Monday, March 9, 2015

Confessions of a Grown-Up Who Still Plays With Toys

If you are anything like me, you can spend hours just browsing through toy stores.  Around each corner is another memory from childhood that comes rushing back.  The classic toys of our past are sure to have us wandering down memory lane in no time but it was the lure of the "newest" and "award-winning" speciality toys that convinced me, I was a grown-up toy addict with a habit to satisfy.  I knew it was bad when I found myself buying Barbie Dolls for my 2 year old that I secretly coveted.

Is it weird for an adult to play with toys?  It is a question that I have asked myself whenever I purchase the latest Bionicle, telling the cashier that it is a "gift" for a fictional nephew.  Would they think less of me if they knew assembling it was how I planned on spending my Saturday night?  Maybe they would murmur "tsk tsk" under their breath if they knew I often spent a big chunk of my grocery budget buying Breyer's Horses.

I decided to do some research in an effort to try and set aside any anxiety I might be feeling about my toy habit.  I took to Google and read about grown-ups who have figured out how to earn their living playing with toys.  Closet addicts, no doubt.  I found blogs about people who proudly proclaim that they "still play with toys"!  One of those blogs hinted at the writer's childless status as being due to the fact that they "don't want to share".  Hilarious and sad at the same time.

Then I read this article:
"People who are intrinsically motivated do things because they want to, not because someone else expects them to. In general, they accomplish more than people who are motivated by external forces (like bosses and parents and rules), and they’re healthier and happier.
When children play freely, they are manifesting intrinsic motivation in its purest form. According to psychiatrist Peter Gray, “activity oriented toward intrinsic goals, almost by definition, is play.” Children do exactly what they want to do and learn a lot, and they have a great deal of fun in the process. By playing freely, the book Flow states, children “acquire the skills and attitudes required for successful adulthood.”"
It was then that I realized that we are doing it wrong.  Rather than only giving the gift of free-flow play to the children of this world, we needed to get adults to realize the value of learning to play like a child.  We sometimes forget how amazing it feels to get lost in our imaginations and toys are a great facilitator of that experience.  So, now I am not only proud to be an adult who plays with toys, I try to persuade other adults to do the same.  I understand now that humanity is depending on me to be a shining example of a "successful adult".  I will run right out and get a new teddy bear to celebrate!

For the very best selection of educational and speciality toys, for ALL ages, please visit our website or one of our 4 area toy shoppes and browse to your heart's content!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fun Facts About Some Of Our Favorite Toys

Ancient Games
Have you ever heard of a game called "Senet"?  It is believed that it is one of the oldest games known to man.  This game has been around since about 3100 BC.  The name means "game of passing".  Unfortunately, the instructions on how to play Senet did not survive like the game did.  The "rules" have been a "best guess" by Senet historians.  Did you know that the game was played by the character Lara Croft in the movie Tomb Raider?  Another ancient game called "Ur" was discovered in an Iranian excavation in "Burnt City".  Also found in this excavation were the earliest known pair of dice.

Toy Cars
Most of us remember playing with tiny toy cars as children.  What we might not know is how the creation of the Matchbox Car came about.  A little girl was told that she could only bring toys that were "smaller than a matchbox" to school so her dad made her a matchbox-sized Steamroller which was to become the first of the vehicles made by Matchbox.  
Hot Wheels were also hugely popular and many kids owned tiny replicas of their own family cars.  Hot Wheels made a tiny 1968 Corvette that was available in toy stores before the actual car was in the dealer's showroom for sale to the public.

Tinker Toys
In the early 1900s, children often "made" toys out of everyday household items because "real" toys were very expensive.  The creator of Tinker Toys was inspired watching a game played by children using pencils and empty thread spools.  In 1918 an amazing 2.5 million sets were sold and to save money, they were shipped by slapping a label and postage right on the distinctive tube package.  In the 1950s, Tinker Toys became more colorful with the addition of red, blue, green and yellow sticks.

Mr. Potato Head
Originally the Mr. Potato Head toy was a collection of facial features that would be applied directly to an actual potato, or other fruit or vegetable.  Did you know that Mr. Potato Head was the very first toy to have a commercial on television?  The plastic potato we are familiar with today wasn't invented until 1964.  This came about in part due to the sharp points, required to pierce an actual vegetable, being too dangerous according to US safety standards.  In 1987 Mr. Potato Head gave up his distinctive pipe and became a "spokespud" for The Great American Smokeout.

Quick Fun Facts
The chatter telephone made by Fisher Price is one of the only toy phones that is still made with the old-fashioned rotary dial.

Winnie The Pooh is so famous he even has a star on Hollywood's Walk Of Fame.

The father of the creator of the Gumby Toy had an unusual hairstyle that was the inspiration behind the shape of Gumby's head.

In 1992, almost 30,000 "floatees" that were made in China and being shipped to the US, spilled overboard during a storm in the Pacific Ocean.  You can read about how these toys drifted all over the world here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Super Easy Ways To Beat The Winter Blues

In the winter months, here along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, we are blessed to have lots of sun and an abundance of outdoor recreational activities.  This means that the "Winter Blues" are not as common here as they might be in other areas of the country.  Even with that in our favor, the lack of sun hours (compared to summer months) and other factors, such as holiday-related stress, can lead to a case of the "blahs" for many of us.  It's about that time of year where we start itching to get back outside.  Many of us are thinking about a warm beach and a hammock strung between a couple of palm trees with someone to bring us Pina Coladas when the urge strikes.

Are you are feeling fatigued these days, with moments of sadness and a lack of interest in participating in social activities?  Do you crave certain foods such as fatty foods and carbohydrates?  Do you find yourself wanting to withdraw from the world?  If so, the first thing you should do is ask your healthcare provider to give you their opinion.  Many different conditions can exhibit these types of feelings so it's important to involve them in your decision making.

There are a number of really easy things you can do to boost your mood that can be practiced anytime you are feeling down and you can do these things any time of the year and frankly, they should be incorporated into your daily life as much as possible.

Get The Sleep You Need

We are often guilty of being so busy that we feel like there are not enough hours in a day and sometimes we forgo sleep to try and finish our never-ending to-do list.  In the winter months our melatonin levels drop and this is the hormone that regulates our sleep.  It is especially important to make the effort to get the best sleep possible during the eight or so hours you are in bed.  Get a consistent amount of sleep at night (ask your healthcare provider to recommend a number of hours for you) and create an environment in your bedroom that is conducive to restful sleep.  It might be difficult but, remove as much electrical interference as possible.

Be Good To Yourself

This is another area in which we might overlook our own needs in favor of taking care of others.  Give yourself a "magic hour" each day to do something that makes you feel especially pampered.  Consider treating yourself to a manicure, scented bubble bath or a long, peaceful walk in nature.  The goal is to help yourself release all those feel-good hormones and give your mood a boost.

Keeping Drinking Water

This is especially important to us because we live at higher altitudes and we tend to have really dry winters.  Chapped skin and lips are especially bothersome in the winter months.  Not only is it necessary to drink plenty of fluids but humidifiers can work wonders for those who suffer from the effects of cold, dry winter air.  Remember, it is not only cold bottled water but even a warm cup of tea that counts toward your fluid intake each day.

Let The Sun Shine In

If it is really cold outside and getting out in the sun isn't feasible, bring the sun into your home.  Open curtains and shades and pull a rocker up close to the window for a sun bath.  The benefit of this exposure to the full spectrum of light is increased serotonin levels which lead to a sense of well-being.  You can also buy artificial sun products to help get more sunlight during the winter months. 

It's only a couple of months away now and the soil will start to warm as new life returns to our environment.  We will open all the windows, put on shorts and flip flops and work in the garden.  These activities are part of what contributes to the happiness we feel in the warmer months.  Try our suggestions when the sun refuses to shine and chances are good that your mood will be lifted and your sense of well-being renewed.  When the sun does shine, which is quite often here, get out in it and absorb the benefits.

Grandrabbit's has many awesome toys and games to help you get outside so you can get some sun and get moving this winter, call our toy experts for advice today!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Get Healthy By Getting More Involved With Your Human Family

Many of us included the desire to "get healthy" as one of our New Year's resolutions this year.  When we think about what this entails, we think of eating less processed foods, maybe quitting bad habits like smoking, getting more exercise and things of that nature. We do recognize that many of our lifestyle choices are not the best choices we can make.  We struggle with these and usually our self-esteem suffers as year after year, our resolutions are forgotten as the stress of daily life overwhelms us.

Why do you suppose that all those resolutions and good intentions have not resulted in a healthier population?  Many of the diseases we suffer from are on the rise.  Is it possible that we have overlooked something in our quest for "good health"?  Why is it that the bachelor who practically lives at the gym can be less healthy than the Dad from the suburbs who eats pizza, drinks beer and leads a sedentary lifestyle?

Our Lonely Hearts Are Stressed Hearts

Studies have shown that people who live alone, or who feel isolated from society, can suffer health problems not seen in other groups of people.  An article from The Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology tells us how:
"...epidemiological studies have often found that socially isolated people have shorter life spans and increased risk of a host of health problems, including infections, heart disease, and depression."
The increase in stress hormones resulting from this type of isolation can impact the immune system, result in higher blood pressure and even lead to heart disease.  Perhaps a better resolution would be to sign up for dance classes or other activities where more focus is on the social aspect of the exercise.  Resolving to be less lonely could be as good for you as quitting smoking when it comes to longevity. 

A Loving Family Is Great Health Insurance

A loving family life naturally involves many aspects that lead to better health for all involved.  Eating together, sibling relationships, strong connections to our communities and even a healthy sex life can all greatly enhance our quality of life.  These activities boost our immune systems and give us a stronger sense of purpose and direction.  There is a direct correlation between a stressful family life and a weakened immune system and greater incidence of disease.

This article from the American Psychological Association describes how:
"Chronic stressors associated with health disparities include perceived discrimination, neighborhood stress, daily stress, family stress, acculturative stress, environmental stress and maternal stress."
It is apparent that a rich and rewarding social life and family life can be a factors in better overall health and well-being.  We think resolving to get more involved in our communities and spend more quality time with our families will bring a better return on our emotional investment than getting up at 5AM to jog or depriving ourselves of Starbucks or Twinkies.

Family Game Night is a great way to find quality time to spend with our family…our game selection includes new, award-winning choices as well as those classics we all remember.

(This blog was originally published on 1.26.15)

How Are You Doing With Those Resolutions?

"Not so great" would be a typical response from most people.  In fact, the percentage of New Year's resolutions that actually "stick" is dismally low.  Why do we have such a hard time keep those promises we make to ourselves every January?  There are a number of reasons why we tend to fall back into our old habits within a few weeks.  There are also some ways of approaching the tradition of resolving to make a change that can give you a much better chance of turning your resolution into a habit that is hard to break.

First, let's examine 3 ways in which we might set ourselves up for failure:
  • Making The Result The Goal
When we focus on our desired outcome, i.e., to lose 20 pounds, quit smoking, eat healthier, etc., we expect to see results very soon.  This is because from a young age we are taught to see goals as achievable within a certain timeframe and that change needs to be something we can actually measure.
  • Taking On A Monumental Change
While those type of changes are often part of the New Year's resolutions we make, the sheer will power necessary to make big changes is not something that comes naturally to people.  We operate best on instinct.
  • Not Changing The Outside
When we try to break bad habits our focus is on changing our thinking or depriving ourselves of a ritual we practice.  This is when we tell ourselves that we have to have strong willpower.  Unfortunately, for most people, will power is not known for being very strong.  Relying on will power to facilitate change is setting yourself up for failure.

These are 3 reasons why less than 10% of us keep those promises we make to ourselves as we begin the new year.  If we would focus on changing behavior rather than seeing results right away, we would be much more likely to turn those promises into habits that are driven by our instincts.  If we would just break down the goal to the smallest detail, like not smoking in the car or with the morning coffee, it becomes easier to achieve and resist cheating.  Allowing ourselves as much time as we need also means we take baby steps until the ultimate goal is reached.  Finally, if we don't change our environment to support our resolution, failure is almost guaranteed.  It is very difficult to resolve to eat healthier if the pantry and refrigerator are stocked with junk food.  Our environment is responsible for much of our instinctual behavior so changing it along with your internal resolve, is vital. 

Resolutions are best kept when they become part of your natural motivation so make sure you can really achieve the behavior changes you seek.  The best way to make big changes is one little bite at a time.

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” 
― Oprah Winfrey
If your resolutions include playing more…Grandrabbit's is a great place to start!

(This blog was originally published on 1.21.15)

Gratitude For Christmas

Now that the Holiday Season is coming to a close, it is a good time to help our children remember the value of an "attitude of gratitude".  While a little over-indulgence can be good for everyone now and then, we can lose sight of just how fortunate we are when surrounded with all the glitter and abundance of Christmas.

An article from The Wall Street Journal last year reminds us that:
"The mere act of giving thanks has tangible benefits, research suggests. A 2008 study of 221 kids published in the Journal of School Psychology analyzed sixth- and seventh-graders assigned to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. It found they had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with kids assigned to list five hassles."
There are a number of ways that we can help "balance" the good fortune of this time of year with the more typical lives that we normally lead.

  • Be A Good Example
If your "attitude of gratitude" is apparent in your everyday lives, you will be teaching by example and you can expect your children to see the world through your grateful eyes.  This will establish a solid foundation of gratitude for which to build on in the future.  Don't just tell your kids how grateful you are, let them witness your expressing that gratitude to other people.

  • Say It Out Loud and Write It Down
To further cement your good example, have your children develop a daily routine of expression of gratitude.  A Gratitude Journal is an excellent tool and if writing is difficult, then have them tell you three things they are grateful for while you are having dinner or before bedtime.

  • Be Grateful For The Challenges
While it is easy to remember to be grateful when things are good and the flow of abundance is great, a more important time to teach gratefulness is when times are tough.  Start with small things, like being grateful for rain because it feeds the plants and fills the pond, and work your way up to seeing how even the most distressing of situations can often have a positive outcome in the future.  Remember to look back and show your kids how things almost always work out for the best. 

Because we recognize the benefits of raising grateful kids it is important to remember that it all starts with a loving and nurturing connection with our caregivers.  When a baby is responded to with love and patience, the seeds of gratitude are then planted.  In nurturing that "seed" we will ensure that our children grow to be healthier and happier adults.

Please visit us at Grandrabbit's Toy Shoppe, to learn more about the benefits of toys and play, and how we are dedicated to helping our children grow and thrive.

(This blog was originally published on 12.28.14)

Imagination Will Get You Everywhere

The next time your child approaches you wearing a crazy get-up and proclaiming themselves to be "Captain Of The Universe," take a moment to appreciate them and their creation.  By joining them in their pretend world, even for just a few moments, will give your child a confidence and self-esteem boost!  You will recognize this when your child "lights up," becoming more animated and expressive.  Their delight will be easy to recognize.  For the child, your participation gives them complete control of their world, when so often they feel like everyone else holds that power.

You can also encourage imaginative play by using toys that help your child create an alternate persona.  Toys like doctor kits, pretend kitchens with faux food, costumes or "stores" with pretend cash registers and money/credit cards.  Musical instruments are excellent for pretend play while also providing the child the benefit of making and manipulating sounds.

There are three very good reasons why an investment today in your child's imaginative play will bring a great return on that investment in the future.
  • Development Of Language
One of the best things about pretending to be someone other than themselves is that it gives the child an opportunity to express that character verbally with words and language they wouldn't normally use.  This brings more sense to their world and understanding of how the adults relate to each other.
  • Social Skills
Imaginative play with their peers offers the child an opportunity to "practice" how they relate to others.  Sharing is a natural behavior in this type of play and it gives us the opportunity to teach empathy skills and cooperation as well.
  • Enhancing Imagination
Using your imagination is not only fun but it is also essential to a happy and fulfilling life.  If we did not have people with great imaginations, we would not build rocket ships to journey into space or make new scientific breakthroughs.  Imagination offers us the chance to build a better world.
So the next time your child runs past you with a shield made from a colander and a sword made from a stick, grab a sheet and tie it around your neck and join your child in vanquishing the dragons from the backyard.  Your child will benefit in many ways and you will probably experience an uptick in your own self-esteem as a bonus.

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” 

For toy ideas that will bring out the super hero in your child, visit our website or give one of our toy guides a call at 303-443-0780. 

(This blog was originally published 12.14.14)