end of each character's nose are sometimes hard to find and require a really firm push to make the toy work. Price: $13-$15. Where to Buy: These are not readily available through major toy outlets like Toys R Us. I have found them on Amazon (but quantities are limited) and eBay.

Hullabaloo by Cranium

This is a fantastic game that will help to get the whole family up and moving! It's designed to help children age 4+ learn new colours, shapes, and words. Children also learn to listen to instructions, such as "Spin to a purple square" or "Hop to a triangle." Strengths: This game is great for children even younger than the recommended age range. Two year olds might not be able to play the game independently, but they love the action and movement. It's also a wonderful game for children who have sensory issues and need to be in constant motion. It's also worth mentioning that the plastic game console is really sturdy and durable. Mine has been dropped, shaken, and jumped on and is still going strong. Weaknesses: Depending upon the number of children playing things can get a little bit out of control. The game moves quickly and sometimes children become really over stimulated by the music, movement, and direction. Price: $34. Where to Buy: This game is widely available. It's carried by stores like Toys R Us, WalMart, Target, and of course, Amazon. But most toy stores that have a game section should have this toy.

Changed by a Child by Barbara Gill

This wonderful book is a collection of daily reflections about what it is like to be the parent of a child with special needs. It is filled with stories from parents who obviously understand the challenges and rewards of raising a child considered by the rest of the world to be "disabled". This is an excellent resource for parents, but is also something that every person wanting to work with families and children with special needs of all types should read. It is a compelling and honest account of the struggles and joys faced by families every day.