Give the children on your list toys that teach (ARA) - This holiday season, consider toys that do more than clutter your house, are played with briefly, and quickly forgotten. There are a host of toy companies that specialize in “developmental” toys -- playthings that experts say can give your child a running start on reading, math, social skills, and sports. “The ability for toddlers to recite the alphabet and count to 10 isn’t necessarily a good indicator of how they’ll perform in elementary school,” says Renatta Cooper, a child development expert at Pacific Oaks College and Playing for Keeps board member. “Rote memorization is becoming less important than developing your child’s other mental abilities -- and toys are an effective way to engage and enrich young minds and bodies.” Toys that Carry a Tune Musical toys are particularly effective in developing language and math skills because they stimulate a particular area of your child’s brain. Look for toys that are openended, self-directed, and inspire creativity. Other musical toys, like music blocks composers, encourage creativity and personal expression as children explore various musical styles, instruments, tempos, and structures. Each shape in music block composer toys represents a different instrument, so your child makes music simply by playing with blocks -- with a possibility of over one million unique musical compositions. These kinds of mental “decoding” connections come in handy when it comes to learning how to read. While music blocks composer helps kids cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation for music, it also promotes numerous other developmental benefits: hand-eye coordination, color and shape recognition, sequencing and classification skills, understanding cause and effect, and auditory discrimination. Recent tests show that practicing music actually boosts intelligence. In fact, young children who took piano lessons for a year scored 80 percent higher on spatial tests than children who didn’t. Music training has been shown to be far superior to computer lessons in enhancing abstract reasoning skills. And regular music stimulation in newborns has been shown to increase IQ scores by up to 30 points. It is for these compelling reasons that brand names have spent years developing musical toys that stimulate and engage young brains, and actually expand the ability of infants and toddlers to learn essential non-musical tasks. Imagination and Coordination Toys can also be used to hone such crucial skills as imagination, motor skills, strength and agility, social interaction/sharing, and problem-solving. Some companies offer several developmental toys including “the world’s most catchable ball,” the Gertie Ball. This tacky-to-thetouch ball is easy to catch and does more than you think -- it inspires early social skills while developing hand-eye coordination. And with special features like sound and color change, Gertie Balls allow a child to explore cause and effect relationships. Sometimes, the more simple and classic the toy the better when it comes to developing the imagination. Cooper explains, “Dramatic play teaches social skills more effectively than any instruction.” So this holiday season, consider giving your children a gift that will actually give them an intellectual lift. Years from now when they bring home their first straight “A” report card, you will be glad that you did your homework! Last MinuteGIFT GUIDE December 23, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 17 Visions of sugarplums Teens at the Mahwah Public Library had fun decorating (and eating) delicious gingerbread cookies, recently. Forty teens participated in the program. Top left: Samantha DeMarse and Anuja Walke. Top right: Stephanie Van Heest and Sarah Vita. Bottom left: Andrew Peters. Bottom right: T.J. Hannon and Neil Patel. �� ����� � � �������� ������������ ���������� ��������� �������� ����������� �������� ��������� ������� ����� ���������� �������� ��������� � �� ����� ��������������� ������������������������������� ��������������������������� ����������������� ������������� ����������������������� ����������������������� ������������������������������������������������������������������ ������������������������������� ������������������������������ ����������������������������� ������� ����� ������ ������������������������� ����� ������� ����������������������������������������������������������� ������������������������������������������������ �������������������������������������