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TOYplay Tips: KEVA Contraptions 50 Plank Set

As soon as the box from Toyconomy arrived, my three-year-old daughter was eager to open it, since “It’s a package for me!” We immediately got out the Keva Contraptions set and got to work building ramps for the two balls that are included in the package.

Keva planks are familiar to my daughter, since they have thousands of them at our local science museum. Her grandparents also have a bunch they bought after visiting that museum with us. So she is familiar with building with the planks, which is an activity that is fun for all ages. My 80-year-old grandmother who is recovering from a stroke had a great time building towers with them with my daughter on a recent visit.

But the Keva Contraptions set is a little different, since it includes two balls and the idea is to make ramps for them to travel down, so that was a new, exciting concept. She immediately started building a tower just like she always builds and then dropped the balls down inside — the way she built the tower didn’t allow any room for the balls to roll out of the tower, so we talked about the need to create a gap at the bottom, and I used the included idea guide to show her a way they did that.

She said “Oh, oh, oh. Let’s try that!” and started again. After successfully making a tower with a gap at the bottom, she grabbed the idea guide and pointed to a ramp and said “Let’s make that!” So we set to work building a ramp together.

Then we tried to put tunnels at the top and bottom of it which took a few tries to get it just right, but we succeeded after a few frustrated tears. We talked about how we have to just keep trying, and she said “Oh yeah, I can do that! I will just try again!” I love the Keva planks for that — they are remarkably easy to build with so frustration doesn’t happen too often, and when a structure does fall down, it just creates an opportunity to practice and learn perseverance. After building a few other ramps, she said “Let’s just build a tower like I always do” and we built a few different towers with the planks. Then she and Daddy built a house with two different staircases. She played with it for well over an hour until it was bedtime.

This morning when she woke up, the first thing she ran for was the Keva Contraptions set and just started building towers with the planks on her own. I think the ramp concept might be better for kids a little older than her, as they do require a little bit more precision than she usually has with her buildings. But since all Keva planks are exactly the same size, shape, and weight, kids can use this set to build whatever they like, just as my daughter did.

The included balls seem to be basically ping-pong balls, so when we are at the grandparents’ house next week, I’m going to test my theory and see if we can build ramps with the planks and just use ping-pong balls with them. I would recommend the Keva planks on their own or this particular set for kids of all ages — the planks are so easy to build with for kids, and fun to try to create more difficult structures (like spirals!) for adults, so it’s a fun family activity where no one gets bored.

I am planning to buy a set of Keva planks, so we have plenty on hand for building — they truly are incredible and something I know we will all use for years and years to come.

Developmental Areas: Fine motor skills, cause and effect,spatial reasoning, critical thinking skills, creative play

Recommended Age : 7+ years (may be appropriate for younger children ages 3+ depending on skill level and interest – planks are not a choking hazard)

Playtime:  30 minutes+

Tested and Reviewed by: Cara (mom), 3-year-old daughter, and grandmother


TOYplay Tip: Crosswise by Mindware

Friday night is the perfect time for family game night. This past week we decided to try out a new game called Crosswise. The box says that “Crosswise is the game that has players thinking in all different directions.”

Thinking in different directions is exactly what it did. Crosswise is a fast paced game that uses a mixture of shape tiles and action tiles to create high-scoring color combinations in horizontal or vertical rows. You must think ahead as every tile that you play might score points for the other team. My kids picked the concept up very quickly, however my husband was a bit frustrated, in the beginning, as you definitely have to remember which axis your team is playing on (horizontal or vertical).

As the game progressed, we were able to invent new strategies to win. It was fun to see new ideas develop, and hear a little table talk, as every move can take your team in an entirely new direction. Different combinations of multiple shapes can earn you points, but watch out as your opponent might play an action tile which lets them move tiles around the board unexpectedly. Crosswise only takes about 20 minutes to play, which is great, as the attention span of my younger children is often short.

There are 6 different colored shape tiles, so the next day I used them with my 5-year-old for patterning and sequencing exercises.

This game is perfect for 2 – 4 players and leaves everyone thinking about their opponent’s strategy.

Developmental areas: Strategic thinking, patterning, sequencing.

Recommended ages: 4 and up

Playing Time per Game: Less than 20 minutes

Extension Activities: use the game pieces to work on patterning and sequencing skills

Tested and review written by:

Jeanne Brooksbank, and 5, 8 and 11-year-old children

TOYMembers – A New and Revolutionary Way to Rent, Save, Play and Live Clutter-Free!

Get what you want, when you want it, with maximum savings and flexibility

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – September 16, 2011 – TOYconomy (www.TOYconomy.com), an online toy rental store, premiers a brand new membership program, TOYMembers!

TOYMembers pay a low monthly fee for access to member benefits and perks, including free shipping, 50% off rental fees, no minimums, restrictions, or due dates, a Scout storage tote for storing toys, additional discounts on other family-friendly products and services, and much more!

TOYconomy has been compared to a “Netflix for toys” type service. “TOYconomy is a rental service. However, our service model is very different than “Netflix”. TOYMembers pay a low monthly fee for access to benefits. There is no limit to the number of products they can order at any given time. Our rental options allow customers to choose what they want, when they want it, instead of simply adding products to a wish list and receiving whatever is available. We believe it is important for parents to be able to match products to their child’s specific needs and interests at the time they order. Additionally, we offer a 30-day, no commitment rental option, in addition to our TOYMember program. We have tried to create the most flexible service possible while maximizing savings for our customers. So far, the response has been very positive,” said Mrs. McAfee, Founder and Owner.

New TOYMembers only pay $1.00 for their first month of membership and still have access to all of the member benefits and perks. “It’s a great way to try the TOYMember program to see if it is a service that fits your needs. We believe that it is one you’ll want to continue!” said Mrs. McAfee.

You can find all of TOYconomy’s toy rentals and more information at http://www.TOYconomy.com.


About TOYconomy

TOYconomy is an online toy rental and exchange program that can help you significantly decrease toy clutter and help you save money and resources by being more selective about the toys you choose. Founded and established in 2010 by a mother of three in Richmond, VA, TOYconomy’s mission is to help you keep your kids happy and healthy without having to burn big bucks.

TOYconomy is available at http://www.TOYconomy.com/.

Contact Information:

Shannon McAfee
804 364 8697

Sensitive Periods in Early Child Development: Refinement of Senses

Encourages auditory development from 18 months up

This sensitive period is consistent throughout a child’s early years from birth to 5 or 6 years of age. It can however be broken down more specifically into the following approximate ages.

  • Manipulating of small objects between 1 to 3 years of age
  • Exploration of the senses between 2 ½ to 3 years of age
  • Classification of objects between the ages of 2 ½ to 6 years

Sensory refinement is a natural part of your child’s development as the brain gradually begins to distinguish between various sensory stimuli. The Montessori approach accentuates such stimuli through its prepared environment of numerous materials that not only capture interest in children but also encourage the stimulation of the five senses. These materials in a Montessori setting are categorized as Sensorial. From knobbed cylinders to solid geometric shapes, these sensorial materials are toys and objects that have definite sensory objectives for children when introduced at different age groups.

An efficient way to nurture your little one’s growing brain is to keep him/her exposed repeatedly to materials that meet sensory objectives. This way, by the end of this sensitive period around the age of 4 or 5, your child would be able to successfully develop sensitivity to the things in his/her environment that are more mentally significant than others. Other than specific Montessori materials used in schools, you will be glad to know that there are a number of things you can look out for when picking out toys for the home.

  • Toys that appeal visually – through colors, illustrations and graphics
  • Toys that stimulate the sense of smell (olfactory) – scented bubbles, balls, bottles
  • Toys with auditory stimulation – through sound including electronic toys, CDs and videos, sound puzzles, musical toys and books, musical instruments.
  • Toys that appeal to the sense of touch (tactile) – through various textures on toys, sand and water play materials, tactile mats/tiles and touch tablets with different surfaces.

Most educational toys and materials are also made with multi-sensory objectives. Animal puzzles, colorful musical toys and various activity boards for instance, feature more than one sensory stimulus.

An added tip: Take your precious one out for frequent walks in the park or to areas of interest. The most natural way of fine tuning the senses is to surround your child with nature’s blessings – the sound of birds, pitter-patter of rain and soft breeze against your little one’s cheek.

About the Author

Sarah Jane is certified & trained in Montessori Teaching, with years of expansive knowledge and experience with young children from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Sarah Jane expresses her love and interest for child development through her writing, constantly sharing and promoting awareness to parents and educational workers from all walks of life. She is also the co-founder of a multinational marketing firm Hot Fry Media (http://hotfrymedia.com).

June 13, 2011 Newsletter: Did You Know that Language Development Begins Before Birth?


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