Welcome to the WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Stop #2. If you’re just joining us, head back to the BLOG HOP LAUNCH POST so you can collect all of the necessary clues for a chance to win an iPad, a $50 gift card, and much more!
As a participant in this blog hop, I’ve been asked to write a review of my favorite educational gift. I’ve decided to blog about the four best educational toys of all time, including dress-up clothes, wooden blocks, a cardboard box, and magnetic letters.
Age range: Pre-K – 3rd grade (and beyond)
Subject areas: Social Skills, Reading, English, Math, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, and specific language development skills including Syntax, Morphology, Phonology, and Phonemic Awareness (not to mention imagination!)
Hot Deal: KidKraft Wooden Block Set – Item #63242 ONLY $15.00 ($5 S&H) from Woot.com
You’re all on the hunt for the perfect educational toy, right? I’m guessing you’ve found tons of high-tech gadgets, snazzy apps, and gizmos. Call me old school, but I believe it’s a “gift to be simple.” So today, I’ve chosen four of the Best Educational Toys of All Time, and I’m betting your holiday budget will be glad I did.
1. There’s no better educational toy than a good old-fashioned dress-up box. Children learn best through hands-on play, and the benefits of imaginary role-play are endless. They won’t know it, but while pretending to be dragons, teachers, or superheroes, they’ll actually be learning sequencing, storytelling, language, and creativity, not to mention the social and communicative skills involved when acting out scenes with peers. But there’s no need to spend a fortune to gather a spectacular imagination kit.
- Visit local thrift stores or garage sales for treasures.
- Include old costumes, scarves, hats, vests, and shirts.
- Consider clip-on earrings, necklaces, watches, and bracelets.
- Don’t forget used cell phones, appointment books, or calculators for the briefcase or purse.
- Antique suitcases can store the clothes and double as props.
- A cape is a must. For a great selection of budget-friendly capes, visit: http://powercapes.com/ready-made-capes
2. If you splurge on one manufactured toy this holiday, consider a set of wooden blocks. These target much more than motor skills, and your children will still be playing with blocks long after the batteries have died in all their other toys.
- Create castles, farms, skyscrapers, and camps and then add action figures to put these original playsets in motion.
- Build balance beams and obstacle courses and then practice moving through the maze.
- Construct roads and bridges, and pretend those roads lead all sorts of places, both real and imaginary.
- Target basic skills such as counting, shapes, and cognitive concepts including more, less, big/bigger/biggest, tall, short, and prepositions (in front, behind, next to, on top, above, under, etc.). Ex: “Challenge: What can you build with five blocks?” “Now, can you make something bigger/smaller/taller/shorter, etc.” “Add two more on top.”
- Decoupage family photos (or classmates) to the blocks, helping young children recognize faces, or attach flashcards to teach letters and numbers.
3. If you really want to encourage free spirits and a wild imagination, give your kids a sturdy cardboard box. It can become a runaway train, a secret hideout, a roaring racecar, or a spectacular spaceship. Upside down it becomes a stove, a table, a mountain, or a desk. Stuffed animals make fun play companions and with a little encouragement, children can spend their best years converting that simple box into an infinite world of wonder.
4. Finally, for teaching letter recognition, phonics, reading, and spelling, you can invest in tons of expensive programs, OR you can purchase a cheap set of magnetic letters. I encourage you to purchase lowercase letters because most of the words we read are written in lowercase. Use these on your refrigerator or with a metal cookie sheet for lap work.
If Lakeshore doesn’t have what you’re looking for, here’s another site with tons of letter kits at bargain prices http://www.abcstuff.com/magnetic-letters.php They offer great sets with multiple letters (so you can spell words), uppercase and lowercase, various sizes, and they even have foam letters that can be used for bathtub fun. (Also be sure to look for their Daily Special and Web Specials for super deals.)
How to use Magnetic Letters to teach kids at various levels:
- I Spy the Letter A . . . : For the early letter-learners, reduce the set to five letters at a time and challenge children to find the letters you spy from that set. For example, show the letters: A, T, B, S, W. Then say, “I spy the letter S.” If they can’t find it, point to it, repeat the letter name, and then prompt with a new challenge. Reduce the set to two or three letters for beginners, and make the set larger as their skills increase.
- Who Goes There?: Put the letters in alphabetical order but then remove a few random letters. Place the ‘lost’ letters under the alphabet and ask kids to help the lost letters find their way home.
- Word Families: Help little ones learn to read by changing the first or last sound to make new words. For example: Place the letters “_at” together and slide various consonants in front to make real and nonsense words (cat, bat, rat, zat, wat). Laugh hysterically when they read a “silly word.”
- Morph: It’s fun to teach difficult morphological concepts with magnetic letters. Simple add ‘s’ to the end of a word and VOILA! You suddenly have more than one. Start with dog, cat, etc. and show your kiddo how to make one into many. Try learning other prefixes and suffixes such as: er, est, ly, y, re, un, pre, mis, less, ful, etc.
- Message Me: Place all of the letters in one cluttered group on the fridge and encourage kids to stop by to create a word or two. Surprise one another with creative word creations throughout the week. Start with simple CVC words (dog, cat, pat). Write family members’ names, pets’ names, etc. This is also a great way for you to leave sweet messages for your readers (many letter kits on the site linked above include multiple letters to build words).
- For a Grade: Challenge older children to put the letters in alphabetical order or to create their spelling words each week on the fridge!
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