Education, Gift Ideas, Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Best Toy for Constructive Play by The Learning Journey

I have partnered with The Learning Journey for this #HolidayGiftGuide feature and received product

Best Toy for Constructive Play by The Learning Journey

At the Learning Journey I am seeing many options for marble runs which make a great toy gift for constructive play. Some are simple builds and some are massive to challenge the older child including motorized lifts and more. Let’s examine the one I will feature in this post, the Techno Gears Marble Mania Extreme 4.0.

What’s Inside 

Just the sight of all that is happening on the box cover is exciting. You will need 2 AA batteries because they are not included but this allows the motorized power lifter to work. There are over 200 pieces to design and redesign your run over and over. It is labeled for 6 and older.

techno marble

Our Toy Review

There are so many different ways to design this run with all you get including the spiral marble lifter and pieces that allow for drops and windmill features. We looked over the booklet for ideas and found a design to follow. This will easily occupy a child for hours. It is a blast watching my son’s creativity come alive as he tweaks and replaces pieces to make the design his own.

Find this marble run and many more learning toys at The Learning Journey.

The Learning Journey


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Back to School 2017, Education, Kids, Parenting

Fun Summer STEAM Activities For Preschoolers And Young Children

STEM/STEAM education started out as a nice idea, but now that technology and the web are involved with everything from online schooling to solar-powered electronics,  STEM education is becoming a global requirement. So, whether our children are destined to be Computer Engineers or Forest Rangers, exposing them to STEAM activities will only help them in discovering opportunities and make the most of their education.  

Fun Summer STEAM Activities For Preschoolers And Young Children

Pulling this at-home STEAM education with young children sounds like one heck of a project, but there are some fun and simple activities that are up for the job. All of these are great for tots and kindergarteners, and they work for older children too!  


Science a la Casa

The great thing about these activities is that they offer teaching moments while encouraging creativity, flexibility, and independence. They’re also a great way for kids to develop their own natural strengths (and an excellent way for parents to become aware of them). Independence, inherent skills, creative, and critical thinking are quickly becoming valued business and leadership skills, so the more parents can promote these in their kids, the more we can set them up for success as adults. Here are some ideas how!


  • Pulley Play: Science is all about weights and measures, and the properties of matter. Being a parent is all about giving your best to your child while maintaining some sort of sanity. Make your own pulley using the tutorial from Little Bins For Little Hands, and you can accomplish both. Pulleys are amazing because they keep our children’s mind active as well as their bodies. They can be used to explore weights and measures, weight versus mass, the properties of matter (ie. liquids versus solids), and the force of gravity.


  • Plant Projects: Dirt is free, pots are cheap, and you’re sure to have a steady supply of seeds on hand in the kitchen (like, say, dried beans and cilantro/coriander seeds). Throw ‘em all together for some real-life science. Some of the awesome plant science projects Live Science recommends include comparing/contrasting fruits and their seeds and doing well-spaced potted seedlings versus crowded potted seedlings. They also have the good old fashioned seed-in-a-wet-paper-towel experiment, except their variations include planting a variety of seeds that have different sprouting rates and variances in color and size, so these things can be witnessed and discussed as they grow. You can take this plant experiment even further by having kids plant seedlings and using different growing mediums, watering habits, and amounts of sunlight. This all can be used to teach kids about the importance of soil nutrients, water, and light, and how too much or too little will affect plants.          


Technical Fun & Engineering Games

This realm is not my personal favorite, and that’s precisely why I’m dumping it on my kids. Engineering and technical fields are exploding with exciting growth and job opportunities. However, after just two minutes of trying to read up on this stuff, the only thing I see exploding is my brain. It’s not my cup of tea, but if I can help my kids build these skills slowly and naturally, then I’m gonna put my time and money into it. And who knows, maybe one day they’ll be able to teach me what all today’s tech-jargon blogs can’t.    


  • Techy-Toys: There are some amazing new toys on the market, but many of them are geared towards older children. However, there are two that are really worth checking out: the Think And Learn Code-A-Pillar and Microduino’s mCookie. These toys are both techy and, conveniently, promote tech competency in kids. Their goal is to teach kids simple and basic coding, from toddlers to Elementary-aged children.  
  • Building a la Nature: Code-a-Pillars and LEGO mini computers are cool and all, but if you’re looking for something simpler, natural, and budget-friendly engineering, we have just the thing for you. You can get your kiddo building and designing with nothing more than ice cube trays, water, and dirt. Combine the dirt and water, then fill the ice cube tray. Let them set until they’re at the desired consistency. Dump them out of the tray, and you have your very own mud bricks! They’re sure to meet all your kiddos building and water-dissolving needs.    


  • Engineer-Worthy Apps: It’s not hard to find an app, but finding a good one? Pulling that off puts parents at risk of falling into a black hole of reviews and Google searches. Luckily, Geeks With Juniors put together a great list of top apps for kids. Their picks for engineering-worthy apps for kids 3 and under include Peg + Cat: The Tree Problem, Labo Paper Plate, Lipa Pirates, Sago MIni Toolbox, and Shape Gurus. They all promote skills with either problem solving, building, creativity, spatial reasoning, or all four.    


Art Projects

School and government threw art on the backburner, but with all the tech and engineering advancements, creative and abstract artists are finding their work in new high-tech places. With homes to update, electronics to create, and suits to design, young artists have big doors of opportunity ahead  of them. But besides that, art is just awesome! It’s food for the soul (not to mention, it makes for great decor and memorabilia). Get artsy!


  • Nature Art: Combine art and science with a nature project! There are so many ways you can go about this, that you can get creative with whatever tools or inspirations you have around. Check out Jean at The Artful Parent for out-of-this-world art projects that are equal parts simple, fun, and gorgeous. Her list of Nature Art projects includes mandalas, suncatchers, mosaics, hammered leaf prints,  “paint brushes” from nature, chalk leaf prints, clay nature prints, shadow tracing, and more. Stock up on chalk, paint, cardboard, and contact paper, and you can pair them with backyard nature finds for daily art projects. The cool thing here is that you can use all of these art ideas to create a project to advance kiddo know-how with seasons, storytelling, counting, life cycles, and more, and more.   


  • Color Crafts: has some amazing and simple activities that turn art projects into science lessons. One of my favorites is their Ice Cube Paint activity. Ice cube trays are filled with pain, stuck with a popsicle stick, and frozen. These frozen stick paints are great since they help keep paint off fingers and clothes. They’re also an awesome science lesson, because they can teach kids about color blending, solids and liquids, and hot and cold. Other fun ones my toddler gives his thumbs-up on include blow painting and paper plate tambourines with beans. If you’re afraid to do paint because of the mess, then we have the perfect option for you: bathtub color activities! You can make your own stain-proof bath paints using cornstarch, water, food coloring, and your child’s own shampoo. Your kiddo can use these homemade paints to decorate the walls of the bath and shower. When they’re done, they can scrub it clean. One less to-do for mom and dad!   

Math-time Playtime

If your schooling was anything like mine, then your childhood math memories aren’t reminiscent of play so much as they are of torture. But thanks to our pain, today’s teachers have swapped out mind-numbing worksheets for education through play-doh, LEGOs, and fun playful activities.   



  • LEGOS: They’re pricey and they hurt like heck to step on, but LEGOS are an intro to engineering that suits kids of all ages and interests. LEGOS naturally promote STEM skills like creativity, spatial reasoning, building (aka engineering) know-how, and fine motor skills. In addition, they can actually be used for specific educational purposes. LEGOS are perfect for teaching and practicing math skills like counting, numbers, geometry, and more. Younger kids are best off starting with the smaller LEGO Duplo sets. As they get older and more interested in math, they can be moved up to the advanced and STEM-erific sets in the LEGO education series. The Machines and Mechanisms sets can be used for exploring engineering concepts, while their Mindstorms and WeDo sets can actually be used to explore math through engineering and coding. You can even use these sets to create a real LEGO robot. How cool!   


That sums up this list of STEAM-erific Summer activities. Have you tried any of them? Do you know of any others that are kid-approved? Share in the comments below!


**Ash is a writer who doubles as a wannabe nutritionist, philosopher, psychologist, and shaman. When she isn’t writing her soul out on the web, she’s listening to the great minds (or great comedians) on YouTube, soaking up sunshine, dancing in her living room, or having yet another fascinating conversation with herself (she gives excellent advice, you know). Check out her blog, or find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!

Back to School 2017, Education, Gift Ideas, Kids

Technology Learning with Marbotic Letters and Numbers

This feature is in partnership of Marbotics. Product sent for feature

Technology Learning with Marbotic Letters and Numbers

It is almost that bittersweet time. You looked ahead and wondered about the days your child will start school and here you are dreading those hours of sending them off with a backpack and lunchbox to learn all day. Will they be ok without naps in their own bed? Will they make friends? Will they meltdown at drop off? Will they adjust from their daycare to preschool and kindergarten ok? It is such a fun memory to make as they start school but that first attempt at letting them go as Mom and Dad. Let’s make sure they are prepared to learn! Let’s give them one less stressor to deal with and we can do that with Marbotic.

All you need is an iPad or a compatible Samsung Tablet and some free apps to download to make this learning at home start now. There are 3 sets to choose from – the full kit, letters or numbers. I have the Marbotic Smart Letters set. It comes with 26 letters and there are 3 letter games I can download for multiple ways to learn with letters and at all learning levels.

Includes 26 wooden letters and 3 different ‘Smart Letters’ educational apps`(available for free download). It is made to educate given that it was designed by education experts and teachers, crafted with quality materials, and inspired by the Montessori method. They will take traditional wood blocks and combine them with technology for play that teaches. 

I’d love for you to see it in action so here is the product video below. I have a 3 year old nephew who will get this set and he can learn all year before next years preschool days hit him. It is fun, even my 9 year old was caught sitting at the iPad placing letters on the screen and watching characters come move and teach.

The Marbotic sets are available in the US now on Amazon. Get yours today and start learning so they can start school prepared and with confidence. It’s a hard day for them too so let’s send them off ready to learn more!

Back to School 2017, Education, Gift Ideas

Electronic Wordplay Game – Freeze Up! Review

Thank you to Educational Insights for partnering with us for this feature. Opinions are my own

 When I talk children’s play I always feature products with an educational element to them and the entire selection of games and toys at Educational Insights will have your child playing in a way that they hardly remember they are learning. I remember starting out as a parent and I had these ideas of summer workbooks and completed pages before the new school year and after raising 3 boys we have never got past Chapter 1 in a skill book. I am a consistent parent so that isn’t the problem. The problem was they were learning already!

Electronic Wordplay Game - Freeze Up! Review

 I’d see my son running around in a cape with a sword and once I asked him who the ‘evil’ was I suddenly found myself asking if he needs help catching ‘bad guys”. Now we are in a game of pretend play together-full of critical thinking and problem solving. Other times it was to the game shelf for a game of Battleship or electronic games. Again. I find the boys problem solving, counting and critically thinking. And they were doing all of this outside of a book and pencil. It was play and it is the natural way children explore the world around them. Freeze Up! is a game of wordplay that would be a great choice for keeping the brain active this summer break.

In this electronic game that speaks to you, you have to think quickly for words that fit the given category. Choose 1 or 8 players-even have teams. In multi-player mode the first one who runs out of their time loses because that means they weren’t the quickest.  You are given a letter and you must choose a word that starts with that letter in the given category. You can change the letter up at any time. Say the word and hit Freeze fast! This stops your individual time. Features over 170 categories and 2 modes of play with automatic scoring.

I would love to know your favorite learning games you play with in your home? Do you have subject games or prefer imaginative play? Let me know in comments below.


Educational Games and Toys from Learning Resources

Samples sent for feature


Educational Insights and Learning Resources have both been large online sources for educational games and toys for children and families. Not only will you find it an online source to browse by subjects, you can also shop by age and brands. They work hard to keep all of the learning tools you need as a parent or educator in one spot. You can also find videos and downloads. They started 2017 off with some new offerings.

We have some favorites we use. My son is in the third grade so we are having fun with the Multiplication Master Electronic Flash Card practice by Educational Insights. This is a great tool because you tell it the numbers to practice. Right now he is multiplying 2’s and 5’s so I can set it to just show those equations.

ed insight

Gears, Gears, Gears

Learning Resources is expanding one of its best-selling product lines: Gears! With three new sets that are sure to help your little builder hone their engineering skills.

Count and Build TotBot

The new Count and Build TotBot will help young children learn their numbers, shapes, and colors while working on the fine motor skills necessary to twist and turn the bolts on their new robot friend.

Puzzle Globe

This fun and engaging puzzle globe helps children as young as three practice and learn geography. With removable continents and names, and famous landmarks laid out on the globe, this interactive toy promises hours of fun!

diy games  journal


DIY crafting/engineering products aimed at girls.

If you scroll to the bottom of their website, you will find a newsletter sign up. Once you enter your email, you will get a 30% discount code to start. To find these products and many more visit .

Education, Gift Ideas, Kids, STEM Learning, Toy Reviews

Learning Science in a New Way with Basher Books and Toys

Sample toys sent for feature

learning science

Learning should be fun. When I was school aged, science was always my favorite subject. It was the one class where we were constantly tinkering, getting out of our seats for labs and just using our kinesthetic learning skills to experiment. One of my favorite science teachers was so wacky and loved having us up and moving. The kind of teacher who years later knows you are getting married and is thrilled to attend. Simon Basher has the same passion for teaching science in a way that is fun and engaging.

science toys

The best part is that the new Basher toys and card games to go along with his books he has been creating are here in the US at Target stores. My son is already anxious to collect more science toys in the Series 1 of characters. You know about collecting toys by series-they have levels of blind boxes or mini building block bags that are released in a series and that concept applies here too. We have Gas, Liquid, Aton, Ion and Molecule for Series 1 Basher Figureines.

periodic table

Mattel offered to join Basher Science to create these toys. The toy line includes Basher Science figurines, card games, collectable cards, play sets and experiment kits. They feature characters from Basher’s Periodic Table, Physics, Biology and Rocks and Minerals books.

chemistry book

Basher Science also has over 30 science and learning books from preschooler to older children. We have the book, Chemistry: Getting A Big Reaction. It is our nightly reading book and are about half way through it now. My son is 8 and is loving everything about the book and toys. The card games are a science twist of the games Uno and Memory. It is a great addition to the book to keep the learning going. He has not started Chemistry in school yet, but I can’t help to think Basher Science will now have him well prepared when he does as we continue to collect and play with the new toys and games.


Make sure you visit the toys aisle at your local Target on your next visit and find the Basher Science products. You can also find some Basher Science products on Amazon.