On Saturday afternoon I had the opportunity to interview The Toy Guy, Christopher Byrne, about his recommendations to people looking to purchase educational toys for the children in their lives. Christopher Byrne has worked in the toy industry for more than 25 years. As The Toy Guy, Chris regularly appears on the national news networks, Regis and Kelly, Oprah, and in print publications sharing toy recommendations. Chris is also the director of content for Time To Play Magazine. No post on Free Technology for Teachers is complete without the mention of something that is free, therefore the “free” in this blog post is my recommendation to visit Time To Play Magazine where you can register to win free toys in their daily drawings.
I started the conversation with Chris by asking him about his thoughts on the role of toys and games in education. Chris, not a teacher although the son of two teachers, said two things that educators will appreciate. Chris said that “any play is educational” and “kids learn when they play.” These thoughts guided the rest of our conversation. Our conversation and Chris’ recommendations can really be split into two categories; toys for developing literacy and toys for promoting creativity. The part of the interview that I’m posting today focuses on toys that develop literacy. On Wednesday, I’ll share Chris’ recommendations for items that promote creativity.
One of the first educational toys that Chris recommends is the The Tag Reading System from Leap Frog. The Tag is designed to help kids learn reading and spelling skills while having fun in a video game style. Chris recommends The Tag because it’s a great way for kids to “develop reading skills when parents can’t be there to read to their kids.” The Toy Guy loves toys, but stresses that parents reading to their children is much more effective than a toy. That said, another feature of The Tag is the built in option for parents to track their child’s progress online at the Leap Frog website.
Another toy that Chris recommends to those looking for toys that can help develop reading and writing skills is the V-Tech V Smile Cyber Pocket. The V-Tech Cyber Pocket is a hand-held gaming device that offers a variety of overlays including writing overlays. V Tech offers a number of other great educational games and toys for children as young as nine months through age eight.
When I asked Chris what he recommends to parents who don’t have much to spend, but wanted to buy educational toys for their children this holiday season. I gave Chris a budget of $35 with which to purchase two items. His recommendation was any book that parents can read to their child to instill a love of reading in their child. Chris also recommended interactive books from Publications International. When recommending the interactive books from Publications International Chris again mentioned the idea of interactive books and toys being valuable for helping kids learning and discovering on their own.
Those are the items that The Toy Guy shared with me as his picks for toys that can help develop literacy. For more toy recommendations for the season check out Time To Play Magazine where you can read reviews, ask questions, and enter into daily drawings for free toys. On Wednesday, I’ll post The Toy Guy’s recommendations for toys that promote creativity. Chris says, “it’s important for kids to control the learning experience” therefore his recommendations put kids in the driver’s seat of learning.
Disclaimer: In addition to being a recognized expert in the toy industry The Toy Guy, Christopher Byrne, is my uncle.