The Best Advice on Children's Products


Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Series: The Importance of Toys

toyladyWhy are toys important for young children?

Here are some tips on play and toys, plus ways to help support children’s well-being anytime. Regardless of circumstances, children often need comfort and reassurance. Play can provide them with both and more.

A teddy bear, puppet or soft doll can provide reassurance when child is especially concerned and struggling to understand something. These playthings and others offer tangible emotional comfort, and can be a friend to share a secret as needed.

Play is essential to babies, toddlers, preschool and school-age children. Children need plenty of opportunities to play with a variety of good toys and materials and use their imagination. Adults also need time for play, to reduce stress and increase energy.

We need to respect and understand more about the world of play and its great value for all babies and children (and adults as well). Toys are an important part of every child’s life. It is a wonderful feeling to give the right toy. Choosing the right toy from among the many possibilities can be very rewarding to both adult and child.

What’s the role of fun or joy in selecting toys? Should parent always be thinking of “education”?

Being a fully-developed person requires a good combination of thinking, common sense and experiences.We must also experience a full range of emotions to be fully human. It wouldn’t be good to be lopsided to one degree or another. It’s better if we can solve problems, make good choices based on character and values and feel glad and proud about finding solutions.

 Certainly, children need to solve problems,express their feelings and spend time each day in playful activities. If we are only rational and don’t allow ourselves to express feelings, we drastically reduce and diminish the full human experience of joy and discovery. The world of toys provides learning and fun, surprises and skills, emotional growth,experiences of all kinds and much more.

Enjoy smart play and smart toys for a lifetime. Toys, puzzles and games are good for children — and seniors. Playtime is, after all, good for a lifetime.

Turn off the TV, and Turn On playtime! Increase more joy, more fun, more memorable and meaningful family time. When the power goes off, new connections can be made. Children can rediscover their own inner creativity and power. Everyone can have laughter, fun and share more good times together. Let’s play!

To learn more

  • Read Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient)
  • Visit website Dr. Toy’s Guide –
  • Download new App Dr. Toy’s Best Gift Guide
  • Read other articles on play and toys by Dr. Toy on The Huffington Post
  • Follow Stevanne Auerbach on Twitter

© 2013 Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, Dr. Toy, San Francisco, CA


Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Series: Overcoming Barriers to Play

toyladyMany wonder about the amount of time children are able to play each day, and about the kinds of playthings they use. We should all make a commitment of time, energy, and resources to select products, and provide experiences, that will most benefit children.

Technology or Play?

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study, American children spend an average of “almost 40 hours a week (equivalent to a full-time job) consuming media outside of school – including television, computers, radio, and electronic games.”

Most children have TVs, computers, phones, and game consoles readily available. They are exposed to advertising as they browse the Internet, play games, and watch TV.

They use electronic devices instead of active play. Organized play such as soccer, Little League baseball, Scouts, and, music and dance lessons, while each have value, do not constitute “Free Creative Playtime,” which has been shown to enhance development. Balance is what is most beneficial.

Active Play

Many recreation centers do not have sufficiently trained personnel that can offer a wide variety of activity choices.

Many pediatricians are concerned about the amount of time sedentary children spend with electronics. They and childhood specialists feel too much media consumption is a detrimental due to passivity, inappropriate material, and not being engaged in a variety of diversified activities.

Limited physical exercise leads to various health problems, while the bombardment of advertising messages can lead to child’s nagging, dissatisfaction, and poor eating habits.

We are concerned as these intrusions into the lives of children are a great barrier to healthy playtime. Too much use of electronic devices limits time for other pursuits like creativity, engaging with playthings, exploration, dreaming, thinking, and reading.

We know during play, children are learning, growing, creating, thinking, imagining, and being active. Play has many benefits that are physical, emotional, and social. Children need many different ways to play – from active to educational to creative. We must share concern for the rapid reduction in children’s playtime.

What can be done?

Help to launch these activities for children if they don’t already exist in your community. These are a few ideas. I would like to hear about what your community is doing to expand different play experiences for children.

Create Play Spaces

Create more play areas in stores, museums, and in the community at large.  We need to find new ways to encourage more play, and create new places for play, where children have easy access. Children need exposure to new and classic toys, time to explore playful experiences, and encouragement to try new things.

Visit a children’s museum to see how much space is allocated for “free play” with blocks, construction toys, and other playthings. If there is not such a space set up, suggest that they create it to allow children to use their own creativity and imagination, and build things they cannot create at home or in school. Play is essential for everyone. ##

To learn more

  • Read Dr. Toy’s Smart Play Smart Toys: How to Raise a Child with a High P.Q. (Play Quotient)
  • Visit website Dr. Toy’s Guide –
  • Download new App Dr. Toy’s Best Gift Guide
  • Read other articles on play and toys by Dr. Toy on The Huffington Post
  • Like us on Facebook at
  • Follow Stevanne Auerbach on Twitter


Dr Toy, Toys For Tots, Health of Children, Parental Guidance, Play, Playthings, Toy Stores, Parent News

© 2013 Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, Dr. Toy, San Francisco, CA

The Reading Game: Developing Literacy Through Play

The Reading Game has just launched it’s 2nd, Enhanced Edition.

The multiple-award winning learn to read game, The Reading Game, has just launched its 2nd, enhanced edition. Using play to teach need-to-know words and helping children build confidence and enjoyment with their first independent reading experience is what has made the game so successful.

The Reading Game works by teaching children the words they need to be able read a storybook independently. It does this through a fast-action memory card word game which teaches five words at a time. Its captioned-picture flashcards reinforce the words learned through game play in short sentences and introduce capitalization and punctuation. Each of the content rich stories is told using only the 30 words learned through game play.

This staged learning format ensures success and no frustration – even for struggling readers. “My kids LOVED this game and what was even more exciting then that was my middle son who has learning issues and struggles to read really LOVED the game. It brought tears to my eyes to see how into the game he was. When you can make a subject fun for a child that usually dreads it, you know it is a hit!” Angela Richter, Mom and Blogger with Angela’s Analysis Review.

The Reading Game has six levels, each with its own card game, flashcards and storybook. The program teaches 180 vocabulary words; including Dolch and High Frequency Words for K & 1st Grade levels. It has been awarded the Tillywig Brain Child Toy of the Year Award, Dr. Toy’s Best Picks for Children’s Products, The Family Review Center Gold Seal, and Seal of Approval and meets Common Core Standards for Language and Literacy Arts. It was created by the author of the Wordly Wise vocabulary text-book series, which is used in over 10,000 school systems in the United States and is considered the gold standard in vocabulary development. Includes 6 decks of brightly colored cards, 6 sets of flashcards, 6 illustrated storybooks, and Parent’s Guide. MSRP $34.95



The Right Toys for Toddlers



by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Toddlers actively explore their world and want to touch, smell and taste everything. Watch carefully and “child proof” your home and the child’s playspace.

This is a great time for lots of good, safe toys that offer varied play experiences. The right toys help your toddler learn about color, shape, size and weight.

Constantly check things out so they match your child’s growing interests and responses. Play will help develop better coordination, strong muscles and inquisitive minds.

With blocks the child gains small muscle strength and counting skills. It’s fun to build up, take down and rebuild. Plus, children learn a lot as they create.

Toddlers enjoy a range of toys that include a soft doll, pail, shovel, push-pull toy, jack-in-the-box, bubble pipe, pounding set, ring stack, puzzle, pounding set, books and tapes.

Toddlers love to play with household objects such as plastic dishes, pots, pans and cups. A small broom will give the child a chance to sweep.

When selecting toddler toys consider:
• Is it durable?
• How long will the toy last under “toddler testing”?
• Is it childproof?

A product should be long-lasting, substantial and made of good, strong materials.

Stuffed toys must be hygienic, washable and not have any fluff that could be pulled off and put in the mouth.

Protect the child from small parts or anything tiny that could cause choking. All products must be non-toxic.

Toddlers play with or near other children, at their own pace. Contact with other children is important, so playgroups are a great way for them to socialize, learn to take turns and engage with others.

Observe how the children interact with people and objects. This is the time to build self-esteem.

Notice the way children feel about themselves and how it affects physical, emotional, and mental growth.

Picking Perfect Toys for Children of Any Age

Dr. Toy has assembled a series of articles, re-posted from the Huffington Post, to help you decide what to get your little loved ones.


Picking Perfect Baby Gifts

The Right Toys for Toddlers

Best Toys for Preschoolers

Best Toys for Children in Primary Grades

Best Toys for Older Children


OWI Robotics: Solar-Powered Genius


Solar Power and Robotics

Some of the most popular robotic kits are also the friendliest towards the environment. Current solar technology has allowed kit designers to include solar panels to replace batteries that would eventually end up in landfills. Solar-powered robots can range from simple to complex, and they can be an excellent way for beginners to learn exactly how this alternative energy source works. Attaching and charging a robot’s solar panel is a perfect hands-on way for builders of all ages to explore the applications of this clean-energy technology.

What is Solar Power?

Solar power refers to the conversion of sunlight into electricity by a direct process called the photovoltaic effect. This technology relies on a semiconductor to pull radiation from the sun’s rays and convert it into a direct electrical current. Another type is known as concentrated solar power, which relies on a system of reflective lenses or mirrors to generate an indirect electrical current when exposed to strong sunlight.

The direct method with photovoltaics is used for both large and small-scale solar panels made with a specific number of solar cells. Some of the first devices to use this technology were single-cell solar-powered calculators. The modern solar robot is powered with the same basic technology, though sometimes with more than one cell.

How to Use Solar Power to Drive a Robot’s Motor

A robot kit’s motor works with a direct electrical current that comes from at least one charged solar cell. Depending on the complexity and difficulty level of a robot kit, the builder will need to attach each of the cells to the robot either by epoxy gluing or by soldering for more advanced kits. Solar robot cells act as receptacles for sunlight, and different robot motors require solar cells that can be charged to a certain voltage. The needed number of volts typically depends on the size of the robot, its number of moving parts and the electric power required to fuel them. Many robot kit solar cells attach to the motor with simple wires by soldering or with locking connectors found in some beginning level kits.

Solar Robot Kits Available from OWI

A number of OWI’s most popular solar robot kits provide young builders a challenging but fun project that teaches some fundamentals of science and engineering. Assembling an environmentally friendly robot will demonstrate the benefits and possibilities of solar power as an emissions-free power source. For beginning to intermediate robot kit enthusiasts, some favorites include:

6-in-1 Educational Solar Kit. This robot kit is designed for beginners and does not require seperate tools to attach the parts together. Options include building a small solar-powered windmill or one of two toy airplanes.

7-in-1 Rechargeable Solar Transformers. Robot builders can put together several different toy vehicles with this beginner-friendly kit. One big selling point is its high-caliber solar cell that recharges to full power in only minutes.

The Solar System was featured in Educational Dealer Magazine as “one of the items most ordered at the NSSEA show…Great New Products from Ed Expo.”

Solar robot kits are a fun, educational and creative means of learning about this type of energy-efficient technology. Here’s a video of OWI’s products featured on The Late Show with David Letterman. Note for impatient souls: skip to 1 minute into the video.


View OWI Robotics entire product folio.

OWI Robotics is a proud Dr. Toy’s Alumni Member.

Best Toys for Older Children


by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Parents want to know more about play for children between age 9 and 12. During this period of development, children experience rapid social maturation and physical growth. They are in transition.

No longer so young, their interests grow more sophisticated. Despite the many changes, they still benefit by having a good balance of activities at home, at school and at playtime.

Children will expand their talents and interests if they are encouraged. So, this is a great opportunity for parents to introduce new hobbies, as well as a range of activities and experiences, to their children.

At this age, friends are a significant influence on a child. However, with your support and encouragement, their individual talents and interests will also expand. The older child likes to make things, work on projects and see results.

Gift ideas include interesting hobbies, crafts or construction sets. They also like computers, cameras and scientific materials. Other possible gifts include sports, creative arts equipment, stuffed animals and also the introduction to or support for special collections.

Also consider assorted books, board and video games, a camera or video camera, and the newest hand-held technology.

This is a good time for children to discover and expand their interests and unique talents. They can also be encouraged to pursue music, art, dance, drama and writing.

Your child’s ability to concentrate for longer periods of time at this age will be reflected in what they pursue and how much they develop their interests after-school. Provide time for them to spend alone to find their own interests and enjoy being productive.

Children appreciate knowing about different alternatives and having the opportunity to make selections based on their interests and curiosity. When children are constructively occupied, they are happier, more satisfied and more productive at home and in school.

Reading, playing games, flying a kite, throwing a Frisbee, putting a puzzle together and having a hobby can all help to make children more focused, smarter, social and self-confident.

Just as friends and individual pursuits are important, as they grow older, children need to also interact with their parents. So find some fun group activities to do together that allow everyone to win.

Play is the smart way to learn.

Best Toys for Children in Primary Grades


by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Children enrolled in the primary grades are actively involved in friendships, interested in learning, happily engaged in outdoor play, rapidly gaining skills, and expanding a wide variety of interests.

Peers are very important as are their activities and a range of toys, especially the products their friends play with. Children of this age express their ideas, creativity, feelings, abilities, and personality while they are engaged in play. They share the give and take, conflicts, and challenges of getting along.

Encourage play with both younger and older children to offer a full range of social experiences, which benefits all children.

You can choose among many useful play products for children from five- to eight-years-old.

Active toys develop their large and small muscles. Consider skates, jump ropes, construction, and a variety of role playing and adventure type toys.

Creative toys develop imagination. Explore musical instruments, varied art supplies, crafts, puppets, a dollhouse (one they can decorate is enjoyable), or train layout.

Educational toys enhance reading, writing, math, science, or geography. They stimulate mental abilities, challenge thinking, and help them problem-solve with a chess set, strategy board game, science project, telescope, or beginning a hobby.

Create a special place for child to study and organize playthings. Your child needs easy access to the wonderful products you purchase. Find new ways to store playthings so your child can take responsibility for putting things away.

Some useful ways to handle organizing includes:

• Shelving makes storage easy.
• Boxes or bags can hold a lot.
• Shoe boxes are useful for tapes, small pieces, and art supplies.
• Large boxes can be decorated.
• A hammock is a good way to store stuffed and soft toys or dolls.
• A toy chest must have safety hinges.

Take some time each day to play a board game, building, or doing a craft with your child.
Quality time means having fun together.

Best Toys for Preschoolers


by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Preschool children are curious, inquisitive and have a lot of energy. Everything around them is of interest. Their vocabulary, self-expression and imagination is rapidly expanding. Their play is dramatic, creative and active.

Preschool is an important, fun, learning opportunity where your child expands social skills and practices communication skills. Observe the toys your child plays with at preschool. You can learn a lot by observing your child during play.

Take your child to your local toy store. S/he will be excited. Listen to your child as they create a “Wish List.”

To select what’s best for your child look at toys that have plenty of play value. Choose durable, long-lasting products that provide hours of fun like wooden blocks, construction playsets and puzzles.

Look for various textures, shapes, sizes and colors. Consider the materials.

• Imagine your child playing with the toy.
• Study age labeling on packaging for appropriateness.
• Children have short attention spans, even the best toy will be used only for a short time.
• Recycle toys to make the most of them.
• Products too complex are frustrating and those too easy are boring.
• Show the child how to use the product only if he needs help. It’s best to allow the child to discover.
• Toys offer the child many forms of self-expression.

If angry, your child can use a foam bat and ball, a bop bag or hand-puppets to safely express feelings and release emotions.

For creativity, s/he will benefit from clay, finger paints and crafts.

For learning, sorting shapes, sizes and weights, books and tapes are excellent.

Eye-hand skills will improve with ring toss, bean bags and different construction products.

For active play, your child will enjoy a trike and outdoor play equipment.

For indoors, select a good mix of art supplies, playsets, books and tapes.

Remember your child learns through play, so encourage lots of fun playtime and discovery,. Find enjoyable things together like games, creative and building projects.

Picking Perfect Baby Gifts



by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. – “Dr. Toy”

Anytime of the year is the right time to find a great gift for a child, or for an adult who enjoys “the child within.”

How do you go about finding that special gift of a toy, plaything or game?

Children and adults love bears, stuffed animals, dolls, board games, recorded sounds and fun gadgets. Ask about their favorite objects, and you are certain to find something that they will enjoy.

But what about the buying gifts for babies? Those precious, new people in your life who cannot tell you what they want, but who will definitely show you what they think about your presents, either with cute gurgles and happy smiles, or with complete indifference to that hard-won gift you survived traffic and shopping malls to acquire?

For baby, a special teddy or stuffed animal is always fun to look at; many special objects provide stimulation and others are interesting to watch and respond to.

As the baby grows, the most stimulating toys will still be played with, and perhaps carried around from room to room.

Consider a nice mobile for visual stimulation. Look for one with music, or buy a mobile and a recorder with an assortment of good musical selections.

Music helps with auditory stimulation, so another choice might be a music box. They are so much fun to listen to, and so very soothing.

Mobiles might be best for active babies who need something to occupy their time, and music boxes might work best for cranky babies who need some help falling asleep.

Look for a crib mirror, which is perfect for observation and interaction. Baby will enjoy looking and talking to his or her image. Soft toys can be perfect for entertaining the baby at about three months.

Music is not the only sound that a baby will like; look for interesting rattles that offer clutching and shaking sounds. Babies find them not only fun to listen to and to watch, but also great to chew on when teething. You can find a variety of specific and recommend shapes, textures and styles for different functions.

Some rattles make the best noises. Some shapes are better for teething babies. You can choose between a variety of soft shapes and different textures and styles. You can make a selection based on what you like and the features that your baby is ready for.

Play games with your baby to expand its enjoyment of interacting, laughing and being playful.

There are also many different “peek-a-boo” objects, moving and hiding toys and other fun products that you can use to stimulate and support the mental and social development of babies.

This is a good time to remind you of some safety tips for all young children.

Make sure the product package clearly states the age range so that you do not give a child a product that is not appropriate for its developmental level.

Watch out for small objects that are left around by accident, as babies can pick them up easily. We don’t want any accidents, so avoiding these ahead of time is the best way to “child proof” your home or wherever you travel.