TORONTO, Nov. 14 /CNW/ - Toys and games are among the most popular
holiday gifts for children. But many parents may not realize that these gifts
can give much more than just fun; they can also contribute to children's
educational and learning development.
"Play is how children learn," says Richard Bavaria PhD., Vice President
of Education for Sylvan Learning Centre, the leading provider of supplemental
education services to students. "Right from the first few months of life,
children play with the objects around them in order to discover how the world
works. As children grow older, the role of play becomes more complex --
stimulating imagination, creativity, logic, social skills, self-confidence and
role-playing. At Sylvan, we encourage parents to recognize the important role
that play holds in the process of continuous learning."
Sylvan Learning Centre has worked with Zellers, one of Canada's leading
discount retailers, to identify the top toy and games for holiday 2002 that
can combine fun and learning.
"We know parents understand the value of toys that are educational as
well as entertaining," says David Strickland, senior vice president of
marketing, Zellers. "At Zellers, we're proud to carry all the top learning
toys, available at every day low prices."
Top Learning Toy Selections for Holiday 2002
(all items are available at Zellers stores across Canada)
1. Reading corner - The Leap Pad(TM) Learning System marries learning
with laptop technology. Children ages four and up can use their
personal Leap Pad console to run a variety of learning software that
teaches reading, phonics, and vocabulary. ($79.98)
2. Creativity starters - Every child can create their own personalized
doll with the What's her face(TM) doll. Washable markers allow the
child to create a unique face and look. Wigs, clothing selections and
decorative stamps round out the options. For children ages five and
3. Imagination igniters - LEGO Bionicles(TM) let children ages seven and
up play with collectible biomechancial characters in an evolving
story of life in the fictional land of Mata Nui. Bionicles encourages
storytelling and role-playing; activities that stimulate the
imagination as well as logic and verbal skills. ($9.88)
4. Strategy stimulators - Strategic card games like Yu-Gi-OH(TM), based
on the popular comic book that has spawned a television series and
movies introduce children to safe competitive play and strategy.
"It is important for children to become comfortable in competitive
activities," says Dr. Bavaria. "The reality is that they will be
thrust into competitive circumstances throughout their lives so they
need to learn how to compete well but fairly."
5. Pretend props - For children ages eight and up, Mega Bloks(TM)
Dragons Sorcerer's Lair lets them create worlds of castles and
dragons; great for storytelling and imaginations skills. ($39.97)
6. Group work - The Lite-Brite Cube(TM) builds on the original
Lite-Brite game that parents will remember from childhood. But now
it's a four-sided cube where children can work together on designs
and pictures. For ages four and up. ($34.96)
7. Language learning - The Caillou(R) Doll and Storybook Pack ($14.97)
makes learning French fun while the Dora the Explorer doll ($39.96),
based on the popular television series, stimulates Spanish skills.
For ages two and up.
8. Math magic - Continuing the theme of adult-inspired technology,
Pixter(TM) Hand-Held Electronic Learning Aid gives kids ages four and
up their own PDA with games including number and counting challenges.
9. Building blocks - A 70-piece Maxi Bag of colourful Mega Bloks(TM)
will fuel a world of learning for children ages one and a half and
older. Young children use toys to begin to understand the world
around them: textures, colours, noises, and how objects interact.
10. Family fun - Classic board games are back Monopoly(TM), Monopoly
Jr.(TM), Scrabble Junior(TM), Sorry(TM), Guess Who(TM) are back and
so is the family game night. Playing a game together is a great way
to encourage family time as well as learn about counting, managing
money, spelling and strategy. For various ages. ($16.95-$18.95)
The Rules of Play
Sylvan Learning Centre provides the following advice to parents about the
value of play for their children:
- Much of the play at the youngest ages (two years and under) will
involve trial and error. Parents should let children repeat actions;
this is how they learn.
- Three to four year olds will begin "symbolic play" - an empty box
becomes a house or car.
- This is a great age for parents to play with children and stimulate
their interest in different toys and games. But also be sure to allow
children to play on their own so that they can make independent
- Rotate toys regularly so that children develop a range of skills and
- Set aside a safe, comfortable area where children can delve into the
world of play.
- As children pass the age of five, games become more central. Children
begin to learn about rules and rudimentary strategy.
- This is also the age when children will begin more group play - at
school and in play dates. This is where many social skills are
developed; learning how to interact with different personalities, as
well as compromise and competition.
If parents always allow their child to win, the child will be in for a
rude shock when they start group play with other children," says
Dr. Bavaria. "It's important for children to begin to understand that
winning isn't automatic."
- Playing with children is a great way for parents to connect and
generate family interaction. A family game night with the TV turned off
can keep siblings of various ages connected with each other as well as
Mom or Dad.
- Play can be a stress reliever if a child is undergoing many new
experiences like new school classes or teachers.
- Sylvan advises parents not to over-organize play time. "Some children
are on a regimented schedule that would exhaust a CEO," says
Dr. Bavaria. "It's important to leave some unplanned time in a child's
day for them to undertake the activities they want to do."
High school student:
- Most teenagers would roll their eyes at the thought of "playing." But
sports, games and art still play a key role in development and
self-esteem. Sylvan's Bavaria advises, "Just because Mom was on the
track team doesn't mean her daughter or son will be, too. It's
important to let kids develop their individual talents and interests."
- Ideally, young people should participate in a mix of group and
independent play or games.
Zellers is the mass merchandise division of Hudson's Bay Company,
Canada's largest department store retailer and oldest corporation. As Mom's
store and an Imagine Caring Company, Zellers donates one per cent of its pre-
tax dollars to charitable organizations through its Zellers Friends of Family
Fund, providing financial assistance and employee involvement to charities
that support the health, wellness and education of Canadian families.
As part of the Hudson's Bay Company family of stores, Zellers helps its
customers turn everyday shopping into rewards through the Hbc Rewards program.
Customers earn points when shopping at the Hbc family of stores - the Bay,
Zellers, Home Outfitters and Hbc.com - and at Esso stations and Travelodge
hotels across Canada. Customers also earn bonus points when using their Hbc,
Bay or Zellers credit cards.
About Sylvan Learning Centre
With more than 20 years of experience and over 900 centres located
throughout North America, including over 70 in Canada, Sylvan Learning Centre
is the largest organization of its kind in the industry. Sylvan's trained and
certified teachers provide personalized instruction in reading, writing,
mathematics, study skills and test-prep. At Sylvan, students develop the
skills to do better in school and the confidence to do better in everything
else. Sylvan Learning Centre is a division of Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc.
For more information regarding the Sylvan Advantage(TM), call 1-800-31-SUCCESS
or visit www.educate.com/info.