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Product News

Better Builders Emotions Wins 2016 PAL Top 10 Award

better-builder-emotions-2016

Play On Words, the award-winning speech therapy company, announced that Guidecraft’s Better Builders® Emotions received their 2016 PAL Top 10 Award for School Age Toys. The PAL Awards were established to identify unique toys, games and books that through their design, quality and character, encourage play that advances language. Robert Artemenko, CMO of Play On Words, said that Better Builders Emotions “was exemplary among this year’s PAL Winners, advancing language in the context of great play.”

Sherry Artemenko M.A., C.C.C., founder of Play On Words and well-respected speech pathologist, assesses and reviews toys and books with input from parents, kids and educators. Observing play in action, combined with her critical eye for language potential, Sherry awards products and writes insightful reviews offering practical tips on how to maximize the educational value in each PAL winner. She had this to say about Better Builders Emotions,

“With Emotional Intelligence or EQ being a hot topic right now and the knowledge that we can increase a child’s EQ by helping them name, identify, and regulate their emotions, this building set is a great tool to further those language and social skills. My social worker friend tells me that sometimes kids talk more about their feelings when they have some object to work with, like a stuffed animal or Better Builders Emotions figure that they can express their thoughts through. As a language therapist, I see the opportunity for kids to express themselves, and even use the different faced figures to explain what to do or not do in certain situations, or talk about how others must feel, allowing them to grow in their social skills too!”

Better Builders Emotions encourages dramatic play with faces expressing 6 distinct emotions to which children can relate: happy, sad, angry, surprised, confused, and scared. Interchangeable friction-fit hairstyles, 3 male and 3 female, create new personalities and allow for personal connection to the characters. They are designed to assist in understanding feelings, encouraging positive expression, and verbal and nonverbal communication. Additional dramatic play sets that are a part of the Better Builders magnetic building toy system are Better Builders Career People and Better Builders Community People.

Guidecraft is honored that Better Builders Emotions has received this recognition from such a highly-regarded speech expert. Be sure to check out the 2016 PAL Top 10 Award press release and watch Sherry Artemenko on Fox 6 Milwaukee News as she reviews Better Builders Emotions here (featured at 3:27)!

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Why Manipulatives?

“Children must master the language of things before they master the language of words.” 

—Friedrich Froebel

Guidecraft Beehive Lace

Guidecraft Beehive Lace

Manipulatives were first introduced into children’s educational curriculum in 1837 by Friedrich Froebel, the father of Kindergarten. Froebel developed a variety of maneuverable objects, which he called Froebel Gifts, to aid his students in recognizing patterns and geometric forms.

Long before Froebel, people had been using physical objects to count and solve simple mathematics. It was only in the 1800s, with his help, that the modern day manipulatives were designed as concrete, maneuverable objects that were created with the specific intention of teaching mathematical concepts as well as encouraging sensory exploration. Blocks, geometric shapes, and textures are often present in traditional and present day manipulatives.

Many basic mathematical concepts such as sorting, counting, distinguishing patterns, and understanding geometry and operations are taught using manipulatives. It is widely accepted that having manipulatives as a teaching aid allows for more grounded and integrated lessons across various learning levels. They allow struggling students to better understand concepts but also provide alternative activities for students who grasp lessons easily. A student who may not retain concepts through lecture can often learn the same concept through the physical aspect of manipulatives.

Guidecraft Sorting Tree

          Guidecraft Sorting Tree

Manipulative toys are also ideal for children with special needs or for reinforcing lessons at home for children best suited towards hands-on or visual learning. Introducing manipulative play allows the exploration of self-discovery for individual play or teamwork activities for group collaboration.

This year, we are happy to introduce eight new products to our robust line of manipulatives. They include diverse toys that introduce sensory, abstract, and non-traditional learning experiences to stimulate development of children ages 2+. These manipulatives are easy for little hands to grasp and assist in developing essential cognitive skills including fine motor skills, tactile exploration, sequencing, hand-eye coordination, as well as visualization and processing. Encourage sensory and mathematical learning that promote multiple benefits such as: verbalizing mathematical concepts, presentation skills, storytelling, expression of thought process, teamwork and collaboration. See our newest manipulatives products below:

Guidecraft Geo Shape Lacing

Geo Shape Lacing is a colorful, geometric new look for a classic lacing activity toy. Set includes 3 over-sized geometric lacing boards and multi-colored laces. Children can experiment with color, patterns, letters, and pictures within the frames.

Guidecraft Beehive Lacing

The Beehive Lacing set combines a classic lacing activity while inspiring dramatic play. Set includes a solid rubberwood beehive with holes for the three bees on multi-colored lacing strings to lace through it.

Guidecraft Count and Lace Fruit

This brightly colored Count and Lace activity toy provides 8 different types of fruits to lace. The set includes two long laces with caterpillar shaped wooden needles and beaded stoppers for secure threading. 10 activity cards are provided to assist teachers and for children to use for pattern matching.

Guidecraft Caterpillar Stacking

This adorable Caterpillar Stacking set exercises fine motor skills and fun-filled sensory exploration, along with sorting, matching and sequencing skills. This sweet manipulative toy is made up of rounded, chunky, tactile shapes that can stack to create a variety of colorful caterpillar families.

Guidecraft Sorting Tree

The sturdy wooden Sorting Tree is a perfect way to teach color and shape-matching while reinforcing fine motor skills. Each set supplies 6 colorful screws in two different sizes that can be matched by size and color and screwed into corresponding holes in the wooden tree-like base.

Guidecraft Sensory Stacking Blocks

This multi-tasking Sensory Stacking Blocks set encourages tactile discrimination and sensory exploration while encouraging environmental design and dramatic play. The 12 chunky building block shapes with various inset textures, suggest houses and buildings and connect with simple joints. Additional wooden figures, trees and a car add to the fun!

Guidecraft Sorting Vehicles

Beautiful, colorful, wooden Sorting Vehicles are the perfect way to teach color and shape-matching while stimulating fine motor and sensory skills. Three vehicle-shaped blocks have inset sensory blocks, displaying sand, water and beads through framed acrylic windows.

Guidecraft Fruit Stacking

This brightly colored wooden Fruit Stacking set is a fun-filled sensory exploration toy which also teaches counting, sorting and shape selection. The beautifully designed, manipulative toy consists of an orange, apple and pear sliced in halves, thirds and quarters respectively.

 

Sources: www.hand2mind.com

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IO Blocks Minis Make the Perfect Summer Travel Toy!

IO Minis BannerJust in time for summertime traveling fun, IO Blocks Minis have arrived! Each set comes in a handy portable canister, making it even easier for young builders to take their favorite new building blocks with them while on the go.

IO Blocks Minis are a quarter-sized miniature version of their recent forerunner and original STEM toy in the IO Blocks building system which, within a few months of release, received the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval, The Tillywig Brain Child and Parents’ Choice Awards and became a Finalist for the 2016 TIA Toy of The Year. The same smooth twelve shapes and friction-fit interlocking system are utilized, but this time the colors are switched up and the IO Blocks Minis are packaged in a compact yet sturdy  canister making them the perfect summer travel toy. The Minis sets range from a classroom-sized set with 900 pieces to a handy 75 piece set with an appealing price tag of $9.99. Suggested age is 5+.

IO Blocks fans will also be glad to know that this month we debuted IO Blocks Vehicles; 3 different vehicle building sets which not only come with original IO Blocks building pieces but now include fins, wings, cabs, bumpers, cabins, wheels and more, along with special Hero Figures to pilot all of a little builder’s creations. Choose Race Cars or Planes and Boats or the comprehensive IO Blocks Vehicles set right here on the IO Blocks page.

Each and every set in the IO Blocks system provides the same stimulating, smart play for kids of all ages. They all work together seamlessly enticing young builders to explore open-ended engineering concepts in a fun, care-free way.

All IO Blocks system sets (of any type) includes an enclosed tracker pad which, when used together with our free IO Blocks app, provide an interactive building guide with dozens of themed builds for IO Blocks, IO Blocks Minis and IO Blocks Vehicles. The IO Blocks app may be downloaded for free on Google Play and Apples App Store and add to the portability of the entire IO Blocks system of toys.

Happy Summer from the entire Guidecraft staff!

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Happiness is…an IO Blocks building party

IO Blocks Parties

During the month of May, 100 families and teachers all over the US threw building parties with children and students eager to discover a new open-ended construction toy. We sent each of them a tub of IO Blocks along with a handful of building cards and tracker pads to use with our free IO Blocks interactive building app. We couldn’t have hoped for a better response. Here is what just a few of them said about IO Blocks.

“I could see these used in a classroom, a makerspace, a daycare, and at home. Teachers could use them for puzzles, engineering, and teaching concepts like symmetry.” – Mrs. Fletcher, Franklin Elementary

“I also loved that we used the blocks for more than just building. We did color sorting with my youngest and then built towers of each individual color. For my oldest I used them as manipulatives so she could see division in action. We have really enjoyed them the last few weeks.” – Girlsinwhitedressesblog.com

“My kids have really liked them, and while I know they are still a novelty because they are so new, my kids have been excited to show their friends when they come over, and they usually play at least an hour with them.” – Kirsten

“IO Blocks have an app (IO Blocks), which will walk you through the steps to create …You select a project and train your phone’s camera on a printed sheet. The image will pop on it for you to manipulate through the steps. I’ve never seen anything like it! Children see the blocks as raw pieces of fun just waiting for them to interpret.” – Nona

“We ended up with a neat zoo full of colorful animals! But that’s just the beginning of what kids can create with IO Blocks — they can also make vehicles, robots, and so much more.” – Susan

FYI- We just updated the app this month to improve functionality and to include builds for IO Blocks extension sets coming in June. Check out the newest version on iTunes.

A big thank you to our friends at Tryazon for setting up so many parties to help us introduce IO Blocks to the world!

 

 

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Interview with Ethan Wadsworth, 16-year-old PowerClix® Explorer Series Artist for Guidecraft

Ethan Portrait (1)

Ethan Wadsworth

GC: Your artwork is so amazing and intricately detailed. When did you get seriously interested in drawing?

Ethan: I became really interested in drawing in first grade and by second grade I was drawing every single day.

GC: How do you describe your style?

Ethan: I’d say my style is very cute and friendly and it seems like something you would see and want to touch and pick up if you could. I’d also say it’s very modern, in the sense that, it’s kind of stylistically similar to a lot of things that are popular right now. It’s kind of Japanese influenced. You can put a face on anything and it can turn into a character.

My style has been evolving and changing over the years. Lately I do many characters whose proportions are similar to a real person but for this Explorer Series project, I decided to go back to characters that I used to draw so much a few years ago. They seemed appropriate for the toys. Again, they are very cute, friendly and inviting.

GC: What is a typical day for a 16-year-old professional artist?

Ethan: Well, I go to high school Monday through Friday but I basically draw all day in school on worksheets. I even doodle all over my tests! Some teachers like it and some don’t, I’d say. Then, I get home and draw a lot too. I’d say I draw 1-2 hours after school each day. I also do some Still Lifes now which is kind of a new thing for me.

GC: Any other interests?

Ethan: I am getting very interested in animation… making the pictures and characters move and watching them in action.

GC: How did you get involved with Guidecraft and PowerClix toys.

Ethan:  My mother and Heidi Bilezikian are both painters, and good friends from art school, and Heidi (who is married to Gary Bilezikian, the President of Guidecraft) loved my work so much she recommended that Gary take a close look at it and see if it would work for a project with Guidecraft. Then a year ago, Gary asked his son, Dan, and I to come in and do some builds with the PowerClix magnetic toys over winter break. That day, I brought some drawings and characters that I drew and showed them to Gary, his family, and everyone at the office and they really loved them. A few months later, I got a call from Gary and he said, we need someone to design some characters and they couldn’t find anyone whose work they thought fit. He said, “If you send your portfolio with some character designs and it works out, that you could have a job working on the new PowerClix project.”  It turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end, it will be a whole series of PowerClix toys (Explorer Series) with different adventurous themes. The first set’s theme is Space and the main character is an alien exploring planets with his jellyfish-like friend.  I am working on the next set which will be about Architecture and have been studying and drawing styles from around the world for the backdrop.

GC: What’s your favorite thing about the project?

Ethan: It’s just amazing that my characters are being used with and turned into an actual toy. There will even be a figure that I made included with each PowerClix Explorer set.

PowerClix Explorer Series - Space Set

PowerClix® Explorer Series – Space Set

GC: What was the process to get the toy done and how long did it take?

Ethan: First I showed some different characters I have done, then we picked a few themes (loosely based on them) that would fit with the PowerClix builds. Then after that, I developed a comic, backdrop and character for each theme so each set is different. I bring ideas to Guidecraft and we work out the details and make changes together. Then they take it from there, creating new magnetic sets (and colors) from all the PowerClix building toy shapes they have. The booklet that goes with the toy has a cartoon, backdrop and pictures of the real toy builds interacting with my characters and drawings.

GC: Who are some artists that you admire?

Ethan: Well, there are so many… David Hovarth, who designed the Ugly Doll series.

Aaron Meshon and his Let’s Hang zipper pulls, Hayao Miyazaki, the creator of the Studio Ghibli movies, and Hokasai, the classic Japanese artist who did 100 views of Mt. Fuji.

GC: Do you plan to go to college?

Ethan: Yes, some schools I am interested in attending are Pratt, RISD, SVA and Cal Arts. I would like to study Animation.

 

More on the PowerClix® Explorer Series – Space Set here!

 

 

 

 

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