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Team Spotlight: Nidhi Sehgal

This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is our Director of Sales in India, Nidhi Sehgal. She is a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft team and we’d love for you to get to know more about her!

img_0499GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

NS: I am originally from Meerut, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. After high school, I moved to New Delhi to pursue my graduate degree from Lady Irwin College (Delhi University). During my graduate program I became very interested in Child Development, Psychology, and Early Childhood Care & Education. So, I went forward with my master’s degree in Human Development from SNDT Women’s University and was very lucky to spend most of my time on field work. I gained life-enriching experiences during this program working with people from various age groups and socio-economic status. I then started my professional journey with one of the most popular franchisee preschool chains in India.

GC: How did you come to be involved in both the educational and marketing fields?

NS: I got an opportunity to fill in during the absence of the marketing manager for the opening of one of our preschools. It was a success and I accomplished far more than what we expected. This experience fostered my interest into marketing; which prompted me to pursue my second Master’s degree in Marketing Management. I then got into product development building and collaborated with a variety of teams from warehouses to academic fields.

GC: How did you come to work at Guidecraft? 

NS: I connected with Gary Bilezikian, the President of Guidecraft, over LinkedIn. During our conversations I learned about Guidecraft’s philosophy and mission and met some of the wonderful team members from across the globe. I fell in love with the educational toys that Guidecraft designs and manufactures and their process of developing each toy from start to finish. The details, durability and quality checks a product undergoes before it reaches the child made me excited to become a part of Guidecraft!

GC: What is your position at Guidecraft?

NS: My position is Director of Sales in India. It’s very different from what I have done in past and has been a great experience for me as an individual and as a professional.


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GC: What has been your favorite experience working at Guidecraft so far?

NS: My favorite experience has been the quiz I took after my product training session at the New York office. Andrew, Shannon, Nick, Sean and everybody prepared me to face the quiz administered by Gary. They all ensured that I was aware of each product in depth and could answer all the questions. 

GC: I heard that you’ve written blog articles for Sesame Street and have a blog of your own. Can you tell us about it?

NS: Yes, I have written blogs for Sesame Street India for a wide-range of topics from getting children outside to encouraging parents to be involved in early education. However, my personal favorite ones were “Logic of a 3-year-old!” and “Chose Career? Are you Guilty?”.

Having an Early Childhood Care & Education background, I was elated to put the theories I learned into practice with my daughter. I decided to build an enriching learning environment at home and conduct developmentally appropriate activities with her to foster optimal learning and development.

During that time I met many friends and acquaintances who were stressed keeping their infants and toddlers productively engaged. I decided then to start documenting my work with my daughter and share with fellow parents. I started a Facebook Page, a group and an Instagram handle where I share simple activities to do at home along with research articles and events related to Early Childhood Care & Education.

I strongly believe in the power of books and reading early; I have been reading to my 3-year-old since birth and today I can say with lot of pride that she can be hooked on books and storytelling for hours.

GC: Can you describe what qualities someone might need to be successful in your field?

NS: I think one needs to believe in themselves and chase their dreams no matter what and may also ponder upon following points:

  • Be a good listener and develop effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Be focused and aim to broaden your skills
  • Socialize at professional level and have a supportive network.
  • Be aware of personal strengths and limitations.
  • Don’t be afraid to undertake challenges.

GC: What has been your proudest professional moment so far? 

NS: Receiving commendations for creating a successful franchise preschool product offering, from inception to delivery, for my former organization was the proudest professional moment I have experienced. It was not feasible without the amazing team I worked with and a supervisor who trusted and supported me. 

GC: What is some advice you would give someone who wants to go into a similar field?

NS: Be certain of what direction you want to take depending upon personal strengths and limitations, never miss an opportunity to work with inter-departments/teams to augment your skill sets and be always open to the process of learning, unlearning and undertaking challenging assignments.

 

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Team Spotlight- Yongai Zheng

This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is Zigler’s Director of Education, Yongai Zheng, in our Beijing office. She has been a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft team and we’d love for you to get to know more about her!

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Yongai Zheng, Director of Education at Zigler.

GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

YZ: I was born in HeBei province, which is very close to Beijing. I grew up with a lot of recognition and support from my family, because I performed very well in school and was admitted into Beijing Normal University without having to take the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (which was a first for BNU).

GC: Tell us a little about your family.

YZ: I have a happy and lovely family with my husband and 8-year-old daughter. My husband has a very good job as a public officer in the financial department in the Beijing municipal level government. Aside from his work, he is responsible for taking care of our family, which is what I like about him most. He is popular among family and friends because he is always thinking more about others than himself. My daughter is a pretty, smart and sensitive girl. When we came back from United States last September it only took her two months to catch up in her classes. Now she not only performs excellently in school but also takes charge of some duties as a class committee member. I am so happy for her rapid progress.

GC: I heard you spent a year at Yale, how was your experience and what did you do?

YZ: It was so amazing! I love the Zigler Center, Yale University, and New Haven. It was so great to spend the whole year with the Yale Zigler Center team and create the Yale-China child development ACPPA curriculum, adopted from Kaplan Early Learning’s Learn Every Day curriculum.

GC: How did you come to work at Guidecraft?

YZ: While I was at Yale I helped with the development of the Zigler brand between Yale and Guidecraft, and then fell in love with Guidecraft when I visited their New York office. So now I’m here as a member of the GC family!

Yongai, left, with Dr. Tong Liu, PhD, working in the New York office on the Zigler concept wall.

GC: How would you describe your position?

YZ: I am currently the Education Director at Guidecraft and will be the Director of Education of the Zigler Brand, which was born out of a partnership with Yale, Kaplan Early Learning Company and Guidecraft.

GC: What is your favorite experience working at Guidecraft so far?

YZ: Guidecraft is a company where creativity is respected by everyone and where there is always a supportive team. I’m very passionate about my work here!

GC: Can you describe your experience of becoming a published woman in your field? 

YZ: I received my Bachelor and Masters in Early Childhood Education and worked for 10 years in the preschool education field as a teacher, an administrator, a researcher and a director. However, I think I am always pursuing success in my field.

GC: What has been your proudest professional moment so far? 

YZ: I am most proud after I train or present to teachers and parents, they like my educational theories and suggestions and then apply my work to improve the development of their students or children.

GC: What is some advice you would give someone who wants to go into a similar field?

YZ: Education is not only an occupation but a great career to pursue with your heart because young children are the future of our society.

 

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Vote Today! IO Blocks® Vehicles and Grippies® Builders Nominated for Toy of the Year!

Between now and January 15, 2017, toy lovers of all ages can visit www.toyawards.org to vote for favorite toys, including IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies!

On November 21st, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) announced the Finalists for the prestigious 2017 Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) – also known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry and we are proud to announce that both IO Blocks® Vehicles and Grippies® Builders are in! With 700 entrees from over 250 toy companies, both IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies are among the seven finalists for their categories. This year, Guidecraft is represented in the TOTYs by IO Blocks Vehicles in the Preschool Category and Grippies Builders in the Construction Category.

IO Blocks Vehicles includes 12 vehicle parts to create an unlimited array of vehicles and expands the award-winning building toy system of IO Blocks. This large set of 96 pieces comes with fins, wings, bumpers, cabins, wheels and more. With pixelated, digital world roots, the high-quality design of IO Blocks Vehicles, and its open-ended building possibilities and puzzle-like qualities, makes it a great fit for educators and parents interested in STEM skill development.

In addition to becoming a TOTY Award finalist in the Preschool Category, IO Blocks Vehicles has received the 2016 Tillywig Toy and Media Brain Child Award and the 2016 Play Advances Learning (PAL) award.
The STEM building toy system for toddlers, Grippies Builders combines tactile exploration, magnetic play and an introduction to the basic principles of engineering and geometry. Unique in concept and design, Grippies provide a fun, safe and exploratory experience for toddlers. Watch for Guidecraft to add four new magnetic toys to the Grippies system in 2017 – all of which encourage STEM skill development in toddlers through original designs and the addition of new and exciting features.

Grippies Builders has received accolades from several leading toy industry experts such as the 2016 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, the National Parenting Seal of Approval, and the 2016 Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award. See all of the independent Grippies Builders awards and reviews here.

Between now and January 15, 2017, toy lovers of all ages can visit www.toyawards.org to vote for favorite toys (including IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies!), games and properties across 14 categories and enter to win exclusive prize packages. Winners will be announced at the TOTY gala on February 17th (the day before Toy Fair begins) at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum.

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Better Builders Emotions Wins 2016 PAL Top 10 Award

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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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