Thursday, December 15, 2016

Meet Norman & Jules

Today, I am featuring one of my favorite Park Slope toy stores.  Norman & Jules, established in 2012 by long time Park Slope residents, Courtney Ebner and Avi Kravitz, has one of the most beautiful selection of handcrafted toys that not only encourages imaginative play in kids of all ages, but many of them are great for working on improving a variety of fine motor, visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  One of the things that I find sets it apart from many of the other toy stores I shop in is the fact that almost none of their toys are battery operated, make lots of noises (the Loog Electric Guitar
makes noise but teaches children how to make music) or lights up in crazy ways.  The gifts that you find here are ones that will end up in your family for years and  years.

 Norman & Jules is committed to providing parents and children with options that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but are carefully crafted from sustainable materials. Norman & Jules works with a number of local and international artists and craftsman in order to support both our community and other entrepreneurial spirits.  

Being an occupational therapist and having spent much of my career working with children who were born prematurely, I love the fact that a percentage of all sales at  Norman & Jules are donated to The March of Dimes.  This beautiful gesture is in honor of their 6 year old daughter Charley and other children who have spent time in the NICU due to premature births.  

Below, you will find Courtney and Avi's picks for this holiday season.  If you are in the neighborhood or looking for one of a kind toys that you won't find elsewhere, please be sure to check out their store. 

Make A Face-How are you feeling today? Express your feelings with Moon Picnic’s Make a Face kit! This adorable, silly, sad, scared, laughing, crying, grumpy, happy, kookie kit is a fun way to play with your emotions. Originally inspired to help children with Autism find an outlet to best describe their emotions, Make A Face has become a fantastic tool for parents of children with all abilities to discuss emotion in a comfortable and fun environment. Use the eight different facial features on your face plate and make a face to match your feelings! Make a puzzle game with the play booklet to match frightening and funny faces or cute and clever creations. Use your imagination to make emotions all your own! 
This kit is made with solid beech wood and non toxic paint.
*OT skills that can be worked on using Make A Face is improving fine motor and grasping skills, hand-eye coordination, motor planning and organizational skills.  If you follow some of the images in the pamphlet that comes with the toy, you can also work on visual motor and perceptual skills

Min Yellow Star Light -Wish upon a special star every night with this charming light beside your child’s bed.  A Little Lovely Company has a fantastic knack for making products that make everyone say “Aww!” Touch activated, battery powered and eco-friendly, this whimsical little light is redefining the night light. With a friendly face and soft LED glow, Mini Yellow Star Light is an eye-catching accessory made especially for wishing for a good night’s rest and the sweetest of dreams. The touch sensitivity lets your child easily control this small night light all on their own. It’s also a wonderful way for children to feel safer in the dark and at bedtime. We all know how tricky that can be! The Mini Yellow Star Light will help everyone feel safe and cozy at bedtime. 
*this is a great gift for a child who may have a hard time winding down at the end of the day and having a hard time falling asleep.  The soft light will help calm a child down and relax. 

Bella Nail by Nailmatic-Let your child be the stylist and the star with Nailmatic’s Bella nail polish! This brilliant concoction of color and fun is a darling and safe way to play with nail color. Made specifically for little fashionistas, this nail polish can easily come off with warm soapy water. With no mess and no stress, Nailmatic polishes are a fantastic way for children to play together to further develop their social and fine motor skills. Enjoy having your very own nail artist right in your home! 
*I love these nail polishes and have used them with my own daughter.  Putting nail polish on is a great fine motor activity for those older girls who are resistant to doing work for parents.  Also great for working on improving bilateral coordination, crossing midline and visual motor and perceptual skills.  

Stencil City-Use tools to create your own world with fun packs in Stencil City! Each stencil sheet is full of creative characters, outdoor elements, automobiles and accessories, with big buildings to make a wacky world all your own! A fantastic way to play for children of all abilities, Stencil City helps children develop their fine motor skills and find pride in their carefully crafted creations. Great for kids to play during quiet time alone or as a family activity, Stencil City will be hours of fun for everyone! 
*OT skills that can be worked on with Stencil City are improving fine motor, grasping and graphomotor skills, improving bilateral coordination and hand-eye coordination.  Also works on encouraging creativity and imagination as they build their scenes.  
Rainbow Bowl Sorting Game-These differently colored bowls, each containing a fish, a star, and a heart, turn learning colors and shapes into a fun game for everyone! With the stylized simplicity for infancy, this clever set will grow in difficulty as your child grows up. Introduce the oversized tweezers to add an extra challenge as your child ages and develops greater hand dexterity. The genius behind the sorting game is that it can truly be hundreds of games in one, helping your child develop and grow for years. The only limit is your imagination! Add building blocks and use these unique shapes to create worlds, play matching games with the colors and shapes, role play dinnertime fun with the tweezers and pieces, we can’t wait to see how you play! 
*OT skills that can be worked on with the Rainbow Bowl Sorting Game are color recognition and identification, improving fine motor, grasping skills, building hand strength, improving visual skills, bilateral coordination and focus and attentional skills. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Meet Rose and Rex!

One of the things I worked very hard on this year while putting my together my 2016 Holiday Gift Guide was to try and link to as many small and independent toy stores as possible.  In the days leading up to Hanukkah and Christmas, I am going to be inviting some of the owners of the toy-stores that I linked to and having them tell us their top 5 holiday picks for a particular group of children.  Today, I would like to introduce you to Allie Klein, the founder of the New York City based online toy store, Rose and Rex.  Allie earned a dual M.S.ED degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education.  While in graduate school, she studied the importance of play on early childhood development.  Her work helped her to create Rose and Rex, an online toy boutique that has a tremendous selection of hand-picked toys and products.  All toys were chosen with the following goals in mind:
*promote imaginative play and creativity 
*create empathetic thinkers
*encourage problem solving

I asked Allie to share her top 5 picks this holiday season for babies.  
**If you purchase any item from Rose and Rex, a portion of the sales will be donated to one of two organizations, Second Chance Toys or One Percent For The Planet**

Floating Shape Bath Blocks:  Made from all-natural, plant-based rubber, this bright set of eco-friendly shapes goes from play room floor to bathtub for endless floating fun.  A baby toy that grows along with a child, these blocks are perfect for helping ease into bath-time, learn new shapes and bring the sensory experience of water play into block building.  Whether on dry land or catching a wave, your little one will be mastering spatial awareness and getting acquainted with scientific principles-but to them it will just feel like stacking and splashing.
*OT skills that can be worked on while playing with the bath blocks are improving bilateral coordination and hand-eye coordination. 

Eco Ice Cream Rattles: We all scream for ice cream!  Here's the scoop-baby's first type of play is sensory play, which helps your little one start to understand the world and contributes to their cognitive and physical growth.  From touch to sound, stimulate baby's developing senses with the charming three-piece set of ice cream cone rattles, lovingly hand-crocheted with soft organic bamboo yarn.  As kids get older and no longer need the rattle, they can be encouraged to increase free play and imagination skills when playing with them.
*OT skills that can be worked on while playing with the rattles are hand eye coordination, encourages cause and effect and grasping skills.  

Whale Push Toy:   Under the sea!  Timeless, eco-friendly and handcrafted, this Whale push toy is a special children's gift.  Perfect for little hands as a child pushes the whale around their latest block creation, pretends to swim or makes up a story with the whale as the start they are exercising essential physical and cognitive skills while having fun.  Made from high-quality wood, this toy will grow with your baby.
*OT skills that can be worked on while playing with the whale are improving hand-eye coordination, grasping skills.  As kids get older and more mobile, you can add a string to the whale and they can take their whale for a walk.  

Sunglass Teether: Cool shades for cool babies.  Nurture baby's budding senses with this stylish, eco-friendly and all natural teether.  Hand crafted out of solid, rock-hard maple, this teether is naturally antibacterial, safe from chemicals and toxins and is non-splintering.  
*OT skills that can be worked on while playing with the sunglass teether are improving grasping and coordination skills, hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination  

Watermelon Rattle: We're wild for watermelon, so this sweet hand-knit watermelon rattle has us totally charmed.  Stimulate baby's developing senses and introduce your little cutie to their first type of play-sensory play!  From touch to sound, sensory experiences help babies understand the world around them and help to cultivate their cognitive and physical development.  Ratte, smile, repeat!

A big thank you to Allie this post and her wonderful ideas.  Be sure to check out the entire line of products at Rose and Rex for any of your last minute holiday gifts.