Best Toys for Young Children

Parent's Page - December 2014

Best Toys for Yound Children

From the time a baby is born, a child’s brain begins learning important skills that are needed for future school success. These skills are best learned through active play experiences. Parents can help maximize early learning by choosing toys that encourage active participation and higher level thinking. 

But what kinds of toys are best to help develop school readiness skills?  Smart Beginnings has great suggestions for toys that are not only fun, but will help your child be ready for school and ready for life!

If you want to develop early math skills…choose toys that help a child understand numbers, patterns, sizes and shapes, such as puzzles, shape sorters, blocks, stacking cups, different sizes of balls and simple counting games.

If you want to develop early communication skills …choose toys that encourage children to talk and engage in pretend play, such as dress up clothes, puppets, toy phones, play kitchens, toy animals, dolls and action figure play sets.

If you want to develop early creativity…choose toys that can be used in many different ways and allow children to express themselves individually such as, musical instruments, blocks, building toys, drawing toys (like a magna doodle) or a painting easel.  

If you want to develop early science skills…..choose toys that encourage a child to better understand nature and the real world, such as realistic toy animals, magnets, bug habitats, rock collections, toy cameras or binoculars (for looking at birds, etc..) 

As a general rule, avoid having too many battery operated toys with flashy sounds and lights.  These types of toys are typically more entertaining, than educational and don’t usually support high quality brain development.


SBNRV AmeriCorps Member Taylor Wills

Taylor Wills Photo "I am a junior, double majoring in marketing and management! I love working with the Smart Beginnings program, because I am extremely passionate about improving child literacy in the New River Valley, and ultimately empowering the youth. I am so excited and honored to be a part of this program and cannot wait to see it grow and develop over the course of the year.  In the past I have worked and mentored children in other capacities, including, coaching youth soccer, tutoring, and working with a child care center."


SBNRV AmeriCorps Member Katie Bean

 Katie Bean PhotoKatie Bean is a senior at Virginia Tech. She is studying Management and is a member of the Swim & Dive Team. Katie took a leadership class over the summer that traveled to the Dominican Republic. The class was developed around service learning, particularly working with children through sports. After the trip, she wanted to stay involved in the community and continue helping kids. Through her position with AmeriCorps, she will help improve children's reading skills in the Christiansburg area. Katie is looking forward to the upcoming year to gain experience and then hopes to join the Peace Corps. 


SBNRV AmeriCorps Member Eleni Back

Eleni Back PhotoEleni Back is a Junior majoring in Human Development.  She will be serving as an AmeriCorps member to help the Reading Program grow.  She hopes to become an elementary school teacher one day and believes that a love of reading is very important to help children develop.  Service is a big part of her life as she strives every day to uphold the motto of her school, Ut Prosim, so she couldn't be happier about having another opportunity to do that in her community.  



SBNRV AmeriCorps Member Liz Singanong

Liz Singanong Photo "Hi! My name is Liz Singanong and I am currently a senior at VA Tech studying International Studies with minors in Communication and French. I am both extremely honored and excited to be working with AmeriCorps and Smart Beginnings to help coordinate Reading Hour because I believe that every child deserves the chance to, at the least, have a favorite book. The fact that childhood illiteracy is a problem or even a possibility in my own community saddens me and being a part of the Reading Hour program is just a small step in the fight for prevention. I am extremely excited to see where our efforts take us and cannot wait to have a wonderful year with our awesome program!"


SBNRV AmeriCorps Member Kayla Schroeder

My name is Kayla Schroeder and I am a sophomore majoring in History.  I am a part of AmeriCorps because I love to give back to my community.  By putting full belief in Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim, I strive to serve and help my friends, family, and neighbors both in Montgomery County, where I reside in Staunton, Va, and wherever else my assistance is needed.  This year I will be a part of the Smart Beginnings team helping childcare centers in Blacksburg and Christiansburg by helping further develop children’s reading skills.  I have previously helped with the Boys and Girls Club of Christiansburg and Shawsville with the same aspect and now I cannot wait to make a difference with young children.


SBNRV AmeriCorps Member Mary Beth Wisniewski

Mary Beth Wisniewski Mary Beth Wisniewski will be serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer to coordinate Reading Hour programs. She is a 5th year senior at Virginia Tech studying Human Development. She is excited to engage with the New River Valley community in long-term service relationships as she facilities early childhood development, something she is hoping to continue to do upon her graduation in May of 2015.


Annual Conference

Kristi Snider and Ed Lawhorn at the Smart Beginnings state conferenceDavid Moore, Kristi Snyder and Kate Baker had the opportunity to represent Smart Beginnings NRV at the annual Smart Beginnings Conference held in Roanoke. Del. Joseph Yost and Ed Lawhorn were also able to attend the Leaders Institute and Business Lunch on day one of the conference. The theme of the conference was “Making the case: Building Will and Public Engagement.” It was a refreshing two days of learning, collaborating and networking.

David Moore leading coalition speed dating at the Smart Beginnings conference Delegate Yost and David Moore at the Smart Beginnings state conference    




Brittany Newman

Brittany is currently working as a social media marketing intern for Smart Beginnings. She is a senior at Virginia Tech studying Public Relations, Marketing and Event Planning. She has been responsible for a lot of the new Facebook posts and tweets that have shown up on our social media sites. Don’t miss out on great early childhood news, research and fun. If you haven’t already, like Smart Beginnings NRV on Facebook.


Molly Upthegrove

Molly graduated from UVA with a Master of Teaching and then went on to earn a Master of Science in Social Work at the University of Tennessee.  As a former kindergarten teacher, she has first-hand knowledge of the value of early childhood education, and is glad to help educate others on its importance. She has begun to tackle the daunting task of taking early childhood data for the New River Valley and turning it into something that is both visually appealing and compelling.