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Puzzle Play! Simple Activity with Amazing Developmental Benefits for Your Child

Back to school means back to homework, activities, and hectic schedules. It is hard to carve out time out of busy schedules to just wind-down with your kids and simply enjoy each other’s company.

Puzzles can be a great avenue for spending quality time with your children while helping them develop psychologically, emotionally, physically and academically. You would be amazed at what you can learn about your child while working with him and observing him as he completes a puzzle – the way he approaches and solves problems (does he get frustrated or does he keep searching for the right piece?), fine motor development (can he easily fit the pieces together or is it a challenge?), etc. With younger children, it is easier to sit down with them for 10-15 minutes to work a puzzle. However, older children may require more time. Even if you don’t have 30 minutes or more to spare on some of the more complicated puzzles, you can designate a special spot in your house for puzzles where you can leave it and come back to it when you have time. You might also be surprised to see your child gravitate to the puzzle without you on occasion, as she learns perseverance and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment when the puzzle is completed.

According to the Child Development Institute, there are so many reasons why puzzles are important to the development of your child.

  1. Hand-eye coordination
  2. Manipulating the world around him/her
  3. Developing fine motor skills
  4. Developing gross motor skills for younger kids through stacking blocks and larger puzzles
  5. Problem solving
  6. Shape recognition
  7. Memory
  8. Setting small goals
  9. Achieving a goal and increasing self-confidence

You can also use puzzles to encourage learning and creativity. For instance, if you are constructing a puzzle such as the Melissa & Doug’s Rainforest Puzzle with your preschooler, you can talk about the different animals that you might find in a rainforest and create a story using these animals as characters.  You can also try to recreate the animals on paper using the puzzle as a guide to further enhance their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

A great puzzle to do with all ages (ages 3 and up), although it’s not your traditional puzzle, is Pattern Play by Mindware. This set comes with pattern cards where the child has to figure out how to recreate the pattern using the multi-shaped and multi-colored pieces. Or, for younger children (ages 3-4), they can create their own patterns by fitting the pieces together on the board. This is a wonderful set to leave out on a table – my kids always gravitated toward this set when I left it out and recreated one pattern at a time.

Rotate your puzzles often to keep kids interested and engaged while bonding with their favorite person – you!

About the Author

Shannon McAfee is a mom of three girls in Glen Allen, VA. She is the Founder and Owner of TOYconomy, an online toy rental service for children. She is a huge advocate of play to enhance child development and strengthen the bonds and communication with children.



Read and Play: Get Ready for School!

Theme-based play is a great way to educate children while having fun! Teachers use themes during school to reinforce concepts and parents can do the same at home. Reading is an important part of early child development and so is play time – so bringing the two together is a great way to create a fun and educational environment for your child. As summer comes to an end, it is a good time for parents to help kids prepare for the start of school. There are many books out there to help prepare children for school. Here are some suggestions:

Dinosaur Starts School

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

A Fine, Fine School

There are so many wonderful books out there and your local library is also a great resource to find school-themed books!

Once you have found a selection of books, you can start pairing them with toys and games to help reinforce the concept through fun and interactive play. A great play set to help your children get excited for school is the new Melissa & Doug Whittle World Wooden School Bus Set. This set can be especially helpful for Kindergartners who may be riding the bus for the first time. Kids can set up a bus route and go through the routine of picking up the students at each bus stop. You can also pair this play set with a dry erase board, chalk board, activity books, or paper and crayons so kids can teach lessons to their “students” after they drop them off at school.

Pairing good back-to-school books with this play set can be a fun way to get your kids ready for the upcoming school year!

Rent Children’s Toys

You can rent Melissa and Doug toys and other brands at http://www.toyconomy.com.

Children’s Books

Looking for the perfect book? Slimybookworm.com is a mom-owned online bookstore and book concierge service, a great resource for parents and grandparents who love reading time!

Top June Recalls: Children’s Sleepwear and Household Goods

Children’s Sleepwear and Household Goods Top June Recalls

The CPSC announced 24 recalls in June, of which, five (21%) were children’s products. Almost half (46%) were for Home & Garden products, and the rest were a mix of Sports & Recreation products as well as hardware, tools and building supply products.

Three of the five children’s product recalls were for sleepwear that failed to meet the federal flammability standards. One incident was reported, in which a 9-year old boy’s garment caught fire, causing severe burns to the front and back of both legs. In total, 228,000 pajamas, bottoms and sleep-sets were recalled in June.  Boys and Girls styles from sizes 12 months to Youth 14 are affected. Check yours and find out how to get a refund or exchange here: http://wemakeitsafer.com/Sleepwear-Loungewear-Recalls

The other two children’s product recalls were for baby and toddler gear. The first, an Evenflo convertible high chair,  was recalled because the tray can unexpectedly detach and allow a child to fall.  There were 18 reports of trays detaching, including 8 reports of children who fell.  The other was for Kolcraft strollers  that were recalled because a child or adult’s finger can get caught in the hinge mechanism, posing an amputation and laceration hazard.  There were 5 reported incidents at the time of recall, including 3 children whose fingertips were amputated and 2 adults whose fingers were smashed or lacerated.

The recall with the highest number of units in June was for a Flushmate toilet flushing system.  Over 2 million units of the flushing system, which have been installed in toilets since 1997, were recalled because it can burst, causing the tank lid to lift and the tank to shatter. This product caused the most incidents of property damage among June recalls, including 304 reports of the system bursting and 14 injuries at the time of recall.

Two other recalls topped 100,000 units.  880,000 units of Cryofreeze gel packs  were recalled because they can leak gel that can cause illness if ingested.  No incidents or injuries were reported at time of recall; however, the same product was previously recalled with lunch food carriers and children’s lunch boxes, and in one of those cases, it was reported  that two pets were injured or killed by ingesting the gel.

The last recall to top 100,000 units was also the recall with the highest number of incidents this month, Black & Decker Spacemaker coffeemakers.   The recall involved 159,000 coffeemaker units, which were recalled because the handle on the coffee pot can break, causing cuts and burns to the consumer.  At the time of recall, there were 1,276 reports of the handle breaking and 68 reports of burns and/or cuts. The number of incidents reported at the time of recall is statistically significant in terms of both incidents per units sold (0.8%) and the average number of incidents reported per month that the product was on the market (27.1), which average around 0.3% and 1.5 for CPSC recalls, respectively.

Other recalls in June included light fixtures, furniture, bikes, exercise equipment, spas, tools and industry supplies.  See all the latest recalls and register your product for recall alerts at WeMakeItSafer.com

About the Author

Jennifer Toney is CEO at WeMakeItSafer.com, a company that builds web applications to help consumers and retailers check and monitor products for safety recalls. After finding more than her fair share of recalled products in her own home, Jennifer founded WeMakeItSafer to help families and store owners identify dangerous products more easily. You can follow Jennifer on twitter at @Jennifer_Toney and WeMakeItSafer on facebook at http://facebook.com/WeMakeItSafer

Fun and Easy Craft for the Kids: Microwavable Puffy Paint

I was reading through a Family Fun magazine and found the Microwavable Puffy Paint craft idea. I tried it out with my 4-year-old and am happy to report that it was both fun and easy! Plus, it actually worked! I mixed the paints in small Tupperware containers and let my daughter put the food coloring in until it was the shade she liked. I laid down a garbage bag on our table and let her imagination go to work. She loved it and made a picture for each person in the family. The clean up was easy, and it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Here are the instructions if you’d like to try it with your little ones!

Microwavable Puffy Paint

Source: Family Fun (www.familyfun.com)

Mix for each color

1 Tbs. flour

1 Tbs. salt

1 Tbs. baking powder

2 Tbs. plus 1 or 2 tsp. of water

Several drops of food coloring

Stir until smooth. Apply paint to card stock (works the best) – all we had was construction paper (it worked fine but the edges curled up in the microwave). To dry and make the paint puff up, put the artwork in the microwave for 20 seconds. Keep adding 10 seconds at a time until dry.

Children’s Product Recalls Higher in May

Guest post by:

Jennifer Toney, CEO at WeMakeItSafer.com

Children’s Product Recalls Higher in May

The CPSC announced 29 recalls in May, four more than this time last year (25). Of the recalls issued, 13 or 45%, were children’s products. This is slightly higher than the overall average for children’s products, which is 43%.  Most of the remaining recalls were for products in the Home & Garden (8) and Sporting Goods (5) categories.

The biggest recall of the month, in terms of units, was for Kennedy Home Collection folding step stools ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Kennedy-Home-Collection-Folding-Step-Stools-Recall-422012-978565 ) with 1.6 million units involved.  The stools were recalled because they can break or collapse when in use, posing a fall hazard.  15 incidents were reported at the time of recall, resulting in three injuries.

Another children’s product, Safety 1st toilet locks and cabinet latches ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Safety-1st-Toilet-and-Cabinet-Locks-Recall-591275-235602 ), resulted in 388 incident reports, the highest in May.  868,000 units were recalled due to lock failure, allowing children unintended access to water and dangerous items.  One injury was reported.

A third children’s product recall involved a relatively high number of both units and incidents.  330,000 Tots in Mind crib tents ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Tots-in-Mind-Crib-Tents-Recall-228172-161506 ) and play yard tents ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Tots-in-Mind-Play-Yard-Tents-Recall-043518-552326 ) were recalled because they can pose an entrapment and strangulation hazard.  23 incidents were reported at the time of recall, resulting in four injuries, one of them a two year old boy who sustained a catastrophic brain injury when the crib tent affixed to his crib tent inverted and a broken rod trapped him at the neck.  The play yard tents were previously recalled ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Cozy-Indoor-Outdoor-Portable-Playard-Tents-Plus-Cabana-Kits-Recall-120331-904389 ) in July 2010, at which time four incidents had been reported, including one involving the death of a two-year old boy.  Consumers should not attempt to repair these products and should instead return them to the retailer.

Two trampolines were recalled in May.  One of them, a Sportspower BouncePro 14-foot trampoline ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Sportspower-BouncePro-14-foot-Trampolines-Recall-399921-274055 ) (92,000 units) included 17 reported incidents of the surrounding net breaking, resulting  in 11 injuries, the highest number of reported injuries for any recall in May.   The other was for a small, First Fitness “Kid’s First Trampoline”  ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/First-Fitness-Trampolines-with-Handlebars-Recall-341991-833113 ) recalled by Aqua-Leisure.  There had been four reported incidents of the handlebar breaking but no injuries had been reported at the time of recall.

One recall, the Banzai inflatable pool slide ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Banzai-Inflatable-Pool-Slides-Recall-456322-573971 ) (21,000 units), reported three severe injuries, including one that resulted in a 24-year old man being paralyzed, and another that resulted in the death of a 29-year old woman .  The slides were recalled because they can deflate, allowing a user to hit the ground underneath the slide. The slides are also unstable and carry inadequate warnings and instructions.  Consumers should immediately stop using the slides and return them to Walmart or Toys R Us for a full refund.

One Home & Garden recall had a high number of incidents, glass sauté pan lids ( http://wemakeitsafer.com/Glass-Lid-Sold-with-Circulon-Cookware-Set-Recall-785275-556084 ) sold with Circulon Cookware sets.  There were 65 reports of broken or shattered lids.  No injuries were reported.

Other children’s recalls included bassinets, car seats, jackets and sweatshirts.  Recalls in other categories included furniture, bicycle parts, climbing gear and more.

Review all of the Latest Recalls, or just the latest Children’s Product Recalls at WeMakeItSafer.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Toney is CEO at WeMakeItSafer.com, a company that builds web applications to help consumers and retailers check and monitor products for safety recalls. After finding more than her fair share of recalled products in her own home, Jennifer founded WeMakeItSafer to help families and store owners identify dangerous products more easily. You can follow Jennifer on twitter at @Jennifer_Toney and WeMakeItSafer on facebook at http://facebook.com/WeMakeItSafer

TOYplay Tips: ZOOB!

This weekend I was bored, and remembered that my Mom brought home a new toy called Zoob. When I opened the box, I saw many different colored and shaped pieces that looked like golf balls. I started snapping all of the pieces together right away.

Zoob comes with 5 different guides that include many tips and creations that you can build. I decided to look through all the pictures in the first guide and made the glasses from yellow, gray, green, blue, and red pieces. The next thing you know, my 6-year-old brother walked in, and I helped him to make a pair of glasses too. He also had made a cellphone completely by himself. After that, I started snapping random pieces together, and built some binoculars. My dad took our picture wearing our new sunglasses.

The next day, I looked through Guidebook 3 which has combinations that show you little tricks to make your creations look more interesting. The “fireman’s weave” looks like a compass. Another combination called the “full swirl” is made from 7 red connectors and fits on your wrist. Finally, the “bending square” twists and turns in your hands. There are so many creations to choose from and I wanted to think outside of the box so I asked my dad if we could build the Washington Monument.

I am a girl, eight and a half years old, in third grade, but only for 2 more weeks! Zoob connectors are a really fun toy. They snap together quickly and allow you to build things fast. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did!

Developmental Areas: Fine motor skills, creative play, finger dexterity

Recommended Age : 6+ years

Playtime: Endless

Tested and Reviewed by: Addie Brooksbank, Age 8

Extension activities:
1). Use the pieces to practice patterns and sequencing
2). Memory game: create a design using different colors and shapes. Let the child study the design then have him close his eyes. While his eyes are closed, remove one piece. See if he can remember the color of the piece that was removed.
3). Re-create: create a simple design with the pieces. Let the child spend a few minutes studying the design. Give the child the same pieces and see if she can re-create your design by memory.

Menu Ideas: Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Enjoy this yummy pork tenderloin recipe! This is one of my kids’ favorite meals. They keep coming back for more and particularly enjoy the yummy sauce on the side!

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce

2 Tbsp. Hoisin Sauce (chinese barbecue sauce)

2 Tbs. Dry Sherry

1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp. Oil

1 /2 Tsp. Honey

1/2 Tsp. Garlic Powder

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

2 -3 Lbs. Pork Tenderloin or Pork Chops

Mix together all ingredients. Pour over pork and marinate in refrigerator for 6 – 8 hours. Remove from marinade and cook over hot grill. Baste with remaining marinade as cooking.

*** Feel free to double or triple the marinade recipe. Use half to marinate pork and reserve the other half for later. Approximately, 10 -15 minutes before the pork is ready, heat up the reserved marinade in a small sauce-pan over low heat. Use as a dipping sauce for the pork.

Author: Jeanne Brooksbank, mom of 3 and TOYmember Services Manager at TOYconomy