Kid things that teach and entertain
It’s time for the annual frenzied back-to-school preparation. Amid the buying of new notebooks, pencils, and backpacks, the preschool set can get lost in the shuffle. Kids with older siblings love to pretend they’re getting ready for “school” too, so encourage the love of the back-to-school ritual with toys and activities that keep the youngest learners occupied and their minds engaged in good old-fashioned play.
Monica Sommer, director of Zion’s Hill Preschool on Danbury Road, suggests having a variety of playthings available “like a buffet, ” that encourage open-ended play. Almost anything you have on hand will do. “With rocks and blocks, kids can learn a lot,” she notes.
Melissa and Doug Bernstein live locally with their own personal “test market”—their six children. The couple started their eponymous toy company over 25 years ago in the garage of Doug’s childhood home. Melissa says, “We listen to parents—I talk with a lot of them!—to create products that are borne out of customer needs, and offer children tremendous play value.”
Their Wilton-based toy company Melissa & Doug offers over 2,000 iconic products that are both traditional and innovative. Recently they let some local children experiment with a selection of their new offerings that kept the kids happily entertained for hours.
Puzzles Always a playtime staple, puzzles help teach children patience, spatial relations, and discovery through matching pieces by shape or picture. Our group of kids loved stacking the Baker With Cakes, and Occupations puzzles as high as possible, and appeared to enjoy knocking them down almost as much. They also had fun putting the puzzle pieces back in their correct positions, which makes cleanup a snap—a definite parental bonus.
Dress-up costumes Children love to role play, and dress-up costumes help ignite their imaginations. In addition to the old standards of princess or pirate, why not mix it up a little and encourage kids to emulate people they see around town (or at home) such as a doctor, veterinarian, firefighter, or chef? Our volunteers dressed up as a pilot, pediatric nurse, and veterinarian and collaborated to help an “injured” 14-foot-long stuffed snake and then flew him “ back to the rainforest.”
Stuffed animals The Toy Chest on River Road sells a menagerie of jumbo bears, tigers, giraffes and life-sized versions of dogs, cats, monkeys and other animals. These cuddly friends help children create stories, learn responsibility, and express their emotions.