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As the mad holiday shopping rush begins, we like to think that parents will choose gifts wisely, but that’s not often the case. Today’s media has a grip on our children, showing them an endless array of useless, mind-numbing gadgets that seem to serve no purpose but to make someone money and when our children see these, they feel they “need” them. “But mom, I need that” is the phrase I often hear from my four-year-old. How quickly they learn. But children need to play, and not only on a digital device.
Play is essential to the developing child because it contributes to cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. Play is also essential for healthy brain development and is the best way for children to explore the world around them. The simplest way to encourage play is by providing plenty of toys. So, understanding that play is the work of children, it is essential that we as parents provide them with toys that stimulate the imagination, build creativity and promote problem solving skills. The nonprofit, National Association for the Education of Young Children, asked two researchersabout what their work tells us about toys, children and play. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith (Professor of Early Childhood Education at the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University) states that one trend that emerged from the studies is that “basic is better,” meaning toys that are open-ended and can be used in multiple ways, such as building blocks, vehicles and construction toys. He also found that the highest scoring toys were those that “prompted problem solving, social interaction, and creative expression in both boys and girls. Interestingly, toys that have traditionally been viewed as male oriented—construction toys and toy vehicles, for example—elicited the highest quality play among girls.” So be sure to set aside any preconceived notions you have about toys and gender and sometimes even about the recommend age (though remember to keep safety at the forefront) and choose toys that force children to think outside the box and utilize their imagination and creative energies. Perhaps even let them play with the box, which always seems to be the most fun.
An observation and thought I would like to share with you is the dismay I feel when I see kids who live in a totally digital world because I don’t know what it will be that will generate their memories in the future. I’m one of those pack rats that saved all my toys and today I love sharing my Fisher Price Briarberry Bears and accessories, Polly Pockets, Barbies, Beanie Babies, Puzzle Place set and others with my four-year-old. She loves to see what I played with as a child. Even though some of those toys still exist, they generally are not in the form that I had. When I get them out for her they bring back my own memories and show her what the world I grew up in was like. With the Christmas Wish Book and toy stores a thing of the past, I see children with less actual physical toys and instead games that are downloaded. What will they have to look back on and what will they share with their children? Just keep in mind that what is happening in their life today will be the memories that they will look back upon. What memory would you like your children to have in the future and what memories and toys will they be able to share with their own children?
Happy play and memory making!
-Kate @ BTBL
We are three generations that seek a way to get back to basics. It’s not that we eschew technology, but sometimes simpler is better, especially in raising our children. Mom was a reading teacher, Amanda is an early childhood educator and Kate a children’s literature specialist and former school librarian along with the latest additions, a daughter (now 4) for Kate, and two sons (now 1 and a newborn) for Amanda. We advocate reading aloud, the simple toys that use imagination and encourage creativity and learning in the kitchen, which can be a fun mess but also teaches life skills. Join us in raising healthy, happy, inquisitive and intelligent children.
Lights, beeps, dings, buzzes. That’s what the toy aisle seems to abound with these days though to be honest, that’s what grabs a child’s attention, isn’t it? But how long until the novelty wears off? Do these toys actually support child development or are they just a temporary diversion? Parents can go broke during this time of gift giving what with all of these electronic gadgets and gizmos, but for an inexpensive, time-honored gift that aids in development, consider the classic jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles are great for all ages and com in a variety of sizes and shapes, from floor puzzles with large pieces that are easy for little hands to manipulate to 18,000 piece goliaths with teeny tiny pieces that will take days to complete.
For little ones puzzles:
My two year old daughter loves building puzzles together and even on her own. “I can do it all by myself,” is one of her favorite phrases when working on a puzzle that we have tackled together several times already and upon completion of one puzzle she is immediately onto the next, “How about my tower puzzle next?” Floor puzzles are always a winner with her and I consider the size, design and shape when choosing new puzzles, not the age on the box. Simple puzzles can be fun for her to accomplish on her own and puzzles with more or smaller pieces are a wonderful bonding time when we work on them together. Our favorite brand of floor puzzles has been Crocodile Creek. The pieces are thick, fit together smoothly and many of their puzzles come in unique shapes, like my daughter's favorite princess tower puzzle that is 48" tall! So gift your child this holiday with a captivating puzzle, open it up, cop a squat and exercise your brain with your little one!
-Kate from BTBL
8 nights of family and friends
8 nights of prayers
8 nights of remembering
8 nights of candlelight
8 nights of songs and games
8 nights of delicious foods (mmm latkes!)
8 nights of gifts
8 nights of stories!
Celebrated annually around the world, Hanukkah, also known as Chag Ha’or (the holiday of light), is a Jewish holiday encompassing eight nights of special prayers, songs, games, gifts and food. The word Hanukkah means “dedication” and so, the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt some 2,000 years ago. This year Hanukkah will begin on Tuesday, December 12th and end on Wednesday, December 20th.
To help you celebrate and/or learn more about this holiday, we have put together a list of eight of our favorite Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah) stories. Consider sharing one of these books each night with your family as part a new holiday tradition.
The Night Before Hanukkah by Natasha Wing
Natasha Wing’s The Night Before… series is always our go to when getting ready for a holiday. Following the same tone and rhythm as Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas, this book details one family’s preparations and traditions during the eight nights of Hanukkah.
The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler
Through accessible, dramatic text and striking illustrations, Adler recounts the tale of the Maccabean Revolt and the miracle of the oil lamp that burned for eight nights, reminding young and old alike of the reason for Hanukkah. At the end of the book a recipe for latkes and directions for playing dreidel are included.
Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm by Linda Glaser
In Chelm, “the village of fools,” Faigel makes the very best Hanukkah latkes around, but this year she cannot remember her special recipe! Her husband, Shmuel, goes to the wise and very hungry Rabbi for advice and while he does have the answers, they just might lead to some rather unexpected results. This is a hilarious story with bright and lively illustrations that will have the whole family in stitches!
Hanukkah Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig
In this book, take your family on a trip across the globe to explore the various ways that Hanukkah is celebrated. After reading, gather everyone in the kitchen to make one of the special and unique recipes that are included.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket
Believe it or not, regardless of what the titles says, this is actually a Hanukkah story. In the witty style we have all come to expect of Lemony Snicket, this book highlights the differences between Hanukkah and Christmas as a runaway latke encounters some famous symbols of Christmas. Both extremely fun and quite educational!
Chanukah Bugs: A Pop-Up Celebration by David A. Carter
"Who's in the box on the first night of Chanukah?" Lift the flaps, pull the tabs and keep turning the pages to find out which bugs are hiding inside the box on each night of Chanukah. A fun and engaging story for little bookworms!
Is It Hanukkah Yet? by Chris Barash
As winter arrives and and the snow starts to fall and all of the animals hide, it is almost time for Hanukkah. Lyrical text and charming illustrations depict what happens at Hanukkah time each year, from the weather changing to decorating and preparing food and finally lighting the candles on the Menorah.
Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland
It is the first night of Chanukah and Sadie is taking care of her four brothers while their mother is away. Sadie goes out to collect firewood and performs an act of kindness for which she is given a magic frying pan that cooks up delicious latkes when you say the magic words. Such good fortune, but will Sadie's brothers heed her warning to never use the frying pan? This humorous and beautiful story that the whole family will enjoy. A recipe for latkes is included at the end.
For more Hanukkah stories, take a look at our Holiday Books list and share some of your favorites with us in the comments!
Also, if you are looking for a an adorable toy to go along with these Hanukkah stories that will help get for your little bookworm excited about the holiday and be a wonderful way to teach them more about the traditions of the season, take a look at this Hanukkah Wooden Play Set from KidKraft!
Happy reading and Happy Hanukkah!
-Kate from BTBL
As we all know, entertaining a toddler can sometimes seem like a Herculean task. I mean, how do you keep a pint-sized whirlwind fully engaged for more than five minutes?! Well, today inspiration hit and I remembered my Fisher-Price Briarberry Collection tucked safely away in a bin in the basement. The Briarberry Collection is a discontinued toy from Fisher-Price of plush bears and different playsets, such as a kitchen, a dining set and wardrobe.
My little one was perfectly thrilled when I opened up the bin and she caught sight of the bears, Sarahberry and Berrylynn (their names are on the bottom of their left foot). We sat down together and took out all of the furniture pieces and then began to go through the smaller containers that held all of the little pieces (place settings, clothing, pot, cookie sheet, bedding, story book etc). I helped her set everything up, explaining what all of the pieces were and chatting with her about what the bears could do. After a while, she began manipulating the toys herself, pouring the tea and giving the bears a drink, cooking up a pot of soup on the stove and then tucking the bears into bed for a nap. She even read the bears a story!
These toys are positively adorable and the best part...??? They do not have any electronics! That's right! No noises, no lights, no moving parts! Just basic toys that encourage a child's own creativity and imagination. I noticed that my little one began utilizing different voices when using each bear. She would sing and just talk, talk, talk as she had the bears going about their various activities.
Also, the bears each came with their own storybook. We were able to sit down and read about the very bears she was playing with, occasionally acting out what was happening in the story. If only there were more toys like these on the market today!
I am so glad I saved these toys and finally remembered I had them! They have offered an afternoon of genuine play, a chance to connect play with reading, and an opportunity for my little one to exercise her creative skills and imagination.
Moral of the story? Some toys should be saved and shared generation after generation!
Happy playing and reading!
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.