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Talking Toys vs. The Sound of Your Voice

Last year, my assistant Kristin had the foresight to create a place for articles and videos on our website—the perfect place to share them with the CHP community.  Last month I posted an nprEd article -- The Trouble with Talking Toys.

I was so happy to have someone put in writing what I recognized for a long time--the best way to stimulate language development in your toddler is to talk to them.  This article focuses on infants and toddlers but much of the same goes for three and four-year-olds.  Children need to look at your face, learn by watching your expressions and listen to the tone of your voice.  Did you know that children need to hear 30,000 words a day for optimum language development—your words not words from a Smart Phone or device.  We know there is limited vocabulary learned from a talking toy, but there is so much more to this.

I was lucky attend a lecture last week by Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair—the author of The Big Disconnect-Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, someone I have written about previously on Carol’s Wall.

What I learned at the lecture was compelling. I knew that babies and toddlers should not be exposed to devices under the age of two and some experts believe even longer than that. I also knew that babies need real life experiences and strong connections to humans and nature.

What I did not know (but what made so much sense) is that recent studies have shown a baby’s brain “lights up” when a known person reads to them. There is no lighting up the brain with a device reading or a talking toy.  If you want your children exposed to “books on tape” for the child to have the best learning experience, the tape should be the voice of a mom, dad or teacher.

Of note here too is that smart phones became part of our lives only seven years ago.  They were launched very quickly--before we knew what we were getting into. There was never any research done to assess the impact on the infant or toddler brain or the psychological fallout on young children. To make it worse, technology remains an unregulated industry.

The article did not discuss talking toys for the preschool age group but it is easy to understand that a talking toy or device does not serve this age group well. We know that preschoolers have vivid imaginations. Unfortunately, devices do not. When a toy “talks,” it does not think. You activate the toy and it says the same things over and over again. Once a child realizes this, if they want to interact with it, they need to stop using their imagination and change their play to accommodate the words of the toy.  Conversely, anything is possible when you play with a silent toy because you play without limitations. Just think of plain wooden blocks. They can be arranged into castles and harbors and spaceships. The sky’s the limit. 

While writing this, I took a moment to Google talking toys and, immediately, up popped famous toy makers’ versions of a talking chair, dog, bear, and my least favorite, a play kitchen. The kitchen says, “Who wants pizza?” and “Mmmmm cookies!” In this offering, I found another toy connected to the play kitchen. At an additional cost, you can purchase an ice cream set that “sings” ice cream and clean-up songs.  How sad.

It is so wrong that big toy companies sell toys under the educational guise.  So, what can you do about this?

Parents need to be empowered to know that there is nothing a talking toy or screen can teach your child better than you can. Your children want moments of connection with you, with human touch and comfort. Know too that devices are hyper-stimulants. In the case of the smart phone, remember that children need non-talking toys and hugs, not a digital pacifier. 

Studies have shown that the greatest educational gift you can give to your child is to read to them, for 20 minutes twice a day. Get rid of the talking toys and devices!

Holiday Gift Ideas for 2015

Need a Holiday Gift?  How About Some Things We Love at CHP!

With the winter holiday almost upon us and the gift giving about to begin, I thought it would be fun to share some of the things we love to play with in school.   Last year, I shared a list of books which I shared again this year with a few additions.  Happy Holidays to all!

Magna Tiles are one of the more popular building toys at CHP, a favorite of girls and boys.  They are very easy to build with so this allows building with little frustration.  Warning:  These builders are not cheap but they are educational, fun, and extremely durable.

Binoculars and magnifying glasses are often in use at the science center. What is nice about these science tools is that they are light and portable so you can take them with you when you explore.
Magnifying Glasses:
Classic Forest Animal Collection:
These little forest creatures are always SO popular!

These sequencing puzzles are well loved at CHP.  They are not the standard jig saw puzzle.  Each puzzle piece is the same size--long wooden strips.  What you use to complete them is your ability to complete a picture and/or your knowledge of numbers and letters.  These puzzles are completed both visually and with knowledge of numbers and ABC letter sequencing. 
Alpha and Number Sequencing Puzzles:
Measuring Tape:
Like binoculars and magnifying glasses, this can be another “take along” toy.  Measurement is such a great way to learn about numbers, estimation and comparison.

Alphabet Learning Locks:
What a fun way to recognize the alphabet and use your fine motor skills!


Faber-Castell Markers:

Faber-Castell GRIP Color Markers (Non-Toxic and Washable) are our most popular writing tools.  The colors are bright, they are easy to use and you can even revive them with a little bit of water if they dry out.


These little people are great for pretend play.  They are used in so many ways like in block builds and are well loved at the playdough table too.

Play People with Differing Abilities:
Community Block Play People:


Assorted Colored Masking Tape and Dispenser:
Children have LOVED working with this colored masking tape.  They use it to make letters, make pictures and to build things.  This set comes with a large wooden dispenser so it is a bit pricey but you can buy tape refills.  I predict your child will use their imagination with this item for years to come.

This is the book list I shared last year with a few additions. Originally, I thought I would share a little list of children’s books this year, but when it comes to children’s books, no list is a small one!


  1. Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
  2. Froodle and Not a Box, by Amy Portis                                                                                           
  3. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
  4. Knuffle Bunny and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems
  5. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown
  6. Oh No George! and Shhh, We Have a Plan, by Chris Haughton
  7. Spoon and Chopsticks, by Amy Krouse RosenthalStuck
  8. The Day the Crayons Quit, by Oliver Jeffers


  1. Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse RosenthalHow Do You Feed a Hungry Giant? by Caitlin Friedman
  2. Press Here and Mix It Up, by Herve Tullet
  3. Tap the Magic Tree, by Christie Matheson
  4. The Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin
  5. Warning, Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe
  6. Go Away Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

New York, NY:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson
  2. Blackout, by John Rocco
  3. I Live In Brooklyn, by Mari Takabayashi                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  4. Subway, by Christopher Neimann
  5. The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown
  6. Little Elliot, Big City and Little Elliot, Big Family by Mike Curato
  7. Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo
  8. My New York, by Kathy Jacobson


  1. Do You Know Which One Will Grow, by Susan A. Shea
  2. Maps, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska (for grow-ups and kids too!)
  3. Me, Jane, by Patrick McDonnell
  4. One Night, Far from Here, by Julia Wauters

Owls and Birds:

  1. Beautiful Birds, by Jean Rousseu
  2. Birds, by Kevin Henkes
  3. Little Owl Lost, by Chris Haughton
  4. Little Owl's Night, by Divya Srinivasan
  5. Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell
  6. The Best Nest, by P.D. Eastman

So Sweet Stories:

  1. Cloudette, by Tom Lichtenheld
  2. Gaston, by Kelly DiPucchio
  3. Kittens First Full Moon and My Garden, by Kevin Henkes
  4. Little Pea, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  5. Maple, by Lori Nichols
  6. Sophie’s Squash, by Pat Zielow-Miller

Winter and Holiday:

  1. Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
  2. How the Grintch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss
  3. Stick Man, by Judith Donaldson
  4. The Magic Dreidels: A Hanukkah Story, by Eric Kimmel
  5. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

Classics no Children’s Bookshelf Should be Without:

  1. A Fish Out of Water, by Helen Palmer
  2. A Chair for my Mother, by Vera B. Williams
  3. Are You My Mother, by P.D. Eastman
  4. Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
  5. Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina
  6. Chicken Soup with Rice, by Maurice Sendak
  7. Corduroy, by Don Freeman
  8. Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion
  9. Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
  10. Swimmy, by Lio Lionni
  11. The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
We are all Alike. We are all Different. We are all Team CHP!

The school year begins and here is a sneak-peek of the curriculum unit:

We are all Alike. We are all Different. We are all Team CHP!

How did I arrive at this year’s unit? I spoke with our students. Our program is tailored to the interests of the children; inquiry drives the learning process. We focus on a child-generated theme which allows as much student-centered inquiry as possible. We follow our students’ lead and within the context of their interests, infuse developmentally appropriate literacy, math, science, music, art and drama concepts related to the unit concept.

This year’s unit selection began near the end of school year 2014-15 when I invited small groups of interested students into my office to chat. I asked them if there was anything more they could learn about at school. I listened carefully, keeping in mind that the suggestions not only needed to interest preschoolers but be broad enough to encompass a spectrum of learning in all the disciplines.

During my student meetings, there were many ideas. To my delight, teamwork was one of the suggestions. The actual suggestions were, “TEAMWORK!” and  “Yes, and superheroes…and the Caribbean!”

I was so delighted with these suggestions because during my first years at CHP, I became acquainted with “The Feel Better Team.” My first experience with the team was on the playground.  A classmate had tripped and was crying. It was then I heard another cry… “Feel Better Team, to the rescue!”  A group of five students made up the self-appointed team.  They ran to the classmate and asked if he was alright. The team of girls and boys gave him a big hug.  After experiencing this, the staff jumped right onto the “Feel Better Team” wagon and it generated many wonderful classroom activities. The “Feel Better Team” gained members daily who were always there to help a friend in need. When the team offered their support it was magic! 

Everyone is part of our team at CHP and the beautiful thing about a team is that it is made up of individuals.

This year, we will talk about how we are alike and how we are different and we will celebrate it all. We will discover many things about our friends and families. What do you like to do? How do you spend time with your family? Who is on your team--friends, parents and grandparents, neighbors, teachers and pets?  Who are your heroes and superheroes?  So many questions, so many possibilities!

Just thinking about this unit, makes me break into a song I was taught by a child at CHP. It’s from the LEGO movie!

Everything is awesome, Everything is cool when you are part of a team.  Everything is awesome!

It is going to be a great year!

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