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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!

yongai-profile

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

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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Toddler STEM Toy, Grippies®, Wins Multiple Industry Awards

Guidecraft Grippies Wins Industry Awards

 

Guidecraft is proud to announce that its first STEM toy for toddlers, Grippies® Builders, has received five awards from four distinguished toy review organizations. Grippies® Builders is uniquely designed for toddlers’ hands to easily grasp to introduce them to the basic concepts of magnetism, engineering and geometry at a very early age.

  • The Tillywig Brain Child Award is awarded to products that energize the mind while seamlessly blending fun and learning.
  • The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval is awarded to the finest products and services being marketed to the parent/child audience.
  • The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award is awarded to outstanding new products that enhance the live of children.
  • The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio SNAP Award, which stands for Special Needs Adaptable Product, is awarded to products that can be used by or easily adapted for children with special needs.
  • The Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award is given to excellent products that are designed to entertain and help children develop universally ethical attitudes, and rigorous standards and skills.

Here is what the toy experts had to say about Grippies Builders:

Tillywig Team Review of Grippies Builders:Surprise, amusement, amazement, and joy are just some of the feelings parents can count on seeing their young ones display while exploring the pleasures of Grippies Builders set. This STEM building toy system for toddlers combines near endless replay value with rich and varied educational benefits. The exceptionally high quality magnetic rod and ball configuration makes building a wild variety of structures an almost magical way to play and learn. Youngsters take obvious pleasure in handling the rods, which are covered with a rubbery coating featuring a variety of colors and textures – bumps, grooves, lines and shapes that offer up a visual and tactile feast. Kids can’t seem to get enough of playing with this 30 piece set, and the benefits – the development of sensory perception, a blossoming sense of basic engineering principles, and loads of fun – are as substantive as they are pleasurable.”

National Parenting Center: “Guidecraft’s Grippies Builders were an instant hit before they even got out of the packaging. Kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on these. For good reason, they feel great to hold. Grippies Builders has both magnetic balls and tubular shapes that can all stick together. The spheres are soft, so they’re easier to palm and they cause less damage if thrown. The tubular magnet pieces are covered in colorful, soft grips. The development of gross motor skills at this age is so important and Grippies are ideal for this. Children need to use bigger movements to lift the relatively heavy magnets and smaller movements to connect the magnets together in ways that will stay. Because Grippies feel good in the hand, kids may like to squeeze them which is great for strengthening their grasp. While playing with the toy, they’re also learning about three-dimensional building. What’s more, parents saw this as a high quality, durable product after seeing how well the sturdy pieces held up to repeated toddler abuse.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio (Gold Seal Award): “Even the younger builder can explore magnetic attraction with this set of pastel colored sensory Grippies and magnetic balls. The Grippies come in two lengths, four colors, and interesting textures. Combined with the big white magnetic balls, these are an open-ended building material for older toddlers and young preschoolers. A 20-piece set is also available ($32.99) Marked 18 months and up. We think this will continue to be used by preschoolers in more complex ways.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio (SNAP Award): “The soft spongy covering on the rods make this an easier-to-grasp toy. Grippie Games: Use these for building fun or sort the pieces by size and sort then again by color. Sort them by textures looking at them and then with eyes closed. How long a train of blue can you make? How about orange? Play a game make patterns: You start with blue, green, blue, green, blue… what comes next? Make other patterns with two colors and then gradually do three color patterns.”

Parents’ Choice: “The brightly colored 20 piece Grippies Builders set is sized just right for toddlers ready to build. The set’s magnetic attraction was universal. The chunky pieces encourage tactile exploration of textures, shapes and colors. Experimenting with the magnetic rods and balls lead to interesting discussions and constructions – from boxes to boats to balloon animals. Well, that’s what they looked like to us.”

We are extremely proud of Grippies® Builders and all of the awards they are starting to receive. Look for extensions of our successful Grippies® Toddler STEM toy system in 2017!

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