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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.

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

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 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: Letter Puzzles by Melissa & Doug

The Melissa & Doug Letter Puzzles set is a great educational toy for preschoolers or Kindergartners to teach letter recognition and

Self-Correcting Alphabet Letter Puzzles

letter sounds. Normally, when you think of puzzles, you think of a quiet activity. And, don’t get me wrong, these puzzles are great for a quiet, independent activity. But, on a cold and snowy afternoon, I discovered a fun way to use these puzzles to get my kids moving indoors and learning at the same time.

I divided the puzzle pieces into groups of four (the last two groups were 3 each).  My 3-year-old is still learning to recognize some of the letters, so it was important to do small groups at a time (and in sequence) so that she didn’t become overwhelmed.

We started with A, B, C, D. I separated the letter piece from the picture piece, but still had them side-by-side. We went down the line and I asked her to tell me the letter when I pointed. If she didn’t know it, I told her and asked her to repeat it. Then I asked her to say the name of each picture (note: the word is printed under the picture). We then went over the letter sounds – I asked her to repeat each sound after me as I pointed to the letter.

After we were done identifying the letters, pictures/words, and sounds, the fun and active part began! I took the 4 letter pieces and laid them on the floor about 10 feet from the picture pieces. I explained that, when I made the letter sound, she had to pick up the picture that started with that sound and run to find the matching letter piece. When she found the letter piece, she was supposed to shout the letter and fit the pieces together, then run back for the next “letter sound” hint. We did that, one-by-one, until all 4 sets were matched.She loved that it felt like a race (even though I wasn’t timing her) and she did a great job remembering the letter sounds and matching the correct picture piece to the letter piece.

We then started with another group of four (E, F, G, H) and continued until we reached the end of the alphabet. Well, almost the end – she became tired when we reached X, Y, Z, which was much further than I thought we’d get.

My 5-year-old was there too and, although she knew her letters and sounds, she had fun giving hints to my 3-year-old and helping with the activities. It also reinforced what she’s been learning in school and the words printed under the pictures served as a great word recognition activity for her.

Developmental areas: Letter recognition, letter sounds, early reading skills, motor development.

Recommended ages: 3-5 years

Play time: 30-45 minutes

Extension activities (suggested by Melissa & Doug on the back of the storage box):

Matching game, sorting activity, letter, sounds and word recognition activity, color recognition, memory game, grab bag game, pick the picture, and story time.

Tested and review written by:

Shannon McAfee (Founder/Owner of TOYconomy), 3 and 5-year-old daughters