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How to Choose The Best Toy

Looking for the Best Toy?

 Customers sometimes ask me to recommend the best toy for their child or grandchild, particularly if the child has a special need. Many begin the conversation by sharing a diagnosis. While valuable, this information only addresses one aspect of who the child is. To answer the question, we need to think beyond gender, age, development, or disability. That’s because we all have preferences, and those make all the difference.

We Buy What Appeals to Us

 Just think about ourselves. When we’re shopping, we bring our preferences with us. Think about a sweater. I might find one that seems perfect in every way, except one. The fiber, style, and fit are exquisite. The price, the lowest it’s ever been. The only drawback is the color. It’s a lovely color and the height of fashion, but it isn’t one that makes me look my best. Perhaps I could convince myself it’s not all that bad. In fact, it has much to offer, considering the price. Who doesn’t appreciate a bargain?  And it will keep me warm. That’s the main reason for buying a sweater, right? Yes, but… And here’s the reality in that three letter word. I’d end up not wearing that sweater, except if I was freezing and had absolutely nothing else to keep me warm. What we buy has to appeal to us if we’re to use and enjoy our purchase.

Kids Choose Toys That Appeal to Their Sense of Play

 Children are the same. A toy has to appeal to a kid before she’ll give it her attention. Something about the toy has to invite play, and once the child begins playing, the toy has to prove its worth. The child decides if it merits her time, if the toy offers enough value to hold her interest. Young children like repetition. That’s how they develop skills. Their toys need to be safe, well constructed, and durable, able to stand up to persistent play. Being easy to clean counts too.

Kids Learn Through Play        Array of flannel covered crinkle paper for babies

 Kids also like to explore and discover. Through play, infants begin to understand cause and effect and learn about their environment. Small enough for tiny fingers to grasp, Baby Paper is made of soft flannel with an inner layer of crinkle fabric that makes the sound of paper being crumpled when touched. Babies typically find that appealing and repeat the action that produced the original sound, learning through repetition about cause and effect, about their ability to make something happen.

Observe Kids at Play Before Shopping For Toys

 We make our best decisions when we’ve observed the recipient at play and know her preferences. When choosing toys, select from those you think will appeal most to the child and mesh best with her current abilities, emerging skills, and developmental goals. This is true for all children, with or without special needs. Toys are tools for play. When a child finds a toy intriguing and engages in play, learning occurs naturally and joyfully.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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How Play Develops Autonomy

Ever think about how we acquire the skills we need for independent living? Or ponder how developing these skills begins with play? Manipulating toys develops fine motor skills, visual awareness, focus, tracking and eye-hand coordination. Independent dressing requires all these skills. Fastening and unfastening involve motor control and strength. Consider buttons, snaps, Velcro, and zippers. Shoes need lacing and tying, hook and loop fasteners not withstanding. Belts must be threaded through loops. And don’t forget buckles and bows.

From an infant grasping and scrunching Baby Paper to a pre-schooler building with blocks, manipulating latches on Peekaboo Lock Boxes, moving beads along a wire maze or fitting pieces of a puzzle together, cause and effect, cognition and visual skills, fingers and hands are steadily developing through play.

Drawing, printing, and reading involve visual tracking, controlling eye movements, eye-hand coordination, finger strength and muscle control. Manipulative toys teach cause and effect, introduce basic math and science, and encourage creativity and problem solving skills. Block play is fundamental, teaching order and prediction, encouraging open-ended play that leads to learning about gravity, weight, balance, proportion, symmetry and asymmetry and developing spatial awareness. Children plan, anticipate and solve problems as they translate ideas into structures. Honing these skills through play prepares children for taking on other challenges with confidence.

Manipulative play can be solitary or shared. Shared play can be intergenerational or with peers. Social interaction teaches valuable life lessons too – collaboration and cooperation, flexibility and compromise, boundary setting and mutual respect. Learning to communicate effectively and listen, comprehend and respond respectfully is essential.

Value play and those who play, as the benefits include skill development and autonomy. Engage them in developing and carrying out a plan to maintain their play space. While easier said than done, firmly and consistently insisting that kids maintain their space and take care of their toys teaches lessons in following instructions, taking responsibility and cooperation that ultimately leads to successful independent living.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play


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What Happens If…?

What happens if ? I do this, that, or something else altogether? That’s a question children answer through play. Building toys provide endless opportunities to learn cause and effect. Inviting both open-ended and structured play, these toys are essential early childhood skill builders. Cognitive, language, and fine motor skills develop through interacting with various materials in multiple ways. Eye-hand coordination and spatial awareness emerge as children take apart and put together, imagine and build. Block play, from stacking a column of cubes to laying out an elaborate city scape, requires devising a plan and solving problem as they arise and fosters creativity and imaginative play.

Squeezable, embossed, soft plastic blocks

Blocks are essential early childhood toys. Block play begins in infancy with soft, lightweight, easy to grasp blocks. One Two Squeeze Blocks, 10 blocks hand-sculpted on every side with raised images, provide maximum tactile exploration and language learning. Children squeeze and squeak, stack and knock down, experiencing “what happens if…,” and learning cause and effect. Each two-inch cube is an ideal size for tiny hands to grip. One Two Squeeze Blocks also float, adding another dimension to water play.



wooden blocks with plug and dowel connectors

Stack & Play, 18 wooden blocks in bright colors and varying shapes, expands play for toddlers. Stacking without unintentionally knocking off the previously stacked block is challenging. Stack & Play blocks, with their uniform dowel and plug connectors that fit together easily, reduce frustration and make block play more rewarding.



PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play


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The Value of Impulse Toys

What is an impulse toy? Our answer is those irresistible little toys that seem to call our name, saying “play with me.” More affordable than their bigger, more complex counterparts, these smaller, tactile fidget toys delight children while enhancing their development. Impulse toys make ideal party favors, gift toppers, stocking stuffers and small holiday gifts.

PlayopolisToys offers impulse toys that provide developmental benefits including re-enforcing cause and effect, enhancing fine motor development, and encouraging creative thinking.  Since all are kid-powered, all invite play and reward engagement.

Consider Slinky Pop Toobs. Often a simple manipulative toy sparks amazingly inventive play. Creative thinking blossoms when kids play with Pop Toobs. Blow into a Pop Toob, and it’s a horn. Link end to end, and the flexible tubes become a fire hose. I’ve seen preschoolers hold one end to an outdoor faucet and watch as the water ran through their extended Pop Toobs hose.

Pop Toobs strengthen muscles involved in two-handed activities and provide auditory, visual, and tactile feedback. Simple accordion tubes pull apart–up to 29″L–and scrunch back to 8 1/2″L, bend, snap together, and pull apart. Bend one into a circle, snap the ends together and wear as a crown or a bracelet. Or toss and see how far it flies. Connect one to another and then another. How many can you connect? How long is the chain when all the toobs are pressed together? When they’re pulled out as far as each will go? Play and learn with tactile fidget toys.


 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play