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Archive for October, 2011

The Votes Are In: Children Pick Top Holiday Toys

National Childcare Chain Announces Top 10 Toys of 2011 that Encourage Playful Learning

Are you shopping for a preschool-aged child this holiday season? Look no further! Children and educators from select Goddard Schools–leaders in early childhood education–have announced their top toy picks for infants through children six years old for the 2011 holiday shopping season. The Goddard School® Toy Test is the only national toy test designed exclusively for children in the preschool age range.

The Goddard School is dedicated to providing an environment where teachers support the nurturing and learning children want and need. It is with this focus that Goddard Systems, Inc., named the number one childcare franchise company for the tenth year in a row by Entrepreneur magazine, has released its fourth annual list of top toy finalists.

After a national call for submissions, Goddard School educators and children evaluated entrants based on a number of criteria, including:

  • Interactive, child-initiated play focus
  • Creative, social or engaging
  • Appropriate for infants through children six years of age

“Goddard Schools are recognized nationally for our learning through play philosophy and our play-based FLEX Learning Program, which focuses on the value of playful learning,” said Sue Adair, Director of Education at Goddard Systems, Inc. “We feel that our Top 10 Toys list will serve as a great resource for parents, grandparents and other family members as they enter the gift-giving season.”

Top 10 Preschooler-Approved Toys (in alphabetical order):

Animal Sounds Hay RideAnimal Sounds Hay Ride (Learning Curve)

A fun tractor and hay wagon ride with farmer and animal figures. The figures are removable, with a bonus application of matching the animal figure to an image within the hay wagons to be rewarded with the correct animal sound.

(Suggested Age Range: 18 months & up) 


Bristle Block Stackadoos

Bristle Block® Stackadoos® (B. Toys by Battat)

Chunky, soft pieces are easy to connect and feel good in little hands. A booklet filled with building ideas keeps the fun going.

(Suggested Age Range: 2 to 6 years)


CitiBlocs Camouflage 100 Piece SetCitiblocs Camouflage 100 Piece Set (CitiBlocs)

Eco-friendly; builds strength in little fingers and improves eye-hand coordination. Learn and practice math skills by grouping, adding, subtracting, matching and sequencing in a new camo color design.

(Suggested Age Range: 3 years & up) 


CitiBlocs Little Builders Rattle BlocsCitiblocs Little Builders Rattle Blocs (CitiBlocs)

Eco-friendly; builds strength in little fingers and improves eye-hand coordination. Practice fine motor skills, problem solving, imagination and experimentation. A great first block set for children!

(Suggested Age Range: 2 years & up)


Count Your ChickensCount Your Chickens!™ board game (Peaceable Kingdom)

The perfect ‘first’ board game for children. Cooperative games emphasize play and not competition. 100% Green.

(Suggested Age Range: 3 years & up)


ElemenosqueezeElemenosqueeze (B. Toys by Battat)

Chew on them, toss them in the tub, learn the alphabet, build your masterpiece. Keeps children busy for years! Or at least minutes. Rich colors inspired by the toymaker’s international heritage.

(Suggested Age Range: 6 months to 3 years)


Hoot Owl HootHoot Owl Hoot! ™ board game (Peaceable Kingdom)

A color-coded cooperative matching game. Cooperative games emphasize play and not competition. 100% Green.

(Suggested Age Range: 4 years & up) 


Little Shoppers PlaysetLittle Shopper Playset (Earlyears)

6-piece playset is full of activities. Each food features a different texture plus crinkles, jingles or chimes. Perfect for fill and spill and take along fun.

(Suggested Age Range: 6 months & up) 


Sensor Ball SetSassy® Sensory Ball Set (Sassy)

Sassy’s Oppenheim Award-winning sensory ball set comes with 3 balls, each featuring high-contrast patterns, graspable areas, textures or noisemakers for play and sensory development.

(Suggested Age Range: 3 months & up) 


Soft Chime GardenSoft Chime Garden (Lamaze)

Colorful and musical textured flowers encourage baby to reach, tug and bat, developing hand-eye coordination and teaches cause and effect. Also straps to car seats and strollers.

(Suggested Age Range: 6 months & up) 


For more information on the Top 10 Preschooler-Approved Toys, visit www.goddardschools.com/toys. To learn more about The Goddard School, families are encouraged to visit www.goddardschool.com or call 1-800-GODDARD.

Expect the Best

Reading - Teacher & Girl AGive your child a positive outlook on life while providing priceless life lessons. Set the standard with an expectation of consideration, compassion, respect and good manners towards others. Be a good role model and watch your child imitate your behavior.


What life lessons do you find most important to provide to your child?

Mummy-Dogs, Halloweenies and Witch Eyes

Looking for a spooktacular twist for your child’s Halloween lunch?

  • Wrap precooked hot dogs in thin strips of canned roll dough and bake until golden brown for yummy Mummy-Dogs. For a healthier twist, try turkey or tofu dogs!
  • Slice veggie dogs, put in a mini-pita pocket with colorful matchstick veggies and add sweet and sour or BBQ sauce for a delicious Halloweenies sandwich!
  • Whip up devilishly delicious deviled eggs. Top with a round slice of black olive. Serve two egg halves side-by-side for protein-packed Witch Eyes.

Busting the Binky Habit

You may cringe when you think about ending your child’s “binky” or pacifier-sucking habit. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “sucking is one of an infant’s natural reflexes. They begin to suck on their thumbs or other fingers while they are in the womb… Placing a thumb or another finger [or an object] in the mouth provides some children with a sense of security during difficult periods, such as when they are separated from their parents, surrounded by strangers or in an unfamiliar environment.”

However, as the ADA and most pediatricians in the U.S. will also point out, a prolonged sucking habit may cause problems with healthy growth of the mouth and roof of the mouth, as well as alignment of teeth. For these reasons, as well as the obvious social ones as your child gets older, it’s best to try to break the habit as early as possible. Most pediatricians will encourage stopping by age two, and many children will break the habit on their own between the ages of two and four.

To discourage your child’s habit, consider the following tips:

  • Start by letting your child know that a binky is only to be used at bedtime and naptime. Give your child the responsibility of making sure that the binky is stored on her pillow or nightstand each time she wakes up.
  • Peer pressure may encourage preschool-age children to break the habit at naptime while at school. Use this opportunity to encourage the elimination of a binky during naptime on weekends.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on your child to pass up the binky. This may cause anxiety and can actually make it more difficult for your child to kick the habit. But, DO encourage every positive step in the process.
  • Consider that sucking may occur when your child is feeling insecure. Comfort your child, address the stressor and try to resolve or redirect. Reward her when she avoids sucking during stressful situations.
  • Ask your child’s dentist to talk with her while at six-month checkups. Believe it or not, for older toddlers and preschoolers, sometimes this is all it takes!
  • When all else fails, you may want to consider the “Binky-Fairy”! Cuddle up with your child during a comfy, quiet, low-key time and break out your most creative skills to tell your child a story of the Binky-, Button- or Pacie-Fairy who collects pacifiers from children who are ready to be “big-girls” and “big-boys.” Let your child know that when she is ready, she can pack up her pacifiers to trade to the Fairy for a very special reward. Mention the Fairy on a regular basis—keep it fun, positive and low-pressure—and most importantly, let the decision about when she is ready be hers to make. You may be surprised how quickly your child is ready to make the trade!

Common Preschool Halloween Mistakes

As a child psychiatrist, school consultant, father and grandfather, I’ve seen a lot of All Hallows’ Eve’s involving preschool children – more unsuccessful than not. I’ve come to the conclusion that successful Halloween experiences contain the same traits: the children are old enough, the celebration is short, too much candy is avoided and it isn’t scary.

Parents intend to delight – and delight in – their preschool child’s playful participation in this fall ritual. But less is more when it comes to keeping a preschooler comfortable and entertained. Here are some guidelines:


Halloween is really meant for school-age kids and adults who have no trouble telling fantasy from reality and whom are way past being afraid of the dark and of scary masks. The preschooler is less likely to laugh and more likely to anxiously ask the mask-wearer a question – cute, but neither funny nor entertaining.


Tying Halloween into dinner plans often stretches the evening out beyond your preschooler’s stamina, making all the other strange stuff inherent to the event harder to manage and understand. Plan to stick to your routine, and celebrate well before bedtime so your preschooler has a chance to settle down.


Candy is the antithesis of your normal bedtime snack, giving your child a sugar rush. So, keep them away from the candy bowl. You may want to reconsider having them stay home to ‘help hand out the treats,’ tempting though it may be to have them ‘safe’ with you at your own front door.


Because the preschool mind is just mastering the difference between reality and fantasy, things that slip back and forth over the edge of that distinction – like Halloween itself – aren’t very comfortable training grounds for this kind of learning. Older children can see the joy in being scared because they understand the difference. A preschooler is not quite ready for this kind of ‘fun.’

For your young ones, then, I suggest you make it a dress-up party without the gore, leave the trick or treating to the grade school professionals, check your favorite parents magazine/Web site for some simple games to play with peers and get them to bed at a reasonable time. Giving them and yourself a few more years to get ready for the delightful weirdness will be deeply appreciated by them and you.

What Am I Learning Today? The Goddard School Daily Activity Report

At The Goddard School, parents receive Daily Activity Reports to provide ongoing communication about the experiences their child has at school each day. The Daily Activity Reports allow for informed, open conversations among our teachers and parents and, more importantly, between parents and their child.

Studies have shown that when a parent discusses their child’s day with him or her, their child feels the importance of their place in the world, develops self-worth and builds self-esteem. It’s also been discovered that reviewing and discussing a child’s day allows information to move from short-term memory to long-term memory, a great way to extend their learning experience at home!

Media Use by Young Children

Remember when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its recommendation five years ago that children two and under should not watch any television, and that children over two should limit exposure to two hours per day? Many parents seemed as reassured by this advice as they were confused. How could such an esteemed organization give advice that was “so out of touch with real American family life,” as one mother commented to the evening news? In those five years, children’s media appetites have hardly slackened. In fact, ‘screen time’ has eclipsed ‘TV watching’ as the name for such activities, given the plethora of devices on which real or animated moving and talking figures can now inform, distract, stimulate and baby-sit our young. So what is a parent to do?

An enlightening new study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop,, “Always Connected: Young Children’s Media Use is On the Rise (March 2011),” tells us what parents are actually doing. It seems like many parents don’t know about the guidelines anymore, given that the majority of parents ignore them.   They may feel a need to ‘plug the kids into something besides me [i.e. the parent],’ or they turn a deaf ear because they feel that media exposure stimulates intellectual growth and development or they feel that ‘it’s something the world will expect my kid to be able to use, so the earlier the better.’ The report goes on:

  • For the time being, television remains the favorite medium.  90% of the average families sampled with children over five had kids who were regular, even enthusiastic, viewers. They watched an average of three hours per day.
  • Media use by young children ranges across a variety of platforms. 80% of sampled kids five and under are on the internet at least once a week and slightly less than half of all six-years-olds regularly play video games.
  • Media multitasking is growing quickly, with over a third of two- to eleven-year-olds using the television and the internet simultaneously (sound familiar?).
  • These usage patterns are likely to change, given that four of the top five electronic devices owned by children are mobile platforms.

So, back to that question of what is a parent to do, given that the expert advice out there seems not to have kept pace? [Keep your eyes open for some fresh guidelines from NAEYC on this topic coming to its website this year – maybe they WILL have kept pace].

  • If you want your kids to play imaginatively (great pre-literacy foundation!), keep the playthings away from the screen. University of Massachusetts researchers found that toddler play erodes and disorganizes when TV is on.
  • Keep the media diet balanced.  Print materials, screen devices, video games and DVDs should be rotated and refreshed (if not occasionally ‘lost’). Think of nutrition’s representation of a healthy, balanced diet. The food pyramid evokes positive images of a ‘media pyramid.
  • The best way to use the positive impact of TV (yes, there is one and this is it) is to engage parent-child pairs in co-viewing programming that stimulates learning and delight with the use of humor and playfulness (not silliness), novel topics and perspectives. This prevents the use of TV as a baby-sitter, but that’s the point. There is no stand-in for you, or the delight that you take, in your child’s growth and health.