Recently, a toy store owner asked me to teach a workshop to parents about how to choose good toys. To me, that is a highly individualized topic. Whenever anyone needs advice from me about which toy to buy, I usually ask them about their child. What does she like to play with now? What’s her favorite activity? Which toys have been disappointing? Based on their answers, I try to make a recommendation.
But what if the child is a toddler? They are so young and so unmolded in a sense. How can a parent choose something that an 18-month-old will love? To me, it’s like asking a parent to predict the toddler’s favorite food before she’s even tried it. Impossible, right? They just haven’t had enough exposure to things to show you what really excites them.
However, I bring you good news from the land of toys! This year, parents of toddlers are lucky because ThinkFun, one of my favorite toy companies created Roll and Play ($19.99) an interactive non-competitive game that is specifically designed for kids ages 18-36 months. Frankly, I am kind of bummed because my kids (ages 5 and 8) are beyond this stage now and looking back, I think we could have made great use of this game.
Get to Know Your Child in Six Different Ways
With the Roll and Play, kids can familiarize themselves with very important areas of play that are distinguished by the cards’ colors. These categories will give us clues to reveal a child’s learning strengths including:
- Yellow – Emotions (ex. Make a sleepy face.)
- Purple – Body Parts (ex. Touch your toes.)
- Green –Animal Sounds (ex. Roar like a lion.)
- Orange –Counting (ex. Count 5 fingers.)
- Blue –Colors (ex. Find something blue.)
- Red –Actions (ex. Give a high five!)
The game is simple. She’ll just toss the cube and pick up the corresponding card of the color on the cube that’s facing up. The child will perform the action requested, get a high five from you and then it’s your turn. There are no winners because a winning move for a toddler is really just being an actual participant in a game. Since birth, babies have only been entertained but now they are finally getting the chance to show off what their skills. It’s immensely fun to watch but this kind of play also leaves you with big big clues.
Some kids will grow up and show themselves to be kids who love math (Counting) and some will prefer to spend time in karate class (Body Parts and Actions). Some will be really good at sensing when Mom is “in a mood” (Emotions) and some will obliviously throw a tantrum even though you just told him you just had the worst day of your life. And strangely, that same kid can snap out of a meltdown when you sing him a song (Animal Sounds) or give them a bucket of Legos (Colors and Counting) as a distraction.These clues will actually attempt to show us a child’s learning strengths because that is the one thing I have come to understand after working with child psychologists and pediatric therapists for many years. All kids innately have something special that they just love to do. Not surprisingly, that special something usually involves a skill in which they excel! Without a doubt, those skills will end up as their superpower to conquer the tougher areas of learning for the rest of their lives.
How It’s Different From the Rest of Her Toys
You may say that your child has toys like this because you already have toys with colors and numbers and animal sounds but here is the strikingly different difference: The Roll and Play is a game and at the center of this game is your irreplaceable presence. Together, you will learn which tasks she does with ease, which tasks could be causing a little confusion, and which tasks makes her roll on the floor laughing.
Moreover, she will be receiving your praise and feeling her confidence grow as she completes each task. How could a child hold back from showing you that she can touch her toes, count to three, and wave hello! They do these things all the time but the Roll and Play puts them on stage and they know it. It’s no secret that they thrive on your attention.
Knowing What They Like: Your Secret Weapon
Even though I’m a toy reviewer, I’ll be the first to tell you that you don’t always have to read toy reviews to know what will be a hit with your child. You might be in a store one day or be flipping through a catalog and you’ll see a new toy. Within seconds, you’ll just know it’s right because you know your child best.
And that’s what I think is the Roll and Play‘s greatest gift to families. This very simple game gives us all an opportunity to learn more about those mysterious children of ours. While I played this game with other toddlers, I actually learned more about my own children (ages 5 and 8) when they played this game with me. With each roll of the cube, I suspect all parents will discover something new about their child, especially what they like to do.
Knowing what they like to do is precious information. In my perspective, it is no different from knowing they like cream cheese and so we spread some on a celery stick to get them to eat something green. Knowing their likes and their strengths early on will be part of our toolkit (and theirs) to tackle the stuff that is a bit more boring or a bit more challenging.
As I said before, I am really bummed that this game wasn’t available when my kids were that little. But at least I have the pleasure of gifting this to my nephew who’ll be turning 2 next month! I can’t wait to roll this out and play with him. We’re going to have a blast!
Final tip: After you have tons of fun playing with the game, try putting it away for a month or two, and then bring it out again. I bet you might see that your child can perform the tasks with more fluidity and confidence. This is one of those classic toys that can provide to you instant snapshots of progress. What a gift a few weeks of a toy’s “vacation” can bring! Try it!
BUY IT! Roll and Play by ThinkFun is $19.99.
About the reviewer Jenn Choi:
Jenn is a mother of two quirky fireballs known as Number 1 and Number 2 on her toy review website, www.ToysAreTools.com. As a former academic medical publicist, she attempts to decipher in plain language what is really beneficial about the many high-quality educational toys available in stores today. Her unique reviews breakdown toys by user-friendly categories such as My Body Needs to Move and Think Like a Scientist/Engineer to help parents choose the most engaging toy for their child. She picks the brains of expert educators and child development specialists to teach us all the various learning benefits that toys have to offer. Jenn lives in New York City with her husband and their two sons and their two gerbils, Batman and Robin. Find out more about Jenn and Toys are Tools HERE.
*In case you’re wondering…. Toys are Tools is not compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer of the toy that is being reviewed. To facilitate the review, Toys are Tools was given the product by the company. Reviews are never promised.
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