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Listen to Jenn Talk About the Power of Play

I was grateful to be interviewed by veteran toy designer and podcaster Phil Albritton. We talked about so many things!

I loved talking about:

- why video games are so successful at taking up your child's time
- why toy companies need to teach parents how to play with their kids
- the importance of monitoring children in the digital space

Press the play button to hear all of it!

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What Cutting Edge Looks Like in a School (2017) at Forbes

This is my latest story at Forbes. It's all about cutting edge tools in schools.

Yes, a lot of them involve technology but believe me, it's more about just what's good for kids right now.  These tools demonstrate the kind of leadership that I find in great educators and educational institutions.

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My Father's Day Gift Guide at Forbes

QUIXO- my kid always kicks my butt with this one.  I hate him. 

This year's line up for Father's Day gift was all about different kinds of dads.  Star Wars dads, tech dads, athletic dads.

Here is the story in case you missed it.

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Need a LEGO Brick Organizer for Your Home?

I've been doing this quietly but I'm now taking more clients for this service because I want everyone to really enjoy their bricks! 

Educational toys are not educational if you can’t find them

We straighten out their drawers, their desks, and now we even buy rugs for their school lockers. However, when it comes to toys, even educational ones, we usually require kids to do all the clean up. In most cases they should be able to, but LEGO bricks are different. There are few toys that kids can own that could easily number in the thousands. There are about 70 LEGO bricks for every one of the world’s 6 billion inhabitants. And children around the world spend 5 billion hours a year playing with LEGO bricks.

If the collection becomes this large, throwing them all into a big bin makes about as much sense as using large garbage bags to store your clothing for everyday wear. Jenn Choi, toy expert and Founder of Toys As Tools, has learned from working with toy designers and brick fan families on how to coach families on best ways to organize their LEGO bricks to suit kids' play styles and their families’ needs too.

Read about Jenn's work here in Quartz

Parents are trained along with the kids. Parents are present for the entirety of the training.

How she does it

Jenn Choi, Toy Expert and Founder of Toys As Tools provides brick sorting and organization education to families who love LEGO bricks and want to make sure that the LEGO bricks they own are organized for optimal creativity. Services include initial phone/video consultation and a home visit where parents and children are taught how to sort and organize in a way that best suits their collection. Appropriate supply suggestions are also provided. Consultation concludes with a final follow up phone/video call. 

Got a question? Email me at jenn at toysastools dot cc

Here are some neat storage supplies. Jenn can help you choose which will be right for you. 

Don't forget to read my favorite LEGO story at the Atlantic- How to Teach Your Kids to be Grateful: Give Them Less

Help Me Help Us

WHAT: Request to you- fill out a quick 9 question survey (Average time: 6 minutes)
WHY: To gather your experiences so that I can tell the toy industry folks how to give us the toys we want and need
AND.......... You'll be entered to win a $25 gift card




With much love and gratitude,
Jenn Choi

Toy Round Up at Breakthroughs in Twice Exceptional Education

I just returned from the two-day conference hosted by QuadPrep for the twice-exceptional community: therapeutic professionals, parents, and educators!!!!!  It was amazing!

I hosted a tremendously exciting raffle of the following toys to support the conference. But first we played!

Teachers were loving the 3Doodler START.  Can't burn your kids' hands.  Look at that LEGO hair. It comes off and goes back on!  YEAH!!!!

Raffle and goody bag gifts were made possible with the generous support from 

Fave photos from the conference
Thanks to Rachel Ford and Sarah Cottone for helping capture these moments!

She made herself a necklace! 

He worked hard all day. Delivering snacks. 

littleBits makes tech soooooo easy. 

You think you know math but you don't know it like Rachel McAnallen. She will blow you away. I'm sitting here with teachers of gifted children because we were following her like Confucius and she let us "play math" with her for an hour.

More videos of Rachel McAnallen here

A staffer drew this out for fun! 

I made a remote control something! littleBits remote control bit is the best. Make an RC car? Yes you can. 

STEM class for twice-exceptional kids? She packed in so much material.  Katharina Boser Master STEM Educator!  

Keynote from globally recognized leader in Twice-Exceptional Education. Susan Baum

So many friends of the 2E community.  Thank you all!!!  Think about it like this: If your teacher works well with gifted kids who have special needs, doesn't that mean that teacher is pretty much a super teacher? 2E ed is amazing ed. 

From Nancy Tarshis' talk. If you can leap right over, you probably haven't learned anything.  YES!!!
Oh look, there goes another working mother.  Gyroscope power. MiP

Nancy Tarshis knows how perfectionism hurts 2E kids. 

Oh the pressure. I want everyone to win!  Kristin Berman, Head of School, Quad Preparatory School reads out the winning numbers. 

Packing up to go home. Thanks everyone. Let's play again soon! 

As many attendees asked what were the names and where these can be purchased, here they are!
You can find a list from the Quad here

These can all be found at either the toy company's website or Amazon.  Purchases made after using our Amazon link may help support this website with a modest commission.

3Doodler START Mega Set
Buy from Amazon   

Anki Cozmo
Buy from Amazon

Every participant received a tin from Crazy Aaron's Putty World
Buy from Amazon

littleBits STEAM Student Set
Buy from Amazon

Sphero SPRK+
Buy from  Amazon

Sphero Force Band
Buy at Amazon

Battle Worn BB-8 with Force Band  This will be auctioned off at the Quad Gala in May. 

Coder Mip
Buy from Amazon

Top Toys to Watch in 2017

Here are some more details you may want to see before buying from this new list of toys worth watching this year. But first, may I say I admire your adventurist spirit. While I review toys for work, I do hope all of us feel free to just go with our gut sometimes.

Here are some additional photos and purchase links (they support this website) that may help you buy the toys that are already available for sale.

Read the piece at Forbes in case you missed it. 

Things You Can Buy Now:

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Twelve Amazing Books to Inspire Creativity in Kids

As seen at

Can't find these amazing books? Never fear! I will always be here to help!

If you haven't seen my list of books dedicated to STEM, LEGO, and making fabulous things then check it out here

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The Six Best Tech Gifts For Kids In 2016

As seen on Forbes...

It's true that parents and play industry leaders alike have all focused on getting the family to "unplug" and go "offline." I like this movement and do like the toys and games that support these activities however, there is nothing like a great technology gift that can really wow a child.

Tech gifts can be very fun for the gift-giver as well because they can range from the very practical to the completely unnecessary. What's funny is that people tend to fall in love with their most practical and most unnecessary gifts. I think this is because no matter what, tech gifts can inspire us to think about the world of possibilities be it striving for productivity or just plain fun.

Here is a short list of my favorite tech gifts for kids this year.....  Read the rest on my blog at Forbes! 
Picture list below with easy links for purchase:

Cozmo (my fave this year)

Asus Transformer Mini


Sphero Star Wars Force Band

3Doodler Start

Intel Compute Stick

It's time to play!

Two Ways to Support TAT Just By Shopping

Thank you so much everyone! The recent newsletter is a success! The Toys As Tools Hit Lists is proving useful to you all. I'm thrilled!

I know you want to support this site so please bookmark these two pages to use when shopping on AMAZON or MARBLES.  Your support will lead to a new and improved website that promises to impact the industry by making it easier for consumer to by the best toys and tech for their families.

Here's the AMAZON link.

Here's the MARBLES the Brain Store link:

Please bookmark it. Toys As Tools will receive a small commission from anything you buy whether it be diapers, food, toys, or technology.  Everything counts! Here's a very short photo diary of our testing. We've been looking out for you knowing that you've been waiting to buy everything now.

Mel Chemistry: We're still testing but it's fun overall.

Playdoh TOUCH- Launched at the Apple Store a just a couple of weeks ago. 

This was a customer service call.  Kids should learn how to do this. Spin Master gets an A+ in customer service! 

Still researching parenting tools.  This one is a pair of gloves. I like a man in uniform! 

This young lady was testing Creativity for Kids Light Up Globe. She used her phone to trace to make a shrinky dink piece.  So smart! 

littleBits Gizmos and Gadget Kit, on sale now $40 off. 

two tester kids, an artist parent, and my games and gaming guru talk with Jay Melican, Intel's Maker Czar (that's his real title) about an upcoming subscription product. 

Thank you to each and everyone of you who has inspired me to bring you the best news with the best intentions and integrity your family deserves.

Yours truly,

Cubebot, what's wrong? Are you okay? Look for desk toys for holiday office swaps and stocking stuffers and for you! 

The Black Friday Hit List (for Thoughtful Parents Who Want More)

Are you ready to shop until you drop? Just kidding. I don't believe we should respond to Black Friday this way. 

Ninety percent of the items in this list contain products that Toys As Tools testers has personally tested and approved.  For the sake of brevity, this will just be a list. The toys were submitted for consideration. Payment for inclusion is impossible. 

Note: Re: Amazon and Marbles: Putting items into your cart after going through my link means that you are supporting Toys As Tools just by purchasing something as you would normally do but a little percentage will go to TAT so thanks in advance! As you will see, a lot of the deals will be on the home sites of the products. Go ahead shop around! May you get the very best deal this holiday season.

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Hit List: Marbles the Brain Store

I'll be trying this one out very very soon.  It's physics plus spatial reasoning and cunning strategy
Newton - $34.99  Exclusively at Marbles the Brain Store

I don't know why it took me so long to make this list from Marbles. My apologies to you but I'm confident that you'll forgive me once you make your first Marbles purchase. I just became an affiliate and I couldn't be more thrilled. This is a list of great items here but it also contains tips on how to win at specialty store shopping.  It's possible. Just give me a chance.

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Sign Up for the Very First Newsletter

This website is back in transformation but the holiday season waits for no one.

That said, it's time to get you some information about what are the best products out there for your little ones (and bigger ones) and let's not forget ourselves!

So don't forget to sign up!  I promise that by 11/22/16 Tuesday, you will learn something, actually, a lot of new wonderful amazing somethings.


At Forbes: What if Everyone Had Assistive Technology?

America is getting an intimate snapshot of how technology lets inclusion make life better for everyone through the new hit ABC comedy Speechless. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)

Ever hear that argument? If they give a computer to a kid who has dysgraphia then what would happen if all the kids wanted a computer. I like to answer it with if you gave someone whose legs never let him more than a half a block even with crutches, a wheelchair, then that's good. But if all the kids said, hey I want a wheelchair too then what would you say? You'd probably have a lot of things to say.

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Barbie Has a New STEM Kit! Latest Story at Quartz

For those of you who missed it, check out my latest story about the new Barbie STEM Kit at Quartz! Was I fair? Unfair? Are you applauding or heckling or not feeling sure what to say?

Curious? Want to try it out yourselves?  Use my Amazon link and support Toys as Tools! 

Adventures of a Table Top Tutor

Kids keep playing long after the teacher has left. photo: Toys As Tools

Folks, this is Doug Mercier, an IT professional by trade and my go-to advisor for all things board games and video games.  He also helps me with questions like, "How do I set up a server for Minecraft for my kids so he can play with his friends- you know, people he actually knows? But I have to be able to turn it off whenever, okay? "

Today, as my article in Quartz about board games is published, I am simultaneously publishing his first person perspective on what it is like to teach Testers 1 and 2 on how to play the coolest games out there. Happy Reading. -Jenn

Adventures of a Table Top Tutor
by Doug Mercier

In a world saturated with games and entertainment for kids it can be hard for parents to turn the fun off, get them to settle down, and do their schoolwork. But what if the fun didn’t need to turn off? Video games and board games can seem like fruitless activities however, many of them can actually teach kids important lessons that can be used in real life.

For example, games like Catan teach the importance of resource management and planning ahead. Other games like Legends of Andor teach problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. So how is a parent to know when a game has real skill opportunities versus just fun?

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Technology, 2e Kids, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Useless Box from the Makershed is useful technology because it is useful to laugh.  

by Jenn Choi (Doug Mercier contributed to this article)

Does your child hate writing?
Does your child avoid reading?
Then give me your attention for just a few. I promise to be assistive and then some.

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Why "Toys Are Tools" Must Innovate

Many thanks to Don Carter for this wonderful logo.

WHAT: An important announcement from Jenn

I never thought of myself as cutting-edge anything. All I wanted to do was help you make purchases that would make you happy. Why would I need a name change and a new website to do this?

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What Modern Parents Want from the Toy Industry- ChiTAG Crushes It

Bubble Soccer.  OMG. OMG. Can anyone say, corporate retreat? Beat down on Boss Lady or Boss Man? How about a family retreat? Beat down on Dad but not Mom, okay? 

How do you know which toys will work for your child?  Ask him to make a list? Based on what? Commercials? Black Friday Flyers? Ads.... hmmmm...

When is the last time you saw an ad for your favorite extra virgin olive oil? How about your chef's knife? Your favorite hot sauce? Things that you just don't compromise on, ever - like your kids' learning tools. Sure you can buy silly stuff too but if you are reading this blog, it's because you know that toys are investments too.

You may already have some great toys in mind but let's face it, sometimes, those really great toys can be a little intimidating. The day of unwrapping is a moment of joy, not just for them but for us too but you want that moment of excitement to go on after the holiday season so what can you do??? Here is a solution from Chicago that should be replicated everywhere.

Like a busy cafeteria, you had to wait for a seat sometimes. KLASK is an amazing game from Denmark. What is it with Denmark and toys? LEGO, Plus-Plus, and now KLASK!  

Keep reading to discover our Top Toolbox Essentials Pick for ChiTAG (Chicago Toy and Game Fair)!!!  All the way on the bottom.  Saving best for last....

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Crowdfunding Alert! CZUR: How one super scanner can help all students achieve more

 Czur- the kind of tech that can solve so many problems for students and teachers everywhere! 

So I'm breaking my rule.  I rarely report on crowdfunding projects but this time I am making an exception.  If your child has a hard time reading, sustaining attention when reading, and maybe even writing, this is a piece of ed tech news you don't want to miss...

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Got a problem? Brick It Out - LEGO Serious Play at Quartz

I know I'm biased but Quartz makes reading about business the most interesting news category EVER!

 Your company's got problems? No worries... Brick It Out!

My latest story at Quartz!!!

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Catch me on Note to Self Talking About LEGOs!

 Discussing the good, bad, and fun and not so fun about LEGO with Manoush Zomorodi

It's a podcast!  No reading!  Yeah!

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Active Summer Giveaway Part 2: Don't Miss This

 THE SECOND HALF of my follow up to my post at Forbes

This one is all about ACTIVE FUN too but for kids over 5!
Express Yourself, Think Like a Scientist Engineer, My Body Needs to Move

This giveaway is brought to you by Toys Are Tools, nay

We are dividing this feature into two parts because this post and giveaway will focus on active toys for kids over 5 years of age.  The previous post with its very own giveaway focuses on active fun for kids under 5.  DON'T MISS!  You can enter both!

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Active Summer Giveaway Part 1: $400 value; Limitless Summer Fun for the Five and Under Set

 A follow up to my post at Forbes

This one is all about ACTIVE FUN!
Express Yourself, Think Like a Scientist Engineer, My Body Needs to Move
This giveaway is brought to you by Toys Are Tools, nay

We are dividing this feature into two parts because this post and giveaway will focus on active toys for kids under 5 years of age.  The next post with its very own giveaway will focus on active fun for kids over 5.  DON'T MISS!

Read more »

Giveaway! Last-Minute Mother's Day Gifts For You!

Okay, we're not giving this dress away but I am going to tell you how to get closer to reaching this goal.  The Bay Area Maker Faire is next week, May 16 and 17.  Buy Mom a ticket if you are in the area.

This giveaway is brought to you by Toys Are Tools, not just to be clear.

WHAT: A follow up to my post at Forbes and HUGE giveaway!!! Over hundreds in value AGAIN!

Goodbye laundry machines and dishwashers, those are not presents to mom, we still want productivity tools though but it's all about working smarter for us.... in whatever we do!

Read more »



Lenoir Empire Furniture introduces new line of Lea Industries children's furniture

Lenoir Empire Furniture, a major retailer of top name-brand furniture, recently added the newest children's furniture lines from Lea Industries.

Lea recalls more than 63,000 youth beds

Youth furniture resource Lea Inds. is recalling more than 63,000 children's beds due to a fall hazard involving the side mattress support rails.The recall covers some 59,200 panel, loft and bunk be...

It's official: ABC and JPMA merger is off

The All Baby and Child Corporation and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association officially announced yesterday that the two non-profit trade organizations will remain independent and will no...

CPSC periodic testing rules go into effect this month

Rules go into effect this month regarding periodic testing for the Consumer Product Safety Commission that mean most manufacturers will have to test their products at least once a year.

Million Dollar Baby, Natart dressers linked to toddler deaths recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced voluntary recalls by two suppliers of children's dressers that pose tip-over hazards.

New women's group to make its debut at JPMA Summit

A new women's networking group is making its debut at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers' Assn. Summit next month with a tea, meet-and-greet, and introduction to the group's mission.

Buying groups express support for Brixy

USA Baby, Baby News and NINFRA have all officially expressed their support of new specialty retail group Brixy in a letter sent out to the industry this week.

Suffocation, entrapment risks prompt recall of KidCo's PeaPod travel bed

KidCo is recalling about 220,000 PeaPod and PeaPod Plus travel beds because of suffocation and entrapment risks.

Green Frog Art acquired

High-end nursery furniture manufacturer Green Frog Art has been acquired by a private entity.

JPMA creates certification program for infant sling carriers

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Assn. has added a certification program for infant sling carriers following a standard recently published by the ASTM.

JPMA opens Washington, D.C. office

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has opened a Washington, D.C. office with two new staff members leading the D.C. team.

Software provider VividWorks hires sales, marketing VP for Americas

NEW YORK — VividWorks, a Finland-based software provider for the home furnishings industry, has named John Thompson vice president of sales and marketing.

Established Brands named licensing agency for Fancy Nancy

Established brands, A licensing, marketing and retail development agency, has signed an agreement to represent Fancy Nancy, the best-selling book series published by HarperCollins Children's Book.

ASTM standard calls for warning on baby monitor cords

ASTM international has published a new standard requiring baby monitor cords to carry a label warning about strangulation hazards. The standard is in response to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Comm...

ASTRA names new board of directors

CHICAGO - The American Specialty Toy Retailing Assn. has named new members to its board of directors. 

Wildflower Group to represent Goodnight Moon, Raggedy Ann & Andy properties

NEW YORK — Licensing and branding agency The Wildflower Group has signed multi-year agreements to manage two well-known children's brands, Goodnight Moon from HarperCollins Children's Books and Rag...

C.R. Gibson signs licensing agreement with Emily Green

Nashville, Tenn. - Gift manufacturer C.R. Gibson has signed a licensing agreement with Emily Green, a brand known for its bold, colorful products that spark kids' creativity.

CPSC announces recall of children's chairs, stools

WASHINGTON — Elegant Gifts Mart Inc. of Los Angeles, a supplier of youth furniture and other home products, has agreed to voluntarily recall about 1,600 children's chairs and 1,300 children's stool...

JPMA/ABC merger webinars today and tomorrow

Two webinars will take place in the next two days designed to allow feedback and answer questions regarding the proposed merger of ABC and JPMA announced last month.

New Crib Standards in Effect for Both Retailers and Manufacturers

It was just over six months ago that the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced new regulations for cribs, and as of June 28, 2011 all cribs sold in this country - both new and used - must me...

A Month for Looking Forward

Who else is exhausted from talking and thinking about new crib regulations? Like many of you that I've talked to, I never thought I'd know so much about the minutiae of a government regulation. And...

SGS Shanghai Becomes First China Lab Certified for New CSPC Crib Tests

SGS North America Inc. has announced that the company's Shanghai lab has become the first Chinese testing facility certified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to provide crib sa...

Baby Jogger LLC Recalls Baby Jogger Jump Seats Due to Fall Hazard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, in cooperation with Baby Jogger LLC, has announced a voluntary recall of the about 1,545 of the company's Baby Jogger Jump Seats in th...

Ikea recalls to repair cribs due to mattress support collapse; cribs pose entrapment and suffocation hazards

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, in cooperation with Ikea Home Furnishings, has announced a voluntary recall of the company's SNIGLAR cribs.

CPSC to offer web conferences on the publicly available Consumer Product Safety Information Database

The Consumer Products Safety Commission is hosting two web conferences on the publicly available Consumer Product Safety Information Database this month.

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