Toy Talk: Investing in Quality Materials

It’s no secret that I love toys! In addition to our expansive Discovery Toys collection, we also love to browse our favorite local toy store and the DoSeum gift shop for more #learningthroughplay fun!

One of the parent concerns I hear most frequently is the COST of quality toys. Here are five reasons why I don’t let price get in the way of great, educational products:

  1. Toys are part of our homeschooling curriculum. We frequently use our Unifix cubes, wooden blocks, and Busy Farm animals for hands-on math play.
  2. Learning on the go is important to us, especially when we travel.
  3. I factor in “cost per play.” We’ve had our Measure Up! Cups for five years ($3/year or 25¢/month) and we can look forward to at least a decade of fun with our Marbleworks set ($9.70/year or 81¢/month)!
  4. Less is more! Children don’t need a large quantity of commercial/plastic toys, but rather open-ended products that can be used in a variety of play scenarios.
  5. Toys are my splurge area. Some families spend money on extracurricular activities, special trips, or name-brand clothes–but play is important to our family!

Here’s a checklist I made to remind me of my priorities when I am shopping for toys:

Our toy-shopping checklist! Investing in quality materials matters to us.
What are your thoughts about buying quality materials?

Toy Rotation, Week 4

We’re currently having a “rest” week in our homeschool routine, so our girls have been BUSY playing in every room of our home. Kate also had a birthday this weekend, so there are a few brand-new toys in the rotation!

Check out this week's toy rotation picks! [Lone Star Signers]

Here are the toys my girls are loving this week:

Reminder: Lone Star Signers uses affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you purchase something through these links. This post is unsponsored and all opinions are my own.

Check out this week's toy rotation picks! [Lone Star Signers]

pegs + foam pegboard | Boomerings Activity Set
ABC wooden puzzle (similar)
purple discovery basket (including Mental Blox, bristle blocks, and velcro food)
pictured above: Melissa & Doug school bus set (and extra people)

Toy Rotation Tuesday #1

We’ve been using a toy rotation system for about 18 months now. Each week, I try to remember to post a photo of our current selection on Instagram (using the hashtag #toyrotationTuesday). Many people are looking for specific brands, so I thought I’d do a quick weekly post here with links for your convenience. (And let me tell you, it’s really nice to have a visual inventory of our toys so the girls can pick and choose a new toy without having to go into the closet with me!)

See what we're playing with! Toy Rotation Tuesday #1 with Lone Star Signers

Reminder: Lone Star Signers uses affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you purchase something through these links. This post is unsponsored and all opinions are my own.

Here’s what the girls are playing with this week, in addition to their toy kitchen in their room:

See what we're playing with! Toy Rotation Tuesday #1 with Lone Star Signers

bristle blocks | Lincoln Logs
United States puzzle (similar) | Memory Moves
rhyming puzzle | number puzzle | nuts & bolts

Traveling Tips for Kids: Choosing Which Toys to Bring Along!

Our family recently took a weekend trip to Houston–my husband had a singing competition, and I knew the girls and I would be spending a lot of time in our hotel room. (It was raining, the hotel was located in an industrial area surrounded by a construction zone, and we wanted to be available to spend time with our favorite tenor during his breaks–so we didn’t “day-trip” much on this getaway.)

Before we left, I packed a tote bag full of our (current) favorite Discovery Toys. Each item had to meet the following criteria:

  • Open-ended, with multiple ways to play for both our preschooler and our 1st grader.
  • Compact and easily contained.
  • Easy to share.
  • Educational.
  • Fun!

There were times throughout the weekend when each girl needed to bring ONE activity with her down to the conference center (attached to the hotel) for one of the competition’s public shows. It was important to me that all loose pieces could quickly be picked up and moved to another location–something that my girls are already pretty good at!

Traveling Tips for Kids: Choosing Which Toys to Bring Along!

Here’s what we brought:
(Note: I am a Discovery Toys Educational Consultant, so this post does include direct links to my online shop. Please let me know if you need specific recommendations; I’d love to help!)

  • Exact Change (all ages)

    Exact Change combines an excellent teaching lesson with fun, fast paced action that the entire family will love. The goal is to play all of your cards first. You can discard cards by matching the color of the last card played, by matching the currency value (eg. play a penny on a penny), or by making EXACT CHANGE. Making exact change allows you to discard multiple cards that add up to the value of the last card played. For example, if the last card played shows a quarter, you can make exact change by playing two dimes and a nickel- allowing you to discard three cards in one play! (Our littlest girl matches the color or number without worrying about making change.)

  • Giant Pegboard & rubber band ball (19 months and up)

    Giant Pegboard from Discovery ToysSide one features a pegboard for sorting, stacking, counting, and matching the 25 easy-to-grasp pegs of various sizes and colors; the flip side features a raised peg geoboard for creating geometric designs. Updated set includes 12 two-sided pattern cards, with activities for both sides of the board! (Both girls had a great time making designs and letters on the pegboard side all weekend long. Our colorful rubber bands (purchased separately) added an extra layer of patterning fun!)

  • It’s a Match! Deluxe Set (recommended for ages 3+)

    It's a Match from Discovery ToysSelf-checking learning system designed exclusively for preschoolers. Snap the colored frames onto the answers, then pull down the tray to check the results. If the color of the frame and square are the same, it’s a match! (Our preschooler LOVES this one!)

  • Playful Patterns (recommended for ages 4+)

    An early childhood pre-math and pre-reading learning center in an heirloom wooden box, made of durable eco-friendly materials. Logic and spatial thinking will blossom with the 132 wooden geometric shapes and 34 progressively challenging designs. Match the design cards or create your own open-ended patterns and images.

    Box can double as self-contained work space. More activities included. Box and shapes made of beechwood and water-based paints. Labels and pattern cards printed with soy based inks. (We recently purchased this beautiful wooden set–our previous set contained foam pieces. I love all the discussion about colors and shapes that develops while doing this activity together. Plus, more than one child can build a design at the same time!)
  • Tac-Tiles (recommended for ages 3+)

    Tac-Tiles from Discovery ToysTouch & guess: Is it a star, a submarine, a koala bear, or perhaps a guitar? Boost visual AND tactile skills, critical thinking and memory with this hands-on set of wood tile frames and matching shapes. This versatile set features 32 fun, familiar shapes, 32 matching tiles with the shape punched out, and a canvas draw-string bag. Have a blast identifying objects by touch alone, sorting by feature, or tracing. Play alone or with friends. (This incredible toy fits all of my trip criteria–it’s our go-to traveling activity!)

    What toys do you like to take on a trip?

Discovery Toys Marbleworks: Get Building!

I am a Discovery Toys Educational Consultant, so this post includes a direct link to my shop. It’s a chilly, rainy week here in San Antonio. My girls–so used to our daily outside time–are getting a bit stir-crazy! I typically set up a fun “invitation to play” after nap/rest time each day, so I decided to surprise my girls with an extra-special treat yesterday: Marbleworks! Get Building with Marbleworks! * Marbleworks is a new toy for our family. Since the recommended age is 5+, I’ve been trying to hold off until Kate’s 4th birthday–but the weather just isn’t cooperating! Both of my girls love to build, so Marbleworks is a great cooperative experience for our entire family. We start from the bottom and build up, making sure to save the Split Track and Start Gate for the very top. We talk about colors with Kate (3.5) and Addie (6.5) builds fine-motor strength in putting the pieces together. All the while, our girls are getting real STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education) experience:

  • The variety and number of pieces allow for an insane about of combinations. (Pascal’s Triangle, anyone?)
  • Building promotes spatial reasoning and logical planning.
  • Children are able to predict which track will be faster and make correct adjustments to support their theory.
  • Plus, it’s fun for kids and adults, so our entire family can have fun together (until *someone* gets too competitive…)

Marbleworks Review from Discovery Toys & Lone Star Signers Keeping this one packed away for special occasions definitely helps keep the mystique!

Marbleworks Ultra Deluxe Set
Marbleworks Deluxe Set
Marbleworks Starter Set (shown)
Marbleworks Add-On Set
Marbleworks Wild Ride (shown)
Marbleworks Crank It Up

Don’t forget: Discovery Toys has an incredible warranty policy for all of their toys and offers replacement pieces! I know many families who still have their original 20+ year old Marbleworks set–so I’m looking forward to years of fun with ours.