Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Waiting Room Toys: Lobby Happiness for Everyone!

Although the benefits of providing quality busy toys should be apparent to any business owner or operator, more often than not there is nothing to entertain children in the vast majority of doctor's offices, clinics, and any other office space that requires clients to wait for seemingly endless amounts of time. That being said, we feel that the impact providing such a convenience may have on a business is worth mentioning. Here are the top reasons why waiting room toys are worth the investment.

More repeat customers. Fact is, unless you are the greatest physician (dentist, chiropractor) in the world most of your patients or customers who have children will not return if they are left waiting with a screaming toddler for more than five minutes. This isn't to say that waiting isn't a necessary evil of life. The professional down the road also has a busy schedule, and his patients are waiting around just as long as yours are. But if he has a collection of games, activity play cubes, wall toys, bead toys and comfortable furniture that is tailored toward families with impatient children guess where your patient will be headed next time.

You may also get more referrals from your existing customers if their experience with you is pleasant and with as little hassle as possible. Words tends to get around when a business is particularly progressive meaning that they cater to the needs of working, over-stressed mothers and fathers and their equally cranky children.

Providing your clients with good, safe, and stimulating waiting room toys is just a smart business investment. That said, you can't throw just any ole toys in your waiting room and expect the same results. There are few rules you should keep in mind when choosing appropriate waiting room toys.

Don't buy used. You never know how quickly yard sale, flea market, or your cousin's children's toys will fall apart. Having a toddler almost choke on a broken part is not likely to bring in repeat business. Instead, buy quality toys that will last for a long time. This will keep you from buying them as often and will prevent injuries in your patients.

Choose toys that are age appropriate. This may mean have a wide variety of options, but lieu on the side of a younger set. These can include colorful bead toys like the Ultimate Fleur Rollercoaster Play Table - as well as fun wall toys like the Tic Tac Toe Wall Panel by Anatex Enterprises. For older kids, opt for things like videos, books, and magazines. That way you don’t have toys lying around that may injure a younger child. That said, it is a good idea to choose things that can grow with a child; like sand tables or puzzles.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Active Sitting in the Classroom

Our Friends at Ball Dynamics provided the following great information about sitting trends for kids at school. Check out the selection of sitting tools at SensoryEdge

Active sitting, or unsupported sitting, is a concept where sitting is not just a passive inactivity but one where the user is engaged in controlled movement while seated on an unstable surface. There are several Active Sitting products including free-standing exercise balls and inflatable seating discs that fit in a traditional chair. Many schools are now retrofitting their classrooms to take advantage of the benefits that Active Sitting provides.

Children naturally gravitate to the brightly colored balls and seem willing to embrace this new methodology of focused learning through sensory awareness. While initial research focused on improvements by Special Education students using Active Sitting tools, today experiential use by general classrooms seem to be indicating that all students may benefit from the same techniques occupational therapists have been promoting for years. See some of the university-driven research reports on Active Sitting in Ball Dynamics' online Resource Center.

Another benefit that Active Sitting provides is the strengthening of the core muscles. Core muscles are very important to a healthy back. All movement begins from the core and is where our center of gravity is located. Sitting on an inflatable disc or ball can force the body to strengthen its weakest muscles in order to maintain balance. The body and its core muscles are constantly making slight adjustments and movement in order to keep balance.

Benefits of Active Sitting
  • Active Sitting eliminates static loading and can help nourish the spine
  • Active Sitting can encourage better posture by activating and strengthening the tiny muscles in our back and core area
  • Active Sitting can force the body to strengthen its weakest muscles in order to maintain balance
  • Active Sitting can be used to improve focus and alertness by enhancing sensory awareness and simulating the vestibular sense.

Not all balls are created alike, which is why you'll find the professional-quality FitBALL brand of balls and seating cushions in schools, clinics, fitness clubs and other professional settings where quality is important. The entire FitBALL line of balls is burst-resistant quality- designed to deflate slowly, in case of an accidental puncture. Many lesser quality balls may burst suddenly if punctured.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Add a Little Drama to Your Child's Playtime

Dramatic play is different than many other types of imaginative games. Instead of dealing with dolls and cars and trucks; your child is taking an active position in pretending to be another person entirely. Whether playing teacher, doctor, or explorer, dramatic play is an important part of a children's development for many reasons.

First, kids use this type of play to learn about the world around them. The way your child's "character" is portrayed or how he interacts with those around him can give you an inside peak into your child's mind. For instance, if your son pretending to be a "daddy"; the way he interacts with his "wife" and "children" will show you how he perceives his own father (or lack thereof). If the behavior you see leaves you questioning a situation or event in real life, you know its time to take action.

On the flip side, you can use dramatic play to get your own messages across. Do this much in the same way, only instead of watching your child's behavior from afar get involved in the game yourself. This will allow you to alter the scenario and reactions to display healthy resolutions to problems.

That said, often times dramatic play accomplishes nothing but a good time for your child in which he can live and explore. You can encourage this by providing him with plenty of toys that make dramatic play more fun and exciting.

One of our favorites is the Melissa and Doug Pirate Chest. Your son or daughter will spend hours on the open seas looking for buried treasure! Make it seem even more real by hiding the "gold" around your home and offer a special surprise to anyone who finds it! This type of dramatic play is not only entertaining, but allows kids to develop mental skills like memory and problem solving.

Other toys include the pretend play food, where kids can learn healthy habits early. Encourage them to create toy meals then serve a healthy lunch to mom and dad. This is a great way to show children that eating right is cool! Instilling these habits early will set your kids up for healthier habits as they grow.

Whatever toys you choose, allow your child to freely express any thoughts or feelings he brings up during dramatic playtime. Use this time to teach him healthy ways of expressing himself, dealing with emotions and interacting with others.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Playroom Decal Designs Your Child Will Love

There are many benefits to designating a separate playroom for your child. You can better separate play time from sleep time or homework time, and it will allow one room where making a mess is encouraged rather than squelched. Make your kids’ playroom more fun by adding one or more of these unique elements:

1. Kids Wall Decals are a great way to make imaginative play seem more real. Traditionally, only those will some kind of artistic ability could incorporate this fun decor theme; but there is good news. Even if you have virtually no artistic skills whatsoever you can use a ready made mural that looks like the real thing (or better…depends on whose painting…). SensoryEdge offers the high quality line of wood murals by Timberfish. You can choose from a variety of settings, like scenes at the beach or mountains.

2. Create imagination stations with separate play centers in various parts of the room. This is how classrooms divide toys amongst numerous children, but the concept can work equally well at home. You can have different parts of the city with a doctor’s office in one corner and a police station in the other. Set up pretend groceries stores, houses and other real life settings for kids to enjoy.

3. Kids of all ages love climbing toys, and there are various shapes and sizes to accommodate any age group. Infants and toddlers may benefit from the foam variety like the Climbing Tunnel Labyrinth Soft Play. Climbing, jumping, crawling and tumbling not only give children hours of entertainment; it allows them to build major muscle groups, enhance balance and coordination and reinforce the learning of other important skills.

4. You may also decide to set up a separate area in the playroom for drawing and other activities. Puzzles, crayons and coloring books are all good choices for fun and artistic pastimes for kids of all ages. To further enhance the experience you can purchase special desks to match the decor, easels or kids tables. Pick tables and other furniture items that are sturdy and made to last, like the Farm House Table and Chair Set by KidKraft. They are made from solid materials that will last year after year: child after child.

Allow your child to help in the design of their playroom. Giving them more freedom in choices involving decor and other items will encourage them to spend time there learning and playing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Encouraging Pretend Play at School with Classroom Furniture & Unit Blocks

One of the best things about childhood is getting to pretend. Pretend play brings out the creativity in children while encouraging them to invent with their own ideas. Teachers love to see their students engaging in this kind of play. It can be like a little window into how they think, what they like to do, and what their talents are. Classroom furniture is a great way to encourage pretend play at school.

Use Tables and Chairs

The simple set up of a table and chairs within the classroom can give kids a place to pretend. Students can pretend they are at the dinner table while they serve and eat pretend food. This gives students a relaxed setting to act like a family and take turns doing different jobs.

Students may also arrange the table and chairs in a way that represents the classroom, pretending to be teacher and students. For a teacher, it is exciting to see students play school. It gives insight into what they are learning and what type of teaching they mimic. Teachers can observe and get some understanding into what parts of the day and what types of lessons kids enjoy. They will pick their favorite things to act out.

A table and chairs is also a good setting for pretend office play. Maybe students have seen their parents work at an office, have visited the school office, or watched the teacher work at her desk. For teachers, this type of play is a good way to see which students take the leadership roles and which students take other roles.

Keeping it organized using Book Displays

Having book displays in the classroom give students the perfect setting to play library or book store. This kind of play will encourage students to read and become interested in books. Students can take turns being the librarian or cashier and describe the books to the other students.
Whatever classroom furniture you have in your classroom, it can be used to encourage pretend play in students. This will give you, as the teacher, a look into the personality of each student and give you many options to reinforce classroom lessons.

Standard Unit Blocks

The possibilities with blocks when it comes to pretend play are endless. One of the most insightful activities a teacher can do with blocks is to dump out some blocks in front of each student and let them decide what to build. Some students will build towers, other students will build pens for their animals, some will build car ramps, and others will build their own unique designs.

Having wooden blocks in the classroom gives teachers many options to engage students in pretend play. Learning about space can result in the building of fantastic structures. Blocks with the alphabet can result in students "building" their name. Blocks also give students a great way to pretend play together. Learning to share and build on other students ideas are lessons that will continue all throughout the education process.

The key is school does not have to be boring if the tools are in place to foster creativity. Classroom furniture for children including book displays, easels, table sets, educational rugs, and unit blocks are long lasting, create infinite possibilities, and help teachers make each day fun for their students.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Naptime Away From Home: Make the Transition Easier for Both of You

For many children, school nap times are the first time they will sleep away from home. This doesn't seem like such a huge thing, but consider your child's position. We are naturally more vulnerable while we sleep. Our guards are down and we're generally lying flat on our backs or our sides: leaving us in no position to defend ourselves. So imagine doing this with twenty or more near strangers lying all around you! Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that nap time is a restful time.

First and foremost, choose a sleeping mat that provides snugness and comfort. The feel of a blanket wrapped around him and soft cushioning underneath will help your child feel more at home and less ill at ease during his first few nap-times. Our line of nap mats by Wildkin come in a variety of colors and designs, but more importantly, they offer superb comfort. They also come with matching blankets for him to snuggle up to if he feels uneasy.

Next, send him to school with a comfort object. This can be blanket, stuffed animal, or even a pacifier if the child is young enough. Having something to remind him of home and security will make the transition lots easier by reminding him that he can rely on you and your judgment.

You should also take special care to get him acquainted with his teacher before school actually starts. Take him with you to orientation and let him ask her questions about the class, work they will do, and projects. Letting the two of them interact in this way will help him feel secure with her even when you’re not there with him.

Let him pick out his sleeping mat (to a degree). Getting to have a say so in the print and design will help him feel more in control of his surrounding. Wildkin offers a host of design options for boys and girls, so you'll have no problem finding something your child will love.

Finally, let him know that if he gets scared he can talk to his teacher for help. If you think that your child may have an issue with nap time (or any other new situation for that matter) speak with his teacher ahead of time and decide on a good course of action. Odds are, just knowing he has a support to fall back on will be enough to give him the security he needs to make it through nap-time and the rest of the school day.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Enhancing Education with Sensory Toys

You can help kids get the most out of their classroom experiences by providing them with fun, hands on, toys to play with both during and after school. With so many flashing, blinking, singing and dancing toys on the market today; it's hard not to get sucked in. However, these more technologically advanced items do not give kids the same kind of stimulation that classic toys provide. In fact, they may even hinder your child's development in some areas--such as hand eye coordination.

Here are several better (and less expensive!) options that children have loved for generations.


Whether big or small (big if the kid is under four!) blocks are a childhood favorite! They not only give kids an excuse for making a mess and breaking things, they also help with motor skills. Kids learn how to balance and stack items, how to tell the difference between large and small items, as well as use their imaginations to create. Blocks also encourage kids to use their imaginations. Unlike with modern toys, where a flashing car is just a flashing car, blocks can be made into a house, car, trees, bridges, or people. It's all in the way kids look at them. Some of our favorites are the line of standard unit wooden blocks. They are sturdy, basic and come in sets large and small for multiple kids can play.

Stacking Toys

Colorful connecting toys or stacking toys are the more playful cousins of blocks, but with added benefits for early development. For starters, kids can learn colors by naming the color of each piece. They also excite kids from infant to kindergartner, so if you have kids in varying ages this is a great option to get more fun for your money. Aside from this, stacking and connecting toys offer the same benefits as classic blocks. Snap Blocs by Learning Products are just the right size for little fingers, colorful and full of fun!

Wire and Bead Toys

Always a hit in doctors offices, they also transition well in school rooms, waiting rooms and bedrooms. Although no one may ever quite figure out the mystical appeal of colorful beads on a loop of wire, kids will be entertained for hours on end with these! Kids can learn colors, shapes and other bits of important information while entertaining themselves for a change…without the use of a television. For added benefits, bead mazes also teach problem solving skills as well as encourage imaginative play. We like the Beads in the Barnyard Bead Maze because it also features a variety of animals for kids to learn!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Recognizing the Value of Quality Products in the Classroom Part 2

Preschools within the program's reach are also set to take advantage of the extra money, by adding more exploratory toys and learning devices to their programs in combination with the new furnishings and storage units. Specialized tables, chairs, book displays, and lockers may also be purchased to meet the needs of smaller children.
Because preschoolers through kindergartners are still developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and speaking skills; providing them with additional chances for imaginative play and exploration is high important to encourage proper development. These toys can include classic toys like blocks and art projects, as well as more advance and larger scale items.

Tables and Craft Centers

Because art, like drawing and finger painting, is so important for a very child’s development; teachers will likely spend more funds buying desks, tables, and easels to support their student's artistic expression and abilities. Tables with built in storage compartments add more benefits because supplies like paper, paints, and crayons can be kept within arm's reach when art class rolls around.

Play Centers

Quality play stations can range in size and theme, but they all have one important thing in common: kids love them! From play kitchens with sinks, stoves, and appliances right within reach to larger scale indoor playgrounds: these centers are important parts of any preschooler’s world.

Mainstream offers a wide variety of play centers, many with slides and climbing centers built in. This not only gives kids a stimulating place to play but also helps to encourage muscle tone and development and motor skills and balance. Some of these playgrounds can also be used by children as young as six months, helping them to increase leg development to encourage standing and walking.

Book Storage

Very young children are often rougher with materials than older ones. Papers, drawings, and books tend to get crumbled and stained when not properly put away. For that reason, most preschool classrooms should be properly outfitted with quality book storage units.

The perfect storage unit for this age group is something easy to reach and easy to see the covers of each book so kids can pick their favorite stories with no assistance. Although easy to access, having a designated place to keep books and other reading materials is beneficial by keeping them off the floor and out of desks when not in use. This method will also help teachers better keep track of each book, so they are less likely to get lost or damaged.