Summer Brain Drain? Not Around Here

Now that summer’s here and the kids are home, parents are looking for ways to keep their little ones’ minds sharp over break. Old standbys like activity books, worksheets, and reading are great at keeping those brains busy. But there are also a lot of fun reading are all important to keep learning locked in, there are fun toys you can add into the mix that kids will enjoy playing–and learning—with.

telly teaching clockTelly the Teaching Time Clock (The Learning Journal International)
This little guy is perfect for kids who are learning to tell time—and yes, that’s important even in an era where clocks with hands seem to be going the way of the ichthyosaurus. Actually, with Telly, you can teach the kids both analog and digital, a feature you rarely find on the same teaching clock. There’s also a “quiz mode,” where Telly asks the child to match the digital time shown on his face by moving the hands on his (literal) face. Bonus: Among his many talents, Telly is a real, working clock, making him a nice addition to a child’s bedroom. Comes with three AA batteries. Retails for $28 on http://www.tlji.com/

magnetic spell and learn boardMagnetic Spell and Learn Board (The Learning Journal International)
This is a great way to teach your kids letters, sounds, and spelling. Some of the magnets have short words and pictures of the words on them. They can then “write” out the spelled words with the magnet letters. This type of hands-on learning is a great way to build phonics, vocabulary, spelling skills, and early reading skills. The board and interlocking magnets make putting words together into sentences or poetry a breeze. And the handy storage compartment makes clean-up easy and minimizes missing pieces. Retails for $20 on http://www.tlji.com

turbo land rocketTurbo Land Rocket (Scientific Explorer)
This toy offers a different type of hands-on experience that’s a lot of fun for a one-on-one parent-child adventure or a whole brood of kiddies. As you might assume from the name, you’re going to be building a rocket—a really fast one. The kit comes with almost everything you need (and easy-to-follow directions). The only thing you’re missing is the rocket’s fuel, which consists of vinegar and baking soda. It’s a real blast and you’ll want to do it again and again. Unlike so many science-based kits, you’ll actually be able to. The manufacturer claims the rocket can go more than 200 feet. Ours didn’t go quite that far but it definitely attracted a lot of neighborhood kids. $26 on http://poof-slinky.com

root vueRootVue (HSP Nature Toys)
If you want to see science literally come to life, this indoor garden is for you. It’s kind of like an ant farm, where clear plastic windows gave you a chance to see how ants build tunnels. But instead of insects, you and the kids get a chance to see how root vegetables grow—the leafy tops up, and the roots down. RootVue comes with “eight super-expanding grow mix wafers, three packets of seeds, identification labels, water wicks for self-watering system” It also has a simple water basin and drainage system, so it’s pretty much mess-free, and a 16-page booklet that has easy-to-follow instructions for doing a variety of experiments. Aside from the science part, there’s also a nutritional component: when kids grow their own veggies, they’ll be a lot more likely to eat them. $35 on http://www.hspnaturetoys.com

Whatcha think?