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Sharing What We Learn From You

Because children learn while playing, our goal is to offer toys that invite open-ended play and encourage self-directed learning among all citizens of play. Hearing how much your child delights in playing with something you purchased from PlayopolisToys makes our hearts sing. We like that feeling. If something does not meet your expectations, we need to know. We strive to build positive relationships and provide responsive customer service. We’re here to work with you.

We want every child to experience the joys of play and to learn to play comfortably with others. Inclusive play brings children of varying abilities together, fostering awareness and respect for differences. When you share an alternative or adaptive use for a toy we sell, you create a ripple effect reaching farther than you know. We appreciate you making the effort and like sharing what we’ve learned. Let’s build a community of shared ideas and information.

Remember the expression “I’ll be there with bells on?” Except for jingle bells threaded onto the laces of toddler’s shoes, I’ve never seen anyone show up anywhere with bells on. Have you? Oops, I think I’m dating myself by mentioning laces on little kids’ shoes.

boy wearing jingle band crown

 

That could change with Jingle Band, four large sleigh bells attached securely to a colorful web band with Velcro closures. The adjustable band makes attaching around wrists or ankles simple, and as Anne Ward found, multiple bands joined end to end easily encircle a head. She reports her grandson “loves to jingle by shaking his head (no!).”

An orientation and mobility teacher attaches one just above the tip of the cane for beginning cane users. Let’s celebrate all the ways Jingle Band enlivens spirits with their joyful jingles. And please keep those ideas coming. Everyone has something valuable to share.

 

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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When Crafting with Kids: Let ‘em Follow Their Muse

kidscrafting

Along with Music in Our Schools, March is National Craft Month. That’s according to the Craft & Hobby Association which, in 1994, launched this celebration of all objects handmade to encourage people to start crafting and discover its myriad benefits. There’s method in their madness of course. The more crafters, the greater the demand for supplies, but that doesn’t negate the value of their campaign.

A search of Pinterest boards suggests that crafting, in its countless forms, is alive and well among adults and children alike. The creativity of contributors is impressive. We’ve gathered an array of ideas on our Creative Activities board. Another, DIY Art Supplies, not only helps save money, it also expands our creativity.

Most children enjoy arts and crafts experiences when we adults give them freedom of expression. The benefits derive primarily from the process, even when the plan is to produce a product. Decades ago, when our son was in “the two year old yard,” the master teacher decided to involve the kiddos in creating an end-of-the-year gift for their parents.

She set out to photograph each child in a favorite activity. She had explained her plan to the children and everyone knew what was up. They also knew they’d be painting an unfinished wood block and gluing their picture on it. The blocks were thick enough to be free-standing and large enough to insure the picture did not cover their decorations . Each child had creative license.

Our son was captivated by firefighters. Never missed an open house at the fire station and always wore a firefighter helmet. On “picture day,” he was decked out in a fire helmet pretending to put out a fire with a garden hose. He was too busy fighting fires to be bothered posing. Smiling good-naturedly he insisted he’d spray her if she didn’t move away from the fire and let him do his job. He didn’t-thankfully-spray her. Neither did he stand still long enough for her to get him centered in the view finder. The picture is a treasure nonetheless.

His block remained unembellished. He liked it that way, plain except for two knots that made it interesting to him. That’s how he liked it then, and how he likes it now. Happily his teachers respected his desires. His actions might have been interpreted as uncooperative, as he was insistent, even unyielding, in his firm resolve to create his end-of-the-year gift the way he envisioned it. That his teachers understood the importance of self-expression and of respecting his process rather than imposing their vision speaks volumes.

Such a non-judgmental response empowers rather than diminishes. Marching to the sound of a different drummer while exploring possibilities and processes is itself an act of creativity and a demonstration of self-confidence. Art is subjective. Celebrate the process wherever it leads. As one four year girl explained, “art isn’t about making mistakes. Art is about using your mistakes to make something even cooler.” Amen. You go, girl! We would do well to adopt her attitude and make it a mantra for our lives.  Everyday. In every way. Just imagine the transformation.

Every creative undertaking is a process, and processes often take us on detours. We have expectations, but no guarantee of the anticipated outcome. When our best efforts fall short of what we envision, we feel frustrated. With freedom to explore other avenues and a supportive environment, kids and adults alike can “shift gears” more readily and use the knowledge gained “to make something even cooler.” Kiddos learn while crafting. Our job is to support their explorations, to honor the process. And keep our judgments to ourselves.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Music Belongs in School

We’ve planned our birthday celebrations for Dr. Seuss and chosen the books we’ll read at Read Across America events. What’s next? Music in Our Schools Month, a time to celebrate the benefits of music. Sadly not all schools offer music. Those that do are providing valuable learning opportunities. What better time to advocate for music throughout your school district than during Music in Our Schools Month?

I remember weekly music instruction in fourth and fifth grades. We listened to classical music and learned about composers, the orchestra, its instruments, musicians, and conductor. Simultaneously Leonard Bernstein, the first American-born conductor and musical director of the New York Philharmonic, was combining his passion for music and flair for teaching to create a series of Young People’s Concerts. Those televised concerts provided an introduction to classical music for children far from the storied walls of any concert hall. His passion for music and joy in sharing his enthusiasm were riveting. I’ve never forgotten the experience. And likely none of us would have experienced Young People’s Concerts without the urging of our music teacher. Music in Our Schools opens doors.

Every child in our music class also learned to play a Fitchhorn Song Flute, which the box hails as “a real musical instrument.” I found mine stored among other childhood treasures while sorting through boxes of memorabilia at my parents’ home. That flute set off a flood of memories that insured its way into the keepsakes box. Someday I may play that flute “for old times sake.”

But I digress. The question is, what did those flutes teach us? We learned to listen and to follow non-verbal cues from our teacher/conductor. We developed spatial awareness and fine motor skills, learned to breathe properly, concentrate, focus, and memorize. We learned to be patient while waiting our turn and to stay vigilant lest we miss our cue to play. We learned to remain calm when someone missed a note and to pick up quickly and move on, when we did. Add social skills and composure to the skill-building. In summary, let’s say playing even a simple musical instrument develops cognitive, motor, and social skills and can be fun.

We respond emotionally to music. Playwright William Congreve, writing in the eighteenth century, declared “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.” Music can indeed soothe. Invigorate. Even drive us to distraction. Just ask any parent.

Most of us would agree that music not only enriches our lives but also helps us develop skills needed for success in school and beyond. Music deserves a place in our schools. During Music in Our Schools Month, let’s celebrate the schools with music and work with those without to add this powerful learning tool.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Read Across America

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Looking forward to Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2? Then grab your favorite Seuss book and Read Across America. This annual project of NEA, National Education Association, inspires reading by celebrating America’s most popular children’s book author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss.  NEA advocates for quality public schools for all children and stresses reading as essential to success in school and beyond.

NEA encourages reading aloud. On Read Across America Day, participating schools invite members of their community to read to a class. I am looking forward to my first experience. I get to choose the book I’ll read. Since Read Across America ties in with Dr. Seuss’s birthday, any one of his books would be an obvious choice. What Pet Should I Get?, published in 2015, more than 50 years after it was written, would likely add a new Dr. Seuss book to the children’s  favorite titles.

But then my list of beloved children’s books spans four decades. When our 40 year old son out grew children’s books, I couldn’t resist all the new ones and bought my favorites. Choosing one book will be challenging. Luckily Read Across America Day is an annual event.

Local organizations encourage members to volunteer to read at a school of their choosing. This year for the first time realtors organized Realtors Read Across Pasadena and are participating in Read Across America Day at elementary schools throughout the district.

We all know the importance of reading aloud to our children from birth. Once the child begins reading, keep the tradition alive. Taking turns preserves the tradition of reading aloud together and celebrates the accomplishments of the new reader without being overwhelming. With experience, the child will become more proficient and want to read more. 

Some families enjoy reading aloud. Something to keep in mind for Screen-Free Week. Not everyone will be thrilled, but inviting each family member to recommend a book, discussing recommendations non-judgmentally, and reaching consensus is in itself a valuable exercise. Everyone benefits from opportunities to articulate ideas, listen – really listen without interrupting, and find common ground.

Special occasions are ideal for reading aloud. We conclude Christmas dinner with a favorite children’s book. Whoever reads gets to choose the book. Most often that’s our son who delights in bringing just the right voice to Cajun Night Before Christmas.

While researching Read Across America, I learned about therapy dogs specially trained to listen while children read aloud. These nonjudgmental canines, known as Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.), help children improve their literacy skills and their self-esteem. 

In the absence of R.E.A.D, a pet or even a stuffed animal provides a nonjudgmental listener that makes reading aloud safe. We learn best when relaxed and free of criticism. The cause and effect is reading aloud improves literacy, and that boosts self-esteem.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Celebrating Dr. Seuss

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Let’s plan a celebration in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on 2 March. What better way to honor this best-selling author and illustrator of children’s books than by re-reading our favorites? That’s a gift to ourselves. Although classified as children’s books, his topics speak to all ages through playful language and whimsical characters. Rare is the child or adult who doesn’t have a favorite Dr. Seuss book. What’s yours?

Dr. Seuss also wrote and illustrated books for adults. You’re Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children, published in 1986, was the number one non-fiction hardcover book among The New York Times Best-Sellers for over a year. Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, the last book published during his lifetime, followed in 1990, and reached number one among fiction hardcover books. This is my all-time favorite gift for graduates. And anyone else embarking on a new adventure, whether life after divorce or a new career. Dr. Seuss reminds us, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

Dr. Seuss has the rare distinction of having been number one on The New York Times Best-Sellers List for both nonfiction and fiction. Not bad for someone whose first children’s book was rejected by 27 publishers before being picked up by Vanguard Press. And that was happenstance. According to Christopher Klein, author of “Nine Things You May Not Know About Dr. Seuss”, he was so dejected by the string of rejections that he’d decided to burn the manuscript. Happily, however, he had a chance encounter with a friend from Dartmouth College, Mike McClintock, who had that morning begun working as an editor in the children’s division at Vanguard Press. A contract was signed that same day. And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street was published in 1937. Of that turn of events, Dr. Seuss said afterward, “If I had been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry-cleaning business today.” What a loss that would have been for generations of us who delight in the rhymes, whimsy, and wisdom of his books.

How shall we celebrate this occasion? Reading our favorite Dr. Seuss books of course! But that’s just for starters. We could add pureed broccoli as we scramble eggs and eat green eggs and ham. Or cut fish shapes from bread and make ourselves a snack of one fish two fish. Hmm, how could we make red fish blue fish? 

Searching the internet turns up more ideas than there are whos in Whoville, and Dr. Seuss Official Site,  is an ideal place to start. Parents and other educators will find a wealth of information and ideas. From there Hats Off to Dr. Seuss’s Birthday leads to birthday activities, crafts, and recipes. With all the choices, the festivities could last a week. You could follow Hats Off to Hats with a Dr. Seuss Photo Booth, sip Pink Ink Yink and snack on The Cat’s Hat Kabobs and One Fish Two Fish Treats. Play Clover, Clover, Who’s Got the Clover?, a Seussational party game. You’ll also find instructions for making The Lorax Planter, an activity ideal for Earth Day, and a recipe for Gooey Oobleck, a sensory play staple. The possibilities are plentiful, fun, and adaptable. Now’s the time to start organizing your best ever Dr. Seuss birthday celebration. Enjoy!

Dr. Seuss bannwer

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

 

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Play and Learn Dough

Nesting, stacking, and shape sorting contribute to a child’s understanding of attributes, those characteristics that define objects, from color, size, and shape to auditory, tactile, and visual. These play experiences develop eye-hand coordination, fine motor, cognitive, and language skills. So does play dough. And the play is open-ended and creative.

little boy and play dough

Working with play dough strengthens hand muscles and develops fine motor skills. Consider all the ways a child can manipulate dough using only her hands: forming a ball or a brick, rolling into a rope, smooshing, squeezing, squishing and squooshing, flattening, patting, poking, pounding, and tearing.

Tools introduce more ways to play and further develop fine motor skills. Consider rolling pins, both smooth and patterned, plastic knives, pizza cutters, and scissors, garlic presses, cookie cutters and presses. Each tool works differently, engaging and strengthening different hand muscles. Incorporating new ways to play enhances cognitive and language development.

Adding popsicle sticks, plastic straws, golf tees and pegs, found objects from a nature walk, from acorn tops and small pine cones to leaves and twigs, encourages creative explorations. Seashells, pebbles, both natural and glass ones, and bottle caps press easily into dough and invite arranging into patterns or outlines of familiar objects. Provide the provocation, step back and watch. You’ll be amazed.

One of the joys of play dough is its centering effect. Simply manipulating a ball of dough relieves stress, calming the mind and soothing the body. Play dough is beneficial to all ages. Keeping a supply on hand means being able to quickly respond to meltdowns. Kneading dough aids self regulation and focus.

Making your own play dough is easy and allows for variations in color, scent, and texture. “Variety is the spice of life,” as the saying goes, and children benefit from similar but different experiences.

You’ll find a world of choices, including gluten free, by searching recipes for making play dough, but here’s the one I learned as a parent at Pacific Oaks Children’s School decades ago. The cream of tartar is the secret to its longevity. Enjoy!

Cooked Play Dough

1     cup flour

1/2  cup salt

1     cup water

Add food coloring to water.

For more vivid colors and scent, add Kool Aid.

1     Tablespoon vegetable oil

2     teaspoons cream of tartar

Mix ingredients and heat in saucepan until ball forms.

Stored in an airtight container this dough lasts months.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Jingle Band Fosters Inclusion

Because children learn while playing, our goal is to offer toys that invite open-ended play and encourage self-directed learning among all citizens of play. Hearing how much your child delights in playing with something you purchased from PlayopolisToys makes our hearts sing. We like that feeling. If something does not meet your expectations, we need to know. We strive to build positive relationships and provide responsive customer service. We’re here to work with you.

We want every child to experience the joys of play and to learn to play comfortably with others. Inclusive play brings children of varying abilities together, fostering acceptance and respect for differences. When you share an alternative or adaptive use for a toy we sell, you create a ripple effect reaching farther than you know. We appreciate you making the effort and like sharing what we’ve learned. Let’s build a community of shared ideas and information.

Remember the expression “I’ll be there with bells on?” Except for jingle bells threaded onto the laces of toddler’s shoes, I’ve never seen anyone show up anywhere with bells on. Have you? Oops, I think I’m dating myself by mentioning laces on little kids’ shoes.

boy wearing jingle band crownThat could change with Jingle Band, four large sleigh bells attached securely to a colorful web band with Velcro closures. The adjustable band makes attaching around wrists or ankles simple, and as Anne Ward found, multiple bands joined end to end easily encircle a head. She reports her grandson “loves to jingle by shaking his head (no!).”

An orientation and mobility teacher attaches one just above the tip of the cane for beginning cane users. Let’s celebrate all the ways Jingle Bands enliven spirits with their joyful jingles. And please keep those ideas coming.

 

 

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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How to Make Coloring Inclusive

Children build skills while playing. Think cause and effect, eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor, cognitive, language, problem solving, social and more. PlayopolisToys sells toys that engage the senses and invite open-ended, child directed play.

Children learn while playing, each at his or her own pace. They explore what’s at hand, whether a puddle of muddy water after a rain or blocks. They devise, execute, assess, and adapt their plans based upon their experiences. When playing with others, children sharpen their social skills, learn to communicate, negotiate, and cooperate.

Because play builds bridges among children with diverse abilities, PlayopolisToys sells toys that appeal to and work well for a wide range of abilities and preferences. Inclusive play reduces social isolation among children with disabilities and raises awareness and acceptance of individual differences.

A classic childhood activity for enhancing fine motor skills is coloring. Raised line drawings for coloringColorSENSEation features 12 raised line drawings perfect for use with crayons, markers, watercolor, or tempera paints. Each spiral-bound book includes the printed word and Braille for each design, along with a plastic page protector. Raised lines enhance spatial awareness and give structure. Beneficial to both children and adults, ColorSensation develops eye-hand coordination, fine motor, cognitive, language, color concept, and spatial awareness skills, provides visual and tactile stimulation, and enhances social engagement. Ideal for the visually-impaired, these spiral bound coloring books benefit anyone working to develop fine motor control or who simply learns best through touch. With ColorSENSEation coloring becomes inclusive and meaningful for a wider audience.

 

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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PlayopolisToys Celebrates Inclusive Play

kids + Magformers

 

Play is any activity that gives us pleasure and so captures our attention that we become one with the process. The act of playing gives us a sense of well-being and accomplishment. Our worries melt away, and we’re enriched by the experience.

Play is essential. Interacting with toys that invite open-ended, self-directed play, children develop skills and learn at their own pace. Play also builds bridges among children with different abilities. PlayopolisToys values inclusive play and sells developmental, distraction, and sensory toys that meet the diverse needs of all Citizens of Play.

Explore PlayopolisToys. You’ll find kid-approved toys endorsed by professionals and parents alike for their proven benefits.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Welcome to PlayopolisToys.com

PlayopolisToys box logo

PlayopolisToys grows at the intersection of play and “polis,” the city states of ancient Greece, independent and self-governing, a situation Greeks thought ideal. Another “polis”, metropolis, a big place, one brimming with opportunities and challenges. Play, ideally self-directed and open-ended, is big in the life of children.

Children follow their interests, making use of whatever is at hand. Opportunities present themselves. Challenges arise. Children plan and follow through; when hurdles appear, they re-assess and figure out a solution. Playing is how children learn. Children are citizens of play.

While play does not always involve toys, engaging toys make a big difference in the quality of a child’s experiences. PlayopolisToys values children by selling toys that invite play and enhance emerging skills. We all know children learn best when they’re absorbed in play.

Because we’re not a brick-and-mortar store, we rarely experience the pleasures of attaching a face to a name and getting to know our customers. Working with local programs and exhibiting at conferences happily give us important face-to-face contact that fosters mutual respect and a sharing of information and ideas that enriches relationships. With the launch of our new website, all of us will have more ways of engaging. We invite you to connect with us, to share your thoughts about the toys we sell and offer helpful tips for parents and professionals on the benefits of your favorites. And please let us know what we can do to make your shopping experience better.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play