Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Western Toy & Hobby Show 2011

Every year since 2004, SensoryEdge has attended the Western Toy & Hobby Show. We enjoy meeting our suppliers in person and getting to know the products we sell. We feel the ability to actually touch & play with the products and talk to the manufacturers about the features and benefits of their items gives us an advantage over many of our competitors. Attending trade shows is also a great way to pass on suggestions and criticisms that we've heard from our customers. Making an item is one thing, but using it is a completely different experience.

The 2011 Western Toy & Hobby Show was held in Long Beach California. With the best intentions of going to the show, we awoke to a torrential downpour. The weatherman said it would last all day and the trip would take two hours in low visibility. We were also supposed to meet up with one of our customer service reps so she could get to know some of our vendors in person. After much debate and a plea from our babysitter (grandmother) not to go because it would be too dangerous, we decided not to make the trip. Lisa, our rep was a different story. She was like the USPS, "Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor gloom of night" was going to stop her from attending!

Here's Lisa's recap:

On Sunday, March 20th, I went to the Western States Toy & Hobby Show at the Long Beach Convention Center in Southern California.  This was my first toy trade show and I decided to brave the crazy Southern California rain. I felt going to this event would be a great opportunity for me to see new items and meet the people I've spoken to on the phone with. Plus I was on the lookout for new vendors who were interested in having their items sold by SensoryEdge.

Since this was my first show. It was a little overwhelming to see rows and rows of toys. Surely not like the bigger toy show in New York but still a little scary. Also, most of the people who knew SensoryEdge were used to seeing Alycia and Ed. I was interested to see their response when a "new" person was representing the company. After a few minutes, I was totally at ease. As you would expect people who sell toys and other kids products are generally happy go lucky and fun. We laughed at the rain and at how people in California have no idea what really bad weather is!

It was great to see Guidecraft, Pacific Play Tents, and Roomates Peel & Stick Décor there.  The Guidecraft items look so cute in person.  There is a dimensional aspect to their carved wooden pieces that cannot be fully captured in photos. 

I was especially impressed with their new Hideaway Play Kitchens, which collapse to about 6” when not in use.  When you open them up, they look like great wooden kitchens that kids will love, and adults won’t believe that they can be closed up and stored so easily.  Great for those of us with limited space!  Pacific Play Tents was excited to debut their new Dinosaur Train licensed tents and tunnels, and they have great canvas teepees that boys and girls alike with love. 

In the Roommates Peel & Stick Décor booth, I checked out the gems that go on their wall decals to add a bit of sparkle and a nice dimensional effect.  My daughter will LOVE having these on her wall.  There are so many licensed characters and different designs available, that they truly offer something for everyone.  And since they are repositional, removable, and affordable, you and your kids can have fun decorating without worrying about damaging your walls or making a long-term commitment to wall paper!  Anatex was there, with their classic beadmazes and activity tables.  We also saw some great items from new suppliers that you may see on our site soon.  At SensoryEdge, our goal is to offer the best, high quality, innovative, and affordable products for kids that we can find.  Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to visit toy shows and manufacturers across the country!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Kindergarten Readiness - Fine Motor Made Fun

There is a lot more to Kindergarten than learning the ABCs and 123s. Children are expected to write their name, cut paper accurately, and manipulate small objects for art projects and counting. These tasks all require fine motor skills. Learning all of these skills is a lot easier if fine motor skills are developed prior to starting Kindergarten. Parents and educators know that the best way for kids to learn is through play. They suggest providing a variety of fun learning toys so your child can use their imaginations while gaining the skills they will need later on. 

For example, blocks are a simple way to get kids building and using the small muscles in their fingers and hands. They need to grasp the blocks, stack them, steady them so they don’t fall over, and they can use their imagination as they build. Make sure to get blocks of different sizes and textures so that it keeps their interests. The variety will also stimulate the muscle groups in different ways. Make sure you get a set of 1 inch blocks. The small size is perfect for teaching kids a pincher grasp which is needed later for holding a pencil. I also like having larger unit blocks that need to be manipulated with the whole hand to strengthen the larger muscles. Keep it fun and interesting by adding add foam block, textured blocks and large cardboard blocks to your collection. The best part of blocks is that kids love them so they will be used over and over again. You will know they are building fine motor skills as they play but all they know is they are having a great time. 

Two other toys that help build hand and finger dexterity are lacing toys and puzzles. Lacing toys require children to pinch the string to successfully push it through a hole. This activity teaches a pincher grasp, increases finger dexterity, and has the added bonus of improving hand eye coordination. Likewise, puzzles also improve the same set of skills. Different types of puzzles work different parts of the hand so make sure you have a range of puzzles types for your child to explore. Peg puzzles require kids to pinch the small peg between their fingers. This skill building toy works the small muscles of the fingers and promotes a pincher grasp. Knob and chunky puzzles guide children to use a more claw-like gesture building strength in the whole hand. The claw-like action also teaches kids to coordinate all their fingers so they work together. As kids play with puzzles and lacing toys they are having fun while building the essential strength and skills they will need when they pick up a pencil or scissors later on. 

There a lot of activities that kids do every day that are paving the way for their life in school later on. Like most things, learning through experience is the best way for kids to improve their fine motor skills. Small toys are not the only tools you can provide to accomplish this. To keep things fun and interesting you can use sensory and activity tables as well. I like filling a sensory table with beans, dried corn, or bird seed and hiding small objects for kids to find. They love the feeling of searching through the material to find the hidden object. When they find it they will use their hand and fingers to grasp and manipulate what they found. The activity itself also helps develop problem solving skills as they figure out the best way to find the item; it also helps tactile discrimination skills as they learn to discriminate between different textures, shapes, and sizes. All of these skills will make learning to write and cut an easier task. When your child walks into their first kindergarten class you will be worried and excited for them no matter how much you prepare. If you give your child a lot of experience with fine motor activities you will have one less thing to worry about and your child will be more confident as they tackle this new challenge with pride.