TOYplay Tips: Q-BA-MAZE by Mindware

Q-BA-Maze is not your ordinary marble run! When I first opened the box and started to assemble the parts, I found the pieces to be very different because of the colors and the unique shapes that they could make.

For the first maze, I followed the instructions and easily built a neat sculpture. After that I started to experiment on my own and rearranged the shapes to make different designs such as animals and silly shapes. Different pieces make the marbles go in different directions, so as you assemble the maze, it is fun to think about what direction you want the marbles to go. Some make the marbles go to either side, some allow the marble to go to just one side, and some drop the ball straight down.

Building the maze is only half the fun. I also enjoyed rolling the marbles down the green, blue, and clear box shaped figures and trying to predict which side they would come out. I came up with many little games to play and many different tracks to roll the marbles down. You can build this however you want and with as many pieces as you want. I hope you can enjoy this product as much as I did.

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

Recommended Age : 5+ years (small marbles – choking hazard for children under 3)

Playtime:  30 minutes – 1 hour or more!

Tested and Reviewed by: Chase Brooksbank, age 11

Going on Vacation? Pack Less, Enjoy More!

Summer vacation, a week at the beach, visiting grandparents? It all sounds so simple and relaxing, but the work that goes into packing and planning for a family trip is enough to make your head spin. I cannot count how many times, we have loaded up the car with everything that we planned to take, and then started piling on the extras…toys, pillows, blankets, video games, more toys, etc. Pretty soon the car is packed to the hill and my poor husband cannot even see out the back window.

As you start to make your vacation plans for this summer, be sure to include TOYconomy in your packing list. By sending a shipment of toys directly to your vacation destination,TOYconomy can help eliminate all of the last-minute extras and save space in your car and luggage!

Imagine the look on your children’s faces when they get to their new destination and have a box full of new and exciting toys to play with for the week. And the best part is when your vacation is over, TOYconomy will schedule a pick-up and you can depart without worrying about how to get everything home. As we all know, luggage tends to double in size during a vacation, and we all seem to leave with more bags than we came with!

Be sure to check out www.toyconomy.com. With a few simple clicks, before you hit the road, your toys will arrive at your favorite spot in pristine condition and ready to be enjoyed by all!

Author:

Jeanne Brooksbank, mom of three. Currently works at TOYconomy in TOYmember Services.

FUNtastic! Recycled Box Art

Created for local elementary school's Eco-Fest

If you tend to do a lot of online shopping, chances are you have a lot of cardboard boxes that need to be recycled. Why not use those boxes as canvases for artwork! Eco-art is a great way to teach your kids how to create a new use for things you don’t need anymore. You can cut the boxes down to any size you like and decorate them: create signs for sporting events, door hangers, wall art, picture frames, and any other creative idea you can think of!

Suggested Supplies:

Cardboard boxes

Box cutter (adults only for cutting the boxes)

Washable paint

Glitter pens/glue

Stencils

Ribbon or yarn for hanging (if applicable)

Author: Shannon McAfee, Founder and Owner, TOYconomy

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

Make Your Own Bubble Solution!

All kids love bubbles, so why not throw a little science education into the mix one day and make your own bubble solution with the kids! Here’s an easy recipe below:

Bubble solution

1/2 cup  Dishwasher Detergent

4-1/2  cups water

4 tablespoons glycerin (available in pharmacies)

Measure out the water, detergent and glycerin into the container with a cover and stir gently.

Note: The longer you let the mixture set, the larger the bubbles are and the longer they seem to last.

Extension activity: encourage the kids to use recycled material to create their own bubble wands while they are waiting for the mixture to set.

TOYplay Tips: Caterpillar Gears Toddler Toy by Melissa & Doug

My 2-year-old son, Jack, has been enjoying playing with the Melissa & Doug Rainbow Caterpillar.  He was immediately attracted to the vibrant colors and unique caterpillar shape.  Once I demonstrated the rotation of the gears, he instantaneously put his motor skills to work.  Jack quickly learned that he can take the gears on and off and change the direction of the rotation.

The next day, I used the colored gears to teach numbers.  We counted 1-6 with the gears on the caterpillar and then did the same removing them.  Before we put the caterpillar away, I reviewed colors as we were putting the gears back on.

Jack had a great time with this classic toy!

Developmental Areas: Motor skills, counting, cause and effect, and color recognition

Recommended Age : 18 months

Playtime:  10-15 minutes

Extension activities: use colored gears to reinforce counting, numbers, and colors

Tested and Reviewed by: Alyssa Chalifoux,  2-year-old son

TOYplay Tips: Sea Life Jigsaw Puzzles In a Box

In lieu of letting my daughter watch a show while I was folding clothes one morning, I pulled out Melissa & Doug’s Sea Life Jigsaw Puzzles In a Box. She loves dolphins, so the dolphin puzzle immediately caught her interest and she was excited to get started.

There are four puzzles total, each contain 12 pieces. What makes these puzzles a little more challenging are the details – the images are very bright, colorful, and sometimes the colors and details blend together.

She was able to put the dolphin puzzle back together pretty quickly. Then she moved onto the shark puzzle. This one was a little more difficult because there were not a lot of contrasting colors, so she had to pay closer attention to the details. This puzzle took her a little longer, and she became a little frustrated at times. As a parent, my instinct (when I noticed her getting frustrated) was to step in and give her a hint or help her. But, I went against my instincts and did not interfere. I was thrilled to see her figure it out all on her own without my assistance!

While putting the puzzle pieces together, she noticed the difference in the shade of the water. The lighter water was on top and the darker water was on the bottom. This opened up the door for a great teaching opportunity, so I asked her why she thought the water was darker on the bottom. She thought about it, and her conclusion was, “that’s where the fish live.” I confirmed her answer that some fish do live at the bottom and then I explained that the water on the bottom of the ocean is dark because the sunlight can’t reach that deep into the ocean. Just asking simple questions and seeing what kind of answers she came up with was a fun activity!

There are many conversations we could have had about the sea life in each of these four puzzles – I look forward to doing it with her again. Maybe next time we’ll talk more about the dolphins and why they need to come up to the surface for air!

Developmental areas: Spatial reasoning, critical thinking skills, motor development.

Recommended ages: 3-5 years

Play time: 20-30 minutes

Extension activities:

1. Go to the library and find books about sea life – specifically dolphins, sharks, sea horses, and tropical fish.

2. Make up a story using the sea animals in each puzzle. Write it down and draw pictures to illustrate the story.

Tested and review written by:

Shannon McAfee (Founder/Owner of TOYconomy), 3-year-old daughter