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Positive Parenting

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KOIT Radio (96.5 FM/1260 AM)

December 2004

AB: A child's ability to play does more than provide for fun and diversion; it's critical for his or hers emotional and intellectual growth and it teaches everything from social skills to analytical thinking. Play is the essence of what kids do. They play to discover what their minds and bodies are capable of to explore their world and they become fully themselves. But, when was the last time you just stood back and watched your children play? When was the last time you joined in the fun? Well, play isn't just for kids; in fact, some experts believe adults have not only the opportunity but an obligation to help their children develop using play. In the next half hour we will talk about playing with our kids, why it's important and how to do it. We'll pay some special attention to toys and we'll learn some positive parenting ways of evaluating toys and games for safety, educational value and most important, for fun.

Good Morning my name is Armin Brott and this is Positive Parenting. My guest today is Stevanne Auerbach who is the author of Dr. Toy's Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient). Stevanne, thank you for joining us again on Positive Parenting.

SA: Armin, thank you! Toys are so important and it is exactly how you said it- this is the way children learn, this is how they develop. Play should not be taken lightly by parents, it should be taken with seriousness.

AB: Do you think that play is the work of children?

SA: Yes, that definitely is true. You know, I think it's important that adults take time out to play also because it's a great stress reliever. It's important that children have time to play with their parents. I say the parent is the child's first big toy. There are so many wonderful ways to play with children from a basic thing like a box and other simple materials to the more complicated products that can help them learn and develop.

AB: Is it true that you don't need all sorts of gadgets with bells and whistles? It's fun to have some of these things but is it really necessary?

SA: I think it's important to have a balance. Not too much of anything. Try to find a nice balance between active play and getting the child involved, educational products that help them learn that are fun and creativity that helps them use their imagination and learn other skills. All of those things blended I think are really optimal for children.

AB: What about technology and computers for kids? When do you start?

SA: I have looked at a lot of products. This year on our Holiday Gift Guide I've got a couple of products that I think are ingenious for baby. Fisher-Price has a Power Touch Baby that they say is for babies from 36 months; I think that's a little young. But, at 36 months baby is already interested in observing and responding and getting interaction. You look at a book first- you and the child looking at pictures. After awhile, you need a break. Sometimes you just want to give them a little extra stimulation and this product is great for that. It's $30 and you can find it on my website- or go directly to their website The reason why I am mentioning these things is that I think it is very important for whoever is thinking about buying a gift, use the Internet first for guidance, information and some specifics that you can then start to look for when you go to the toy store. This is one technology product that I think has been well tested and provides the child with a response looking at the book. The pages are easy to clean and it has a lot of interesting aspects. There is another product for a slightly older child that is made by a company in Israel called COMFY and they have a website: They have a new product connected to your PC. It is a keyboard that is adapted for the child with large colorful buttons that is an easy to use keyboard. The adult keyboard is not appropriate for the young child. It's really a nice product that is under $100.

AB: Just to get this straight, you are not a spokeswoman for any of these companies, is that correct?

SA: No. I do something very unique. I look at products that go from low-tech to high-tech from baby to older children. I look at one product from each company so that for example, Hasbro or some of the other larger companies have only one spot in my list of 100 Best Children's Products. I really try to get a good balance of brand new products that are just coming out from small companies. I look at toys like other people review movies and restaurants but I think parents need help in finding products that are interesting, educational and helpful to their child. My website, was the first on the Internet to offer information about toys. I started this long before many of these toy companies even had websites. I wanted to write about toys and educational products the way I had been doing for parents. I thought the Internet was a great way to do it. Now we have a lot of information on the site with resources for parents, teachers and children with special needs. I also have a product that is under $10 that's a puzzle with nine pieces and it is just terrific. There are more than 100 different styles in this collection from nature to history and cities. What I like about them is that the whole family can play with this puzzle together. This puzzle is incredibly fun; it is very low-tech and it is educational as well. Children are learning eye-hand coordination and strategy as you play with them. It crosses over a variety of ages, you can scramble the pieces and then put them together and everybody can take turns. Another product that I think is quite interesting and also costs less than $10 and is based on a more classic product. It is called a Color Scroller and features 50 pictures on a Scroller that is like a little lap table that you can put in the car and have fun with while traveling. There is a little drawer that holds the crayons. Here is a nice activity that gives kids a break when they're traveling and it is interesting and fun to play with. It is made by a company called ALEX and they have a website

AB: Are there things that you come across that people should stay away from?

SA: There is a lot of junk. There are safety hazards and a lot of issues that are involved. I wanted to emphasize the more positive approach and there is one area that I wanted to be sure to cover and that is active play. Children need a Hula-Hoop, a jump rope or a simple ball. Small World Toys makes the Wild Gertie Ball and is also under $10. Why I picked it is that you can deflate and inflate it very easily, take it along on a trip and all ages can play with it. It's fun and colorful and it comes in a variety of different colors and different styles. It is small- 9 inches in diameter. About things that are not okay, I think there are things that you can have too much of. You can have too many stuffed animals and over do the action figures with little pieces. Kids can sometimes get carried away with collectibles. I think you really need to look for a good balance. Look for the things that your child is not playing with and put them away, recycle them. Bring them back in a few months and they'll think they are brand new toys. A lot of times when all of the toys are out, kids cannot play when it is too cluttered. It is not always the problem products that might be unsafe or not worth the money and those are around. But, the parent also needs to be diligent and look for your child's play patterns. For example, if your child is really interested in construction play, then look for things that are going to expand their interest. There is a product called Astro-Logix that just came out from England and it is a terrific product for kids who like to build. A company called Toysmith has that product. There are magnets, balls and sticks that pull together that are really fun to play with. Another one called Mic-o-Mic is a racing car and it is a fantastic new product from Germany that is a really interesting construction product. It is colorful and really easy to put together but challenging and it is really a lot of fun. You can go back to wooden blocks made by Haba, which is another German company. They have wooden blocks that make music and are just wonderful.

AB: Talk a little bit about the importance of age appropriateness. I get a lot of people who say: My 18 month old seems very bright and I want him to use this toy that is for a three or four year old child.It seems like you're setting yourself up as a parent for all sorts of frustration and you're probably not going to make your child very happy either. Are the numbers that are written on the boxes as far as age groups accurate?

SA: I think that they are and again, your child's interests and developmental pattern are going to be generally applied to that age range. But, they may or may not have an interest so you can't force it. You have to introduce the product and that is why I think it is so important to play at the toy store. Get introduced to the product and see if your child really likes it. Look and see what they play with at childcare if they're in a program or at nursery school. See what they gravitate toward. Maybe in play dates when they're with other children- what types of toys do they look for? I think it's important for the parent not to impose the product but to introduce it and see what your child does with it. There are times when it is important to get down on the floor and play also with the construction toys, games and making up stories. It's really a lot of fun.

AB: If you're just joining us, I'm Armin Brott and this is Postivie Parenting. My guest today is Stevanne Auerbach who is the author of Dr. Toy's Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient) and today we are talking about toys. Dr. Toy's website is: and she's got a lot of good information about toys and a list of her 100 Best Children's Products for this year.

AB: What do you think about educational products for babies like those from the Baby Einstein Company where the implication is that your child is going to be smarter by using them?

SA: I think it's called marketing. A lot of times what's on the box - it's the biggest, the greatest or whatever. I try to stay away from the hype. I really think it's necessary to introduce books and audiotapes because they're a lot better than television. Television has a lot of commercials and things that you don't want your child to see. A good video is great but it's not going to make your child an Einstein just because they watch a particular video. I think you just have to be realistic about it. You do have a lot of choices and you need to shop carefully. Know your child and pay attention to what your child is ready for.

AB: Concerning dads and construction products, sometimes when I play with my daughter, I find myself edging her out of my way so that I can build a tower that's taller or an even more fantastic structure when she just wants to have fun. It can be kind of funny to watch yourself do that. Your thoughts?

SA: I think it's okay to do that because you find yourself really constructing. As an adult, you might have an unlimited amount of Lego's or K'NEX to do it with and so, why not? The child will enjoy watching you getting excited about it just as much get just the same. I don't think you should curtail your enthusiasm for play. I think it's a very healthy thing. You're not competing with the child and I don't think your child thinks that you're doing that. I do think that playing games though, you should give each other a chance to win and play games that are non-competitive.

AB: Because adults have a longer attention span, if you want to keep going on long after it is not fun for the child anymore, then do you think it can become a problem?

SA: Yes, you want to pay attention to that. You don't want to make your child feel like you are competing with them but have fun with it. It should be time for fun not time to compete.

AB: Do you think that there is a tendency sometimes to use some of these electronic toys like videos as baby sitters?

SA: The toy is not a substitute for getting involved in learning and doing. The child needs time to create things for themselves at its own pace. Often times, electronic products are programmed to move them along beyond sometimes what they are able to sustain. Whatever product you pick, whether it is a software or high-tech product, it has to be modified and the use of it limited. The time that the child has should be fun and should not be stressful. There are times when children do need to focus on homework and concentrate on getting things done but they also need time to relax and not have pressure. They need to discover how to create things with a box just as much as what is inside the box.

AB: What about toys for teen-agers?

SA: I was asked recently about the whole phenomenon of poker right now that seems to be hot because of television shows. Teenagers seem to like poker right now. I think that is not a bad idea because it gets them away from video games that I think are way too violent and very disruptive to their development. Playing a game that involves strategy and playing with other kids is good just as long as they don't get addicted to playing poker. There are some very interesting high-tech products for older kids. There is a new robot called Robosapien and it is produced by a Canadian company called Wow-Wee. Robosapien is a little pricey- it costs $100. Just like some of those Game-Boy and Nintendo games, this appeals to older kids but I don't like most of those video games because the subject matter is violent. I think it's time for video game companies to develop products that are more positive and more educational. Teen-agers like games, they like crafts, they like to collect and they like sports. There are lots of gifts that you can get teen-agers. For the adults on your list, there are a lot of great games that you can buy. Cranium is a great family game and Twister is a classic game that is still around. That's what I think is so much fun, to be able to pull out a game or a product that you played with as a child. In my book, Dr. Toy's Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient) which is now available through Educational Insights, the idea is that games help the whole family to play together and have fun. The more you play together, the more your child's play quotient is going to be increased. Your child needs play and time to play and that time should be as important as everything else. They need time to discover the playfulness in things and the joy of discovery and making things with their own hands and racing cars. Another product that I wanted to mention is a fun product that is also from Canada made by Mega-Bloks: Kids can build their own little car and then race it and they're under $10. What I like about this is that boys like to build and they like cars so they build a little car and race it. These cars are for children aged 6-12. Learning Resources has another kind of car called M.Gears that you build and race that are radio controlled.

AB: You have been doing this for a long time. You mentioned in passing that little boys like to build. What do you think about gender specific toys? Is it worth trying to get your girls to build if they don't want to or trying and get your boys to play with a doll if they don't want to? Is there something in between that and going straight down the gender lines in giving dolls to girls and trucks to boys?

SA: I don't think kids should be forced in any of these activities. Introducing them to play in a nursery school where the girls might get a chance to play with a Tonka truck and the boys may have some nurturing experience with a cooking set or a baby doll is important for a three to five year old. If you're expecting a new child, the parent will really benefit by giving their boy or girl a doll that can be put in water with some of the accessories so that your child can take care of their little baby doll while you take care of their new baby brother or sister. I think this is a great way to help the child overcome any sibling rivalry at an early age and any feeling of not being included. That's another technique that I think is important in raising happy kids.

AB: My guest today has been Dr. Stevanne Auerbach, who is the author of Dr. Toy's Smart Play/Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient). Stevanne, thanks so much for being with us again today and I just want to remind people to visit your website: and check out her list of top 100 toys with websites and 800#'s of each company.

SA: Armin, this time has gone by so fast and that's what happens when you're having fun. We have your book and your website listed on our site and thank you so much for all of the wonderful work that you do to help parents. Have a great holiday and find a good toy for yourself to play with. Thanks Armin, bye-bye.

AB: I'm going to go get one right now. And I'd like to thank all of our listeners for tuning in to this week's edition of Positive Parenting. We'd like to get your comments and suggestions and you can drop us a line through our website at You can check out shows that we're doing through the rest of December and on into next year. Whatever you're doing, please join us again next week on your radio. Until then, I'm Armin Brott and thanks for listening to Positive Parenting.

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