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3 Tips for Building Baby Language Skills

30 Sep

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Want to encourage early language skills in your baby? With a few simple adjustments to your play time and a little understanding of early development, your babies will be chattering away in no time! Here are three activities and tools you can use to build language skills in your baby:

 1. Bring on the Babbling

Babbling is a baby’s way of attempting communication. There are a few responses you can adapt to progress language learning. It is important to respond consistently to baby’s vocalizations and vary responses by either repeating or changing sounds. Encourage your baby to listen to variations in babbles, whether it’s differences in length, stress, or intonation.

Strong and Weak Babbles: Alternate stressed syllables (louder and longer) such as BAAAA and unstressed syllables (softer and shorter) such as ba to help the baby discern stress differences. You may end up saying things such as BAAba BAAba baBAA! This gibberish may not sound like much to you, but it is a great listening exercise for the child because real words vary in the way they are stressed. For example, when you say BAA-ba, the stress pattern is the same as in the word DOG-gie. Discerning and tracking strong and weak syllables is crucial for language learning.

-Did you find the activity useful? Find even more like it in Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3!

 2. Talking Through Tech

Believe it or not, your smart phone can help when it comes to language learning in your baby. From letter recognition to understanding sound differences, here is a baby app we think will aid in learning on the go:

-Endless Alphabet: This interactive app encourages early language learning through having babies repeat letters, words, and sounds, promoting recognition. Adorable monsters hold children captive as they learn new words!

Review: Our 22-month-old loves Endless Alphabet. This app has helped tremendously with letter recognition, and it has fun graphics and sounds, also.

- S. Peninger, Greenville N.C.

-For even more baby apps to foster language learning, check out this related post “10 Apps to Keep Babies Learning.”

3. Learning with Simple Signs.

Sign language is a great tool to encourage early language learning in children as early as six months old. Whenever your baby begins to display a desire to communicate, begin using your hands for words that are often repeated, such as Mom or Dad. Using those hand motions while also putting stress on the word will give babies a visual representation of the language as they learn. Another great word to sign is whatever the child’s favorite toy is, so that children will begin to learn how to ask for what brings comfort through communicating with their hands.

Resource: http://www.babysignlanguage.com/dictionary/first-signs/

-We hope you found these tips for language learning in babies helpful. Do you have tips for teaching your baby to speak? Let us know by leaving a comment below or commenting on our Facebook page with the hashtag #babyspeak.

10 Apps to Keep Babies Learning

16 Sep

shutterstock_146931251As a parent, it can be hard to fit everything in. Between nap times, diaper changes, grocery shopping, and making sure the house is semi-clean, allowing time in your schedule to research ways to keep your baby entertained in the busy moments can be hard. Especially if you don’t have a babysitter lined up! That’s where we can help. With the prevalence of tablets and smart phones, it just makes sense to use available technology as learning resources for babies. Here are 10 baby apps that will not only give you a few moments to breathe as your baby engages in independent learning, but will also foster digital literacy in babies as they learn!

Music Apps:

1. Baby Piano (Free)

Do you have a baby Beethoven on your hands? Now you can take the piano wherever you go with Baby Piano! The eight-key piano allows babies to play notes and hear animal sounds as each key has a different animal face on it. Children can also play a nursery rhyme by following lighted keys.

2. Kidzongs ($0.99)

A simple app for simple learning! This app includes six different songs for children to sing along with. Cute animated lyrics accompany each song, sure to stimulate children visually with bright colors and characters.

Early Literacy Apps:

3. Learn To Talk ($1.99)

Great for children between one and three, Learn To Talk teaches children vocabulary and early language skills through the use of flashcards. Babies will use both sound and sight for language learning. This app is great choice for bilingual families.

4. iWriteWords ($2.99)

Allow children to practice handwriting skills as they play entertaining games and learn everything from uppercase and lowercase letters to numbers! iWriteWords is a great app to prepare children for preschool.

Critical Thinking Apps:

5. Baby Flash Cards (Free)

This is a great app for babies that provides colorful flash cards children will love manipulating to learn letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and more! The clear and helpful voice will guide babies along as they begin to understand patterns.

6. Tozzle-Toddler’s Favorite Puzzle ($1.99)

Puzzles are always a great way to develop critical thinking skills in little ones! With Tozzle, children can choose from 20 different puzzles to work on shape recognition and motor skills. Bright colors are sure to make it a favorite!

Animal Apps:

7. Peekaboo Barn ($1.99)

Let children learn by taking an adventure! The app offers both English and Spanish learning as babies hear what sound each animal makes. Not only are adorable illustrations included, but babies will also learn the name of each barn animal they see.

8. I Hear Ewe (Free)

With this app, babies can tap the device to hear different animal sounds. With a range of 24 different animals, babies can play and learn as they touch an animal or vehicle to hear its name announced and get a real sound effect! This is a great app for auditory learning.

The Essentials:

9. Parents Flash Cards (Free)

Get involved with your baby’s learning by teaching them colors, shapes, letters, and numbers all from your phone! Each digital pack contains different games varying from quizzes, to flashcards, to tracing to make it the perfect educational tool for babies! Reward visuals are a bonus that is sure to keep babies engaged!

10.  iBabyPhone ($0.99)

Young children are always fascinated by their parent’s phones. Now, they can have their own with the iBabyPhone (with the exception of no accidental calls made!) This app allows kids to dial numbers without actually calling anyone – saying the name of the number when touched. Babies will learn colors, numbers, animals, and more!

-Having second-guesses about how much time your baby should be spending in front of a screen? Learn how to balance digital learning with appropriate screen time in this related blog post “Managing Your Kids’ Screen Time.”

Resources:

Speed Stacks review and the Educational Benefits!

25 Jun

Speed stacking, cup stacking, sport stacking, speed cup sport stacking – no matter how many times the official association (yes, the WSSA – World Sport Stacking Association — to be exact) decides to change their name, it will always be the game of stacking cups as fast as possible. It isn’t just about creating a large tower of cups. There are set rules, competitive sequences, special cups, and timers.

We’ll leave the details of the rules and sequences for another blog to cover and we’ll focus on what we know: education toys! It might be difficult to think of a cup as a toy—much less as an educational toy—so we’ll break it down.

The Cups

We’ll stick with the cups made by Speed Stacks, since they fly off our shelves. For starters, Speed Stacks are actually endorsed by the WSSA and are the only cups allowed in WSSA-sanctioned events. These cups are designed for ultimate stacking speed with ribs to allow them to separate easier, smooth insides, and even a ventilation hole to prevent sticking. That’s not your average cup!

The Educational Part

Believe it or not, there have been several scientific studies on the effects of sport stacking, as well as educational systems referencing the benefits of sport stacking. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • After 5 weeks of sport stacking, second graders showed an increase in both eye-hand coordination and reaction time
  • An experimental group of students performed higher on a reading test after doing cup stacking twice a week for the four weeks before the test
  • Colorado state standards use cup stacking as an example of showing proficiency in the ability to cross the mid-line of the body

(Source: http://www.jmu.edu/kinesiology/hpainstitute/documents/SpeedStackingRationale.pdf)

 

Where To Buy Speed Stacks

Speed Stacks Set with DVD (Cool Blue)

Item #20770$19.95 
also available in neon greenneon orangeneon pinkreally red, and royal purple

Speed Stacks Sport Pack – 15 Set

Item 20771, $354.95

Videos

How to do it!


The video that opened the 2010 World Sport Stacking Championships.

12 New Tools for Infants and Toddlers

28 May

We’ve got a lot of great new infant and toddler products for you to try out–and we’ve picked out twelve in particular that we really love!

Manipulative and Gross Motor Toys

1. Winkel™ Owl & Lion 30811set

(Birth & up.) Familiar with the original Winkel™ toys? This versatile set of toys has been updated to include friendly faces! These owl and lion toys are spun into shapes that are easy for baby to grasp! When you chill it in the refrigerator, it becomes a teething toy for older infants. Available as a set, or sold separately (owl & lion). (Set, item #30811, $26.95; $13.95  sold separate)

2. Puzzle Ball Puzzle Ball

(6 months & up.) This puzzle ball offers more than just squeakers, clickers, and rattles! It pulls apart to reveal three pieces: a rolling shaker and two activity toys. It helps develop manipulation skills, and it’s easy to put back together. (Item #30036, $14.95)

 

3 & 4. Flapping Owl Pull Toy and Rock & Stack Pull Toy pulltoys

(18 months & up.) These pull toys offer multiple options for your toddler’s fun! The owl flaps his wings when your toddler pulls him across the floor with soft felt and vibrant details to entertain your child. The Rock & Stack pull toy can be pulled across the floor by the string, or your toddler can move the wheels up and watch the boat rock! The animals can be switched around on board the boat, as well. (Item #s 62719 and 62720, $21.95 each)

Activity Gyms and Tummy Time

5. Gymini® Monkey Island Activity Gym 88178

(Birth & up.) Offer your baby a colorful and interesting world of investigation and interaction in 3 positions: on their back, on their stomach, and seated upright! With a baby-activated plush monkey (with 3 songs and lights), a tummy time pillow, and washable padded mat, this activity gym provides 18 developmental activities to keep baby active and learning! Batteries not included. (Item #88178, $69.95)

6. Treetop Friends Activity Gym 62220

(Birth & up.) If you prefer treetop friends, here is another activity gym for you! This gym features nature-inspired graphics and textures, with a tummy time pillow and birds, an owl, and a squirrel for children to play with, equaling up to 17 different developmental activities to help your baby grow! (Item #62220, $79.95)

 

7. Boppy® Tummy Time 62709

(2-6 months.)  Baby will have fun exploring the two developmental toys that come along with the Boppy Tummy Time! It features the SlideLine toy adjustment system so toys can be perfectly placed and moved to encourage tummy time fun.  (Item #62709, $19.95)

 

 

Board Books

8. Look at Me Bilingual Board Books (set of 4) 62768

(6-24 months.) For the dual language learners out there! Babies enjoy looking at other babies, and these board books are full of baby pictures! The books are easy for little hands to hold–and turning the page helps children develop eye-hand coordination. (Item #62768, $19.95)

 

 

9. Mini Masters Board Books (set of 4) 62749

(12-24 months.) Step into the magical world of fine art with this set of 4 board books that feature the works of four great artists: Degas, Monet, Matisse, and Van Gogh. These imaginative board books feature their beautiful paintings paired with playful, rhyming text. (Item #62749, $19.95)

 

 

Dramatic Play and More

10 & 11. Lion Cape Costume and Tiger Cape Costume liontiger

(18 months & up.) Lions and tigers (and bears, oh my!) in your home or classroom! Start your jungle adventures with these fun cape costumes–they’re easy to put on and made from easy-care, machine-washable fabrics. (Also available in horse and dragon options for fairy tale adventures!) (Item #s 30969 and 30971, $31.95 each–temporarily out of stock, but will be back soon!)

 

12. Smile & Ride Buggy 62750

(18-36 months.)  Your toddler will enjoy the ride in this fun push-around car! They will feel like they are really driving with a working horn to honk and wheel to turn! It includes a safety seat belt. (Item #62750, $43.95)

 

 

Let us know what you think! What is your favorite out of these? Which will you use this summer? :)

Engineering Some Technology Fun!

19 Oct

From building batteries to constructing potato clocks, this collection of technology toys is perfect for boys and girls of all ages!

K’Nex Discovery Set

Introduce children to the K’Nex spatial building system with this set of 259 K’Nex Rods and Connectors. Students can build 20 different models from color-coded building instructions or create models from their own imaginations!

Enviro Battery

Use household materials like mud, lemons, and water to light a bulb, power a watch, and activate a music chip!

Potato Clock

Generate enough electricity to run a digital clock powered by potatoes with this fun kit!

K’Nex Intro to Simple Machines: Gears

Build crank fans, egg beaters and more, while learning simple engineering concepts such as gearing up/down and increasing speed/force!

ZOOB-BOT

Now you can build your very own robot with a pull-back motor and eyes that light up as it rolls! Build four different designs of ZOOB-BOTS or create your own! Ideal for children 6 years and up.

 

Our “Go Green” Favorites: Mother Nature Would Approve!

29 Mar

What better time is there to “Go Green” than spring? Choose toys that are good for your kids, the world around them, AND your budget with a few of these favorites from Kaplan Toys!

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Eco Friendly Creative Peg Board

Teach children about colors, sorting, and patterning with this bamboo peg board with 2 different sized pegs for varying degrees of difficulty. Contains 25 large and 25 small pegs in 5 different colors, 3 full-sized activity cards, pegboard, and activity guide. 3 years & up.

98303 | $32.95 | Plan Toys

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Eco Friendly Stacker

This unique stacker has no center post, stacks in any order and contains no BPA, PVC or phthalates.This Stacker is made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic milk containers which save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Packaged using only recycled and recyclable materials and printed with soy inks. 8 nesting pieces. 6 months & up.

89565 | $13.95 | Green Toys

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Eco Friendly Plastic Tea Set

Invite friends to a make-believe tea party and brew up an imaginary pot of tea. 17 piece set includes tea pot with lid, sugar and cream bowls, 4 cups and saucers and 4 teaspoons. Made from recycled milk jugs, non-toxic and meets FDA requirements for food contact. 3 years & up.

85878 | $27.95 | Green Toys

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Eco Friendly Forest Mobile

Bring a bit of nature to the classroom with this whimsical mobile. All-natural from start to finish, this certified organic cotton mobile is eco-friendly and uses only plants and minerals to create a soothing color palette.

62272 | $49.95

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Eco Friendly Balancing Monkeys

Helps develop mathematical skills through discovery play as children move the monkeys around to keep the tree balanced. Includes one tree and 6 monkeys. 3 years & up.

98325 | $22.95 | Plan Toys

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Eco Friendly Fire Truck

Solidly constructed from 100% recycled plastic milk containers, this fire truck features a sturdy roof ladder that pivots vertically and rotates 360 degrees, two removable ladders and no metal axles. 1 year & up.

89272 | $27.95 | Green Toys

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Kettler® Go Green Folding Trike

With over 95% of the plastic parts made from recycled material, this trike is as eco-friendly as it is unique. The folding frame allows for easy storage and one-button assembly. Features removable rear bucket and multi-position adjustable seat to comfortably accommodate toddlers. Maximum weight 50 lbs. 18 months – 4 years.

62227 | $79.95 | Kettler International Inc.

LEGOS for One, LEGOS for All!

23 Feb

For bakers…

DUPLO® Creative Cakes

Item #: 141020

Price: $28.95

Build delicious DUPLO® cakes of all shapes and sizes with the Creative Cakes building set. Share them with your friends at a fabulous tea party! Set includes 2 muffin cups, 3 muffin tops, 3 candles, 2 meringues, flowers, and assorted DUPLO® bricks. The storage box lid can be used as your serving tray! Also includes inspirational building recipes. Set contains 55 pieces. For ages 2 – 5.

For builders…

LEGO® Technic Tracked Crane

Item #: 141057

Price: $22.95

Building skyscrapers is an easy job with this crane. Features rotating superstructure, moving tracks, raising boom, extending arm, and raising/ lowering hook. Rebuilds into a bulldozer with a lowering blade and ripper! The Tracked Crane measures 12″H x 4″W x 11″D and the bulldozer measures 3″H x 4″W x 6″D. 218 pieces. For children 8 years & up.

For Star Wars fans…

LEGO® STAR WARS Tie Fighter

Item #: 141050

Price: $69.95

Open the cockpit of the TIE Fighter, place in the pilot and pretend to fight the Rebels using your dual flick missiles! Includes TIE Fighter Pilot, Imperial Officer, Death Star Trooper, R5-J2 Droid, TIE Fighter and 1 blaster. The TIE Fighter features opening cockpit and dual flick missiles. TIE Fighter measures over 9″ tall. 413 pieces. For children 8 – 14 years.

For those who love cars…

LEGO® CARS Red’s Water Rescue

Item #: 141045

Price: $23.95
Help Red put the fires out that Acer started with his water gun! Set includes vehicles Red and Acer. Features include flick missiles, elevating ladder, welding equipment, and protective glasses. Red measures over 5″ long and Acer measures over 3″ long. 199 pieces. For children 5 years & up.

LEGO® Fun with Vehicles Set

Item #: 141023

Price: $34.95

Build your dream vehicle with LEGO® vehicle building! Create cars, trucks, racing cars, and much more! Set Includes 2 mini-figures, lots of wheels, a windshield, workshop tools, lots of color-coded basic elements, and LEGO® brick separator. 525 pieces. For children 4 years & up.

And even for toddlers…

LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Sorter

Item #: 141019

Price: $22.95

Illuminate your child’s mind with this LEGO® DUPLO® Creative Sorter set. This set includes an assortment of color-coded basic and rounded DUPLO® bricks. Your child can sort the shapes needed to build a parrot, elephant and giraffe on the blue, yellow and red sorting plates. The sorting plates double as a lid for the sturdy plastic storage box. 23 pieces. For children 18 months – 5 years.

DUPLO® Pink Brick Box

Item #: 141021

Price: $17.95

Young minds pretend with this cute starter set that features rabbits, carrots, flowers, house elements, and an assortment of basic DUPLO® bricks in both pink and classic colors. This set comes in a sturdy brick storage box and includes an idea booklet to encourage creative play. DUPLO® products are fun and safe for younger hands. 30 pieces. For children 18 months – 5 years.

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