Traditional holiday gifts ‘unplug’ and engage kids - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Traditional holiday gifts ‘unplug’ and engage kids

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Posted: Thursday, November 24, 2011 11:00 am | Updated: 10:40 am, Wed Jun 6, 2012.

During the holidays, electronic devices and gadgets seem to dominate the market, and children are always "plugged in."

Despite this, there is still a demand for traditional and creative gifts that educate children, while being fun at the same time.

Lakeshore Learning in Ahwatukee offers gifts that are designed with learning in mind.

Paula Morgan, retail promotions specialist at Lakeshore Learning Materials, said the company takes a lot of care to make sure the products they are developing are age appropriate and target different learning skills.

She explained that these skills help children develop learning for school and at home. For example, Morgan said that many of the materials help kids improve their pre-writing skills to social and vocal development. In addition, she said that all of the products are developed by people who have skill in the classroom.

"All of us were teachers at some point, which makes a huge difference," Morgan said. "We understand how the product works and what the kids need to do so they can learn and be engaged."

One large bonus is that the company does extensive testing to make sure the products are designed so that they are interesting and engaging to the kids. Morgan said there is a child care center on sight where they test all of the products on the kids, adding that the company does this so that they can make sure the children enjoy them, and that the products function correctly and are durable.

Morgan noted that the goal is to make sure the product will be age-appropriate and help children reach a new milestone. One toy, the "Feely box," is a great example because babies start using it to build sensory knowledge. Also, the box helps kids to learn the differences between each item. She said that each product is visually appealing and focuses on individuality.

Many of their toys are so fun and interactive that children do not realize they are learning, Morgan said. Their popular magnetic counting maze helps with fine motor development in preparation for writing. In addition, she said it helps children's pre-writing skills by manipulating the wand.

Morgan said that she has grown up with Lakeshore products her entire life, and that she still has some of those items. She added that the products are developed and designed to be kid appropriate and kid friendly, and that they are high quality so that kids will be able to continue to play with them for a long time.

"It's kind of like a perfect trifecta," Morgan said. "The products are made by educators so that each kid is really learning and the materials are really high quality, and the kids enjoy them."

Children can also become involved this holiday season by volunteering and giving back to the community.

Erin Kirchoff, president of the Kyrene Education Association, said volunteers can work to create 400 hygiene kits for families in need.

In addition, the Kyrene Resource Center is hosting new toy drives for its Winter Wonderland event. The invitation-only event assists families in need during the holiday season with toys and gifts for their children, Kirchoff said

He added that children can become involved by donating their gently used items to the resource center, and that most schools within Ahwatukee host canned food drives around the holiday season.

• Kirsten Hillhouse is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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