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Today I consider confidence & a few educational toys that may help to prepare your child for Primary & the early elementary grades. This topic is particularly relevant to me as I had serious (learning related) confidence issues during my time in elementary school. These issues were the direct result of a clash between my personal learning style and a particular teacher’s approach to trying to fix the (so called) problem. Read on for further details and a few ideas of how you might instill confidence in your little scholar as early as possible.

My previous article in this series, entitled Educational Toys to Prepare Your Toddler for Preschool, was all about helping to give your child a head start when it comes to their early education. In it I looked specifically at toys that could help to impart key knowledge and information that would help children to prepare for preschool. Knowledge of things such as numbers & counting, the alphabet & the early stages of reading, and shapes and colours were among the topics I considered to be of the utmost importance to children in the 3-5 year old age range.

In today’s article I hope to move slightly beyond these basics and into some more advanced territory. More importantly than that, though, I hope to demonstrate the importance of confidence to your child as he or she enters and moves through the early elementary school grades and on into life at large.

In reflecting on my own elementary school experience, I can honestly say that confidence in my abilities was truly a make-or-break factor in my early education. In my case, I had an elementary school teacher that misunderstood my way of learning and completing assigned tasks. I tended to do my math work in my head, and I visualized the numbers on the white ceiling while doing it. Even though I came up with the correct answers, the teacher thought I was just daydreaming and not doing my work. This led to a number of issues, including my quickly being placed in what can only be referred to as a “slow” group. As a part of this group I was tasked with repeating lessons I had already learned while the rest of our class went ahead with the regular curriculum. This left all of us slow students behind everyone else by default. The entire exercise seemed designed to shake my confidence in whether or not I could ever learn effectively.  Had I not been encouraged by family and a school board psychologist (and truly, deep down, had the confidence to know that I could be a good student and do the work), I may not have wanted to continue on with my schooling when I became old enough to decide for myself. 

  

The reason I’ve given this very personal story is not to complain about a teacher or my early frustrations with school. I merely wish to demonstrate the importance of confidence to children when it comes to the complicated issue of learning.

With this in mind, and with the understanding that not all children enjoy learning in a traditional ‘hitting the books’ sort of way, I will just briefly mention a few products that I believe may help to develop your child’s confidence. After all, for many of us it is important to find alternative ways of learning. It is especially good when knowledge may be imparted without the learner ever even feeling like he or she is studying. I can think of no better way than by incorporating learning into play.

My first suggestion is the Sphero 2.0 Robotic Ball, which is a great product for building confidence while your child just has some good, wholesome fun. The Sphero 2.0 Robotic Ball is a versatile technological toy. It rolls almost anywhere, turns and steers, jumps ramps, and can travel considerably faster than the average child. With over 25 fun apps available for use with the ball (for both Android & iOS based devices), it provides a multitude of play options to stimulate your child’s creativity & imagination. In fact, it gives any user the opportunity to develop skills with the same technological devices they will ultimately use both for and in school (i.e., devices such as tablets). And it’s tough too! With its high impact polycarbonate shell, the Sphero Robotic Ball is as unbreakable as it is unstoppable! This toy is definitely a winner.

 

With the acquisition of new skills (such as those required for operating a high tech computerized ball), comes the growth of one’s confidence. Thus, as your child gains more and more mastery over the ball, he or she will become more and more confident as well. This is so not merely with the Sphero Ball itself, but with technological devices in general (anything from cell phones and computers right up to cars and heavy construction equipment). This is one of the great things about confidence—once you acquire a bit of it in one area of life, it tends to rub off and spread out into other areas as well. To me, the Sphero Robotic Ball has the potential to be a major confidence builder among children of nearly all ages (though 8 years old and up is the suggested age range for this product).

Another fun, educational, and confidence building item is the Osmo Starter Kit

The Osmo Starter Kit is a special iPad gaming accessory featuring 4 fun games that together encourage creative thinking and social interaction in your child. It also provides children with a whole new way of playing, by incorporating any physical object into the mix and converting that object into a “digitally connected game piece.” The four individual games that make up this unique system include a “Word Game”, which challenges players to uncover a secret word by tossing down letters and spelling out the hidden word first, faster than any other player. Another game, the “Tangram Game”, challenges players to connect physical puzzle pieces together to match a specific shape or image that appears on the iPad screen. The “Newton Game” allows players to create objects that help them to guide on-screen falling balls into specific targeted play zones. And, finally, the “Masterpiece Game” encourages artistic creativity by letting the user draw anything that he or she wishes and helping them out in the process. it’s really quite an interesting system. It provides social interaction (depending on the game) and helps to build your child’s confidence as each game is, in turn, mastered.

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Finally, I just want to mention the LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum (which is not yet available at Best Buy, but should be fairly soon). Since this particular link is not yet available, I’ll direct you instead to the Main LeapFrog Page @ Best Buy. I also wish to say that the LeapPad Platinum is touted as LeapFrog’s biggest and best children’s tablet yet. With a 7 inch screen, WI-FI, 2 cameras, a number of pre-loaded games & apps, and compatibility with nearly every LeapFrog game cartridge ever made, this tablet really lives up to its hype.

If you’d like to know all about this new LeapPad and how well it actually performs, stay tuned to the Plug-In Blog for a full review coming late next week. I am currently testing and playing with one of these LeapPad Platinums and will have full details on the tablet itself as well as 2 of LeapFrog’s educational game cartridges. I don’t want to give away too much too soon, but I can safely say that I have continually found LeapFrog’s tablets to be great tools of early education and definite confidence builders for kids across a wide variety of subjects. I truly believe that any and all children can benefit significantly from LeapFrog’s many amazing products!

That’s all for today’s blog. Next time, in Part III of the series (click here for part 1), I focus specifically of the importance of memory and how to stimulate your child’s memory as they work their way through elementary school and face a deluge of memorization tasks that will largely remain with them for the rest of their lives. Join me then and we’ll explore this important issue together. Until then, good luck and have an awesome day!