Category Archives: Educational

Fidgets: They’re not just for kids

Nearly every day parents come in looking for fidget toys for their children. Teachers or therapists have recommended they find something to occupy the child’s hands so the child’s brain can focus in school.

It turns out children aren’t the only ones to benefit from having fidgets to play with. Far from idle diversion, fiddling with desk gadgets can have an impact on cognitive functioning, improving focus or sparking fresh thinking or faster learning on the job, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

WhatzitThe story describes research conducted by a doctoral student at NYU’s engineering school. When people feel restless or confined by computer work, they may get physical stimulation and stress release from playing with a small sandbox, stretching and bending a Slinky, clicking a pen, or shaping and rolling putty.

That, in fact, is how Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty got started. In 1998, designing websites for a living, Aaron convinced his colleagues to chip in and buy 100 pounds of bouncing putty. “Squeezing, stretching, and shaping…they didn’t even realize it was there! As it melted their stress away, their creative potential was unleashed!” he says on his website. People began stopping by his desk to buy more putty, he began adding colors, and the rest is history.

PoshballParticipants in the NYU study mention benefits they get from squeezing, stroking, flipping, twirling, stretching, clicking or fiddling with everyday objects.

Eni Puzzles, chew toys, Wikki Stix, Wacky Tracks, Whatz’it, Sands Alive, squeeze toys, Pop Toobs, Posh Balls and rubber band balls are some of the many fidgety toys that kids and adults alike find calming.Tangles

The NYU study is one of many in the evolving field of research called “embodied cognition,” or how physical movement and the environment may shape cognitive functioning. “Some studies show fidgeting may also be a coping mechanism for restless energy, stimulating the brain enough so a person can focus on mundane tasks,” the WSJ article said.

5 Scientific Toys That Make Learning Fun

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Science is all the rage these days. And no, not just because Bill Nye the Science Guy is on “Dancing with the Stars.” Our educational system is focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a way to keep kids up to date with our increasingly tech-centric world. And although schools can be a great place to hone those STEM skills, there’s nothing wrong with bringing science home to the play room.

As lovers of science ourselves, we have a trove of science games, activity sets and books to learn everything from geology to physics to biology to rocket science. There’s no way to highlight every cool science kit in the store, but here are some of our favorites! Continue reading

Leapin’ Lizards! The Reality of Owning Reptiles

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Ian Stewart likes lizards. He likes them so much, in fact, that he dedicated a better part of the last four years of his life researching, writing about and, of course, living with them. Over time he’s learned one simple truth: Everything you think you know about lizards is a lie. Well, almost everything.

This Saturday, Ian and his wife, Lyzz, will bring three of their scaly friends to Kazoodles to give a hands-on lesson on lizards that will dispel some common misconceptions about the reptiles once and for all.

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The Real Science of Make Believe

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A banana rings in the kitchen. Your child picks it up and asks who’s there. “Yeah. Uh huh. She’s not home right now can I take a message? OK I’ll tell her,” they say before peeling and eating it for snack. You might grin in adoration at the classic banana phone routine, but while it might seem like nothing more than simple fun, there is a storm of cognitive function brewing.

That storm is all a part of basic human evolution and can have extraordinary benefits to mental growth and stimulation. As it turns out make believe isn’t just play, it’s science.

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Help Your Kids Get Through the Day with Easy Daysies

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A day can be daunting. Sitting down with a full day of work ahead, hovering over your mind like a ton of bricks waiting to fall, is enough to drive you crazy. That fear alone practically drives the entire coffee industry. And while kids have far fewer responsibilities, they go through a routine of their own, day in and day out. The difference is that kids have little control over what they have to do in a given day, and lack the experience needed to cope with the ensuing frustration.

Nobody knows that frustration better than teachers. Elaine Tan Comeau, a Canadian elementary school teacher, started combating the stress with a visual activities list that students worked through as they went along their day. It was so successful that Comeau decided to spread her technique to families everywhere through a take-home activity set called Easy Daysies. It’s a simple concept, but the impact Comeau’s system has had on kids’ and families’ lives is huge.

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How Play Prepares Kids for School

Play isn't just fun – it's the intrinsic way kids learn. (photo by James B. Hale/ The Daily Times)

Play isn’t just fun – it’s the intrinsic way kids learn. (James B. Hale/ The Daily Times)

As summer vacation breathes its last breath, and kids slowly migrate from rivers, beaches and backyards to classrooms, bleachers and schoolyards, the mind of the parent naturally wanders to the question: Are my kids ready for school?

Being “ready for school” can mean the obvious, armed with notebooks, pencils and binders for every class, but it can also mean being armed with the skills necessary, both academic and social, to navigate the choppy waters of education. Fortunately there’s an easy way to make sure your kids are primed and proper for the first bell of the year, and it’s one I think they’re going to like – play.

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Put the Cool in Back to School

Whether you love it or hate it, the back-to-school season is upon us. If you’re not already up to your eyeballs in pens, pencils, protractors and paper you will be soon. But between your lists and the school’s lists and your kids’ lists, and in the midst of the stress of it all, it can be easy to forget that back to school shopping can be fun. Because fun is kind of our thing, here are a few items that help make it cool to go back to school.

Smencils

Smencils Original

It’s hard to improve on the classic pencil. Sure, you can make it triangular or paint it wild colors, but at the end of the day a pencil’s a pencil. A smencil, however, is completely different. Smencils are made from recycled newspaper, wrapped tightly and hardened around a graphite core. After they’re crafted, smencils get a dose of one of 10 different scents; from cola to waffle cone to papaya. But the scents aren’t all just for fun. For tests, pick up a peppermint-scented Smencil – a smell proven to stimulate brain activity and increase concentration.

You can pick up a classic #2 Smencil, or get creative with a set of colored Smencils. There’s nothing quite like a gummy-bear-scented paper on the industrial revolution.

Learning Wrap-Ups

Learning Wrapups

Between addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, not to mention fractions, percentages, probability and algebra, there are a lot of math rules to remember. Old-fashioned tables are fine, but they can be difficult for kids who learn with their hands. Learning Wrap-ups aim to solve the problem by making math a hands-on activity. The Wrap-ups come as sets of colored plastic keys. On either side of each key are notches with numbers, and in the middle is the number by which to multiply, divide, add or subtract. The budding mathematician winds a long string across the key, from the initial number on the left to the final solution on the right. After the key is all wound up, turn it over to see if you got it right!

It’s a simple game that gives the fidgety-handed a way to learn in a way that makes sense to them. We have Wrap-ups for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and state capitals. I guess you could say you’ll really get wrapped up in learning! Ha! If only they made Wrap-ups for puns!

Rulers of the World

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Let’s be honest: Rulers are boring. They’re foot-long pieces of wood or plastic or metal, lined with tick marks and numbers blah blah blah. Fortunately, some brave souls over at Rich Frog have stepped up to the plate to bring rulers to their full potential. Their series, Rulers of the World, fills the otherwise blank backs of wooden rulers with lists and timelines of historical rulers – people of influence from different walks of life.

There are Rulers of the North, Rulers of the South, Rulers of Judaism, Rulers of Modern Art, African American Rulers, Native American Rulers and Great Women Rulers of Sports. There are rulers of rulers of science, education, art and almost every other facet of history. Rulers finally get their proper place in the back-to-school echelon of fun.

Flash of Brilliance Flash Cards

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Flash of Brilliance is all about honesty. When creator John Richardson was teaching his 1-year-old son vocabulary, he wasn’t satisfied with store-bought flash cards. “Too many cards didn’t show the actual item being named,” he writes on the FoB website. “They were cartoons, or photographs of stuffed animals. I wanted Stevie to know what an elephant looked like, not what a stuffed elephant looked like.” John decided to take things into his own hands.

The end result is a six-volume series of flash cards: animals, ABCs, outer space, bugs, dinosaurs, and numbers, shapes and colors. On the front of each card is a real photo, in order to keep kids learning in the realm of reality, and on the back are a few foreign translations and fun facts. It’s never too early to learn what the world really looks like.

In between trips to office supply stores, desperately in search of the perfect binder or specific kind of glue, stop by Kazoodles and pick up something fun! Remember, back to school shopping doesn’t always have to be a drag.