The True Cost of Toys, Part 2

Bruder makes a quality construction vehicle toys that last for years of play.

Bruder makes a quality construction vehicle toys that last for years of play.

This is the first of a three-part series that will examine the TRUE cost of toys in an effort to help you save money on those often expensive, all-important toy purchases. Don’t freak out, it’s easier than you think.

Part 2: Toys That Last

They’re two little words that punctuate the eardrums like a roll of warning thunder in the distance: “I’m bored.” You’ve bought hundreds of dollars worth of toys for your kids, you know they have active imaginations, and there’s always plenty to do outside, so why are they bored? We like to chalk it up to a number of excuses like laziness or even a case of attention deficit disorder. But what if the answer isn’t in their brain chemistry but in their toys?

Last week I talked about calculating the true cost of toys. The formula, as I mentioned, requires estimating the number of collective hours your child will likely play with a given toy before tossing it in the back of the closet for good. While it’s a very worthwhile formula, the nagging question that remains is how exactly you estimate, with any sort of accuracy, how well your kiddo will like that toy. That question can be answered by looking at “long-lasting play value.”

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The True Cost of Toys, Part 1

BrioPlay

This is the first of a three-part series that will examine the TRUE cost of toys in an effort to help you save money on those often expensive, all-important toy purchases. Don’t freak out, it’s easier than you think.

Part 1: Calculating the True Cost of Toys

If there’s one simple truth about kids, it’s that they will play. They don’t prefer to play, they won’t play if you insist, they WILL play no matter what. Since the dawn of mankind, adults have been giving children things to play with, whether it be polished rocks or Tickle Me Elmo. These things, what we in the biz call “toys,” are integral to a child’s development and therefore a matter of great interest to parents. But as toys get more extravagant (gone are the good ol’ hoop-and-stick days), they can cause more anguish for money-conscious parents trying to get the best bang for their buck.

The answer to the issue of finances is usually a hunt for good deals. And while Online Discount Warehouse or Big Box Store might save you $10 on that $50 toy, paying less at the register doesn’t necessarily mean you’re saving any money in the long run. This part’s important, so let me reiterate: Paying less doesn’t always save you money. Let me explain.

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Leapin’ Lizards! The Reality of Owning Reptiles

lizards~1

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

pretendplay

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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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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The Mesmerizing World of Marbles

marblespic

Are you a true mibster? Do you cherish your aggie as much as your taws? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, may I be the first to welcome you to the fascinating world of marbles! The little balls of glass have become as ubiquitous as apple pie in America, but what are they all about anyway? As it turns out, the history of marbles is as colorful as an onionskin shooter!

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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

RulersoftheWorld

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

FlashBrillianceFront

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.