#geniusofplay: Playtime for kids has big boosts in academic areas

So right now you’re about halfway through summer wondering what on earth you can plan for the last 2 months of the kids’ free season before you’re doing your back-to-school shopping. You’ve probably already hit the zoo, the water park, maybe even the beach. You’ve picnicked, hiked, camped, dutifully signed them up for swimming lessons and basketball camps, visited the park a little more than you’d like, and thrown a few slumber parties. You’re racking your brain for how to entertain the kiddos… and we have the solution: let them come up with it!

Let them play. Free reign. No fancy gadgets, no fancy trips. Just playusing their own toys and imaginations… and maybe a few tips from The Toy Industry Association.

The experts back it up! Research shows that playtime has a critical role in healthy childhood development! A full hour of open ended playtime per day has BIG BENEFITS like:

  • Strengthening your children’s minds, bodies, and bonds with friends and family
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving cognitive abilities
  • Honing communication skills
  • Boosting creativity
  • Giving them the tools to process and express emotions healthily
  • Developing physical skills (fine motor and athetic!)
  • Enhancing their social skill set (like patience, kindness, sharing, and more!)

Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Toy Industry Association has teamed up with researchers to back a new initiative called the #geniusofplay to remind parents that they can relax… a lot.

“Today’s parents and caring adults can be too singularly focused on their children getting good grades, staying disciplines, and mastering a number of structured extracurricular activities,” Pasierb says, “But that can come at a cost … [P]ediatricians recommend that children spend at least 60 minutes a day engaged in open-ended play — arts and crafts, playing dress-up, building imaginary worlds, and and so much more. Through play, children learn about the world around them, explore their creativity, build important skills, and work through their emotions. The positive impact of play on the healthy development of kids, from tots to teens, is undeniable. Our goal is to inspire parents to make play an important part of their children’s day – every day!”

Researchers and experts like Dr. Anne Marie Albano, Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and Director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, say that play is essential and transcends cultural and geographic boundaries. It transforms the brain’s neural pathways and helps children deal with pain, fear, and anxiety. Its benefits are endless.












fact-creativity-1 fact-communication-1









The campaign asks parents to pledge to at least 1 hour per day of play for their kiddos–or 1,000,000 hours of pure fun (and beneficial)! play this year. At the end of the year, they’ll make a donation to the Toy Bank, which is an international giving program that makes play possible around the world for kids in need.

They have cute, short videos that highlight just how many skills and opportunities kids have to learn in play activities such as this one:

Plus, they have an entire section on play ideas and play tips (such as tips for independent play, for grandparents, for playdates, or how to keep the kids playing on family trips). They even break it down by age!

We have you covered on some of the great toys that will help aid your child in their play.

For 6-12 months, they recommend stacking toys and blocks because they say that “babies in this age range are able to manage high levels of stimulation. They’re beginning to exercise their working memory and understand how to change their behavior to fit different game rules.”

stacking toys, toys for 6-18 months

Owl Stacker – 8 pieces – Melissa & Doug – $12.99


wooden blocks, baby toys, developmental toys

ABC/123 WOODEN BLOCKS – 36 blocks – Melissa & Doug – $25.00









For 1-2 years, they say that simple shape sorters and puzzles with knobs because “gross motor skills continue to be formed [and] kids at this age begin to display affection toward familiar people and start to imitate the behaviors of others.

Shape Sorting Cube – Melissa & Doug – $13.99


jumbo knob puzzles, melissa and doug toys

FRUIT BASKET JUMBO KNOB -8 pieces – Melissa & Doug – $18.99








For 2-3 years, they say that knob puzzles with whole object pieces that fit into simple scenes and building blocks are great because “physical play will help kids this age continue to develop gross motor skills and understand spatial orientation. Arts & crafts can foster self-expression, creativity, cooperation and sharing.

Peg Puzzle “Farm” – 6 pieces – Melissa & Doug – $6.99






Castle Logix – 7 pieces – Smart Games – $24.99









For 6-9 years, try model kits, paper dolls, and board games because “strategy-based games help support children’s cognitive flexibility and problem solving skills. Pretend play is also very popular during this stage. Creating and remembering details about complex imaginary worlds and characters strengthens kids’ memory and innovative thinking.

goldieblox toys, girl engineers





















Check out their full list of age-appropriate games and toys from 0-12 years, take the pledge, and browse our toy catalog for kids so you can take a break, your kids can have some fun, and everyone can go into the new school year feeling relaxed and refreshed.

New 2015 Kid’s Puzzles

A new year has arrived and that means we’re stocking our shelves with all the newest puzzles! To keep your kids engaged, having fun, and working out their brain, jigsaw puzzles are a great pastime. With tons of themes and sizes, you can find something every kid of every age will love.

The following puzzles, from popular brands such as Ravensburger, Heye, and New York Puzzle Co., all have 100 pieces or fewer and are perfect for kids ages 6 and under.

fairy jigsaw puzzle

Candytuft Fairy – 100 pieces. New York Puzzle Co. For ages 5 and up.

peter rabbit jigsaw puzzle, beatrix potter gifts

Peter Rabbit and Family – 48 pieces. New York Puzzle Co. For ages 3 and up.

educational jigsaw puzzles for kids

Vehicle Fun – 11 pieces. Melissa and Doug. For ages 2 and up.

tinga tinga artwork jigsaw puzzle

Giraffe – 75 pieces. Heye. For ages 4 and up.

Window – 75 pieces. Heye. For ages 4 and up.

Monster Buddies – 60 pieces. Ravensburger. For ages 4 and up.

Outer Space – 60 pieces. Ravensburger. For ages 4 and up.

princess jigsaw puzzle, fantasy, unicorns

Princess and Unicorn – 100 pieces. Ravensburger. For ages 6 and up.

Cats Around the World – 100 pieces. Dowdle Folk Art. For ages 6 and up.

spongebob squarepants jigsaw puzzle, kids puzzles, nickelodeon

Spongebob (Lenticular Puzzle) – 100 pieces. Cardinal. For ages 6 and up.

Educational Insights Puzzles for Kids: Teaching Them about Money, Time, and Vocabularly

Educational Insights is a company dedicated to making learning an interactive, enjoyable experience for kids. Based in Southern California, they manufacture products that have serious educational value–while maintaining the interest of your little ones. The designers of these products are seasoned educators and parents themselves, people that know best just how important it is for learning to be fun.

We carry several Match It Up! puzzles from Educational Insights. These puzzles are aids to keep your kids’ brains working while they play and learn about the concepts of reading and vocabulary (specifically synonyms and antonyms), money, and telling time.

These puzzles are perfect because with them, you can do two very important things that keeps learning fun for kiddos:

1) You can help them and play with them, making learning a special, social time, and 2) You can match up things your child is interested in–like cartoons, animals, or dinosaurs–and use it to encourage them in their quest for more knowledge.

vocabulary help, puzzles for kids,

Match It Up! Antonyms Puzzle by Educational Insights. 48 pieces.

Each set for each special skill comes with 2 puzzles, both of which have no clue as to what image your child will be building. Instead, they will look to the tray where they place the pieces and the back of the puzzle pieces. They will match up the concepts that go together. For example, on the antonyms puzzle they will match up “day” and “night” to correctly place a piece. On the money puzzle they will match up a written number such as “21.75” with a photo of two ten dollar bills and three quarters. At the end, they’ll see the full picture that all their knowledge has helped them build!

making vocab fun for kids

Match It Up! Synonyms by Educational Insights. 48 pieces.

help kids learn about money

Match It Up! Money Puzzles by Educational Insights. 48 pieces.

teach kids to tell time

Match It Up! Time by Educational Insights. 48 pieces.

Building puzzles is one of the best ways to combine learning, fun, and other essential skill developments. They will:

  • Hone their fine motor skills

  • Develop problem-solving techniques

  • Master shape recognition

  • Improve their memories

These skills will translate to so many areas of your child’s life. So not only will these puzzles help teach kids new concepts, it will be helping them in ways that are harder to see but just as important too! Inspiring a love of games and puzzles in youngsters will help ensure that they maintain engagement with activities that have so many benefits and that wards off cognitive decline far into their futures, making for a full, happy, and healthy life.


Holiday Gift Guide: Puzzles for Kids

Kids can be tough to buy gifts for sometimes, because we don’t know what toys and games they already own or things they will like to use for a long time. It can also be hard to find the perfect difficulty level where it is easy enough to use to be fun but challenging enough to keep interest. A puzzle is a fun, interactive gift that can be enjoyed by the child and his or her parents, as they help their child develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and more. We have a great holiday gift guide on our site, with puzzles separated by age group, featuring some of our best-loved puzzles for ages 1 through 12.

AGES 1-2+

christmas kids puzzle, toys for kids, gifts for toddlers

Christmas Tree Chunky Puzzle by Melissa and Doug. 13 pieces. Age 2+

music games, sound puzzles, melissa and doug kids jigsaw puzzles, gifts for toddlers

Sound Puzzle: Musical Instruments by Melissa and Doug. 8 pieces. Ages 2+

farm puzzle, good first birthday gifts

Large Farm Jumbo Knob by Melissa and Doug. 8 pieces. Ages 1+




AGES 3-4+

thomas the train puzzle, thomas the train games, kids puzzles

Thomas & Friends – Meeting Friends by Ravensburger. 80 pieces. Ages 4+

snow puzzles, horse jigsaw, puzzles for kids

Chestnut and Acorn by Cobble Hill. 35 pieces. Ages 3+


Black Lab Puppies (Tray Puzzle) by Cobble Hill. 35 pieces. Ages 3+




AGES 5-6+

wizard of oz jigsaw

Jouney to Oz by SunsOut. 63 pieces. Ages 5+

Noah and the Ark by SunsOut. 63 pieces. Ages 6+

low piece count puzzles, puzzles for children, wildlife jigsaw

Mini Puzzles: Tiger by Ravensburger. 54 pieces. Ages 5+




AGES 7-8+

teddy bear puzzles

Teddy Bear Workshop by . 275 pieces. Ages 8+

educational puzzles, space jigsaw, science puzzle

Dino’s Solar System by Dino’s Illustrated World. 500 pieces. Ages 8+

Gingerbread Makers by Cobble Hill. 275 pieces. Ages 8+




AGES 9-10+

Gingerbread Fun by Springbok. 400 pieces. Ages 10+

Frogs by SunsOut. 200 pieces. Ages 10+

nellie bly, puzzle games

Around the World with Nellie Bly by Pomegranate. 300 pieces. Ages 9+




AGES 11-12

click photography series

Affectionate Pups by MEGA Puzzles. 1000 pieces. Ages 12+

Anif Castle 3D Puzzle by Hasbro. 769 pieces. Ages 12+

dragon puzzle

Dragon Storm by Melissa and Doug. 500 pieces. Ages 12+




Only 6 Days Left to get your order by Christmas! Order by Tuesday, Dec 17 to ensure delivery by Dec. 24.

Pomegranate Kids: Not Just for Kids!

I can’t be the only one that’s not-so-secretly in love with the Pomegranate Kids Series. At 300 pieces each, these puzzles are meant for ages 9 and up, but “up” definitely includes 21-years-old, right? (Or 30, or 45, or 68… and on and on and on)

The artwork on these puzzles is charming and interesting, and I think a lot of adults would enjoy them too! Plus, sometimes a lower piece count is a nice break from those higher piece count puzzles!

Wings of the World from artist Charley Harper. 18 x 24 inches.

May Basket from artist Frank Lloyd Wright. 18 x 24 inches.

Zoo Animals from artist Shafig Shawki. 18 by 24 inches.

The Wizard of Oz from artist W. W. Denslow. 18 x 24 inches.

Lions from artist Kathy DeZarn Beynette. 24 x 18 inches.

Fairies from artist Michael Hague. 24 x 18 inches.

The House that Jack Built from artist C.F.A. Voysey. 24 x 18 inches.