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Pre-Coffee Play - The Magic of Some Toys

TOPICS | Education Posted Wednesday, November 13, 2013 (1,094 views)

There are mornings when our preschooler can't sleep. Sometimes growing pains make his legs ache. Other times a cold prevents him from breathing easily. Whatever the reason he just can't get back to sleep. The same discomfort that won't let him sleep also makes him dependent on us for company. We all sit, nearly comatose, on the floor waiting for our minds to catch up with our vertical bodies.

One such morning, we all sat down to play. Coffee was brewing and my eyes were only half open. In front of me was a new construction toy that looked cool on the box. The pieces were notched to look kind of gear-like. The examples of things we could create looked neat. But pre-coffee I was not inspired. Nor was the toy intuitive enough for me to want to pick up and fiddle with it. What I needed, I thought, were Magna-tiles.

I asked my son to pass the Magna-tiles and I slowly clicked them together to create some sort of container. Then I sat and watched my husband, also pre-coffee, sit and work with the new toy at my son's request. Together they made some cool stuff but, still, I was not inclined to pick up some pieces and make something of my own. It made me wonder about the magic that seems to be inherent in some toys over others.

Later that day I was asked to review a purchase I had made at FatBrainToys.com. At first it seemed like a typical reviewing experience. I was asked to write whatever I wanted to explain how the toy works and how the children play with it. But then I was asked to rate aspects of the toy I have never been asked about before. As I worked down about a dozen qualities of the toy I recognized that FatBrainToys was attempting to measure the toy's "magic." The survey included "Intuitive Use" and "Elicits Imagination and Creativity." Now I had found a seller of toys that understands and seeks to discover "magic" toys!

“Magic” toys seem hard to find. However, all I need to do is to have a framework from which to work. Then when I see a toy I can ask myself, “could I do something with that pre-coffee?” The answer will guide me. Of course, my other option is to depend on specialty stores to do some of that discriminating for me. FatBrainToys.com, BellaLunaToys.com, WalkingStickToys.com and, most recently, MontessoriServices.com are among my favorite places to shop online. They seem to have found a divining rod for finding magic toys to sell in their stores!

Contributed by
Julie Schneider
Preschool Engineering

Julie Schneider writes a blog called “Preschool Engineer: Resources for inspiring mechanically-minded toddlers and preschoolers.” She has been happily married to her husband Mike for 12 years and currently stays at home to raise their children, Mikey and Anna. As a family, they play at parks and children’s museums, go tent camping, and explore the world. On her own, Julie reads, runs, practices yoga, and ruminates over all things beautiful and/or interesting.


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