Saturday, November 29, 2008

Not just child's play

"Not just child’s play"
Sun.Star Davao, Nov. 29, 2008

As a devoted mother of 2 preschoolers, Karen Tiu-Tingtat is always on the lookout for toys that do not only entertain but also help develop her children's motor, comprehension and problem solving skills.

“I prefer them to play with toys rather than watch TV or videos in their free time. It is also a perfect opportunity for me and my husband to bond with them especially when we tell stories”, shares Karen who is married to businessman Gaudi Tingtat.

During one of her trips out of town, the thoughtful mother discovered interesting educational toys which she bought for her children as gifts. The colorful and interactive toys appealed to her young son and daughter.

Eventually, these fun toys became a hit with the kids of Karen’s friends that she began receiving orders from them. The overwhelming response of family and friends gave Karen the idea to start a business specializing in educational toys. Thus, Learning Mates was born in May 2008.


According to Karen, parents should look for educational toys for their children because they improve observation skills, develop problem solving techniques as well as logical thinking.

“As children play, they begin to be familiar with similarities and differences in everyday things. Kids need observation skills to recognize patterns in math and language like rhyming words”, discloses the hands-on mom.

“In addition, facts and concepts are likewise easier to grasp when they deal with familiar objects as they learn vocabulary in their native tongue or a second language. Parents can take note of their children's interests and further extend their conversation as they teach good values such as turn taking and loving one another”, illustrates Karen who has a degree in Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver B.C., (Canada).

On the other hand, the former preschool teacher explains that “children develop problem solving techniques through “manipulatives” such as the Connect A Cube and Cube Activity Board (P715) toys for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems. For multiplication, they can stack up the cubes and put them into sets of three or four to work out problems”.

“Kids feel good about themselves when they can understand abstract concepts through “manipulatives”. Their self esteem is heightened”, Karen adds.

“Lastly, as we know, logical thinking is an important foundational skill of math. Children need to have a hands-on approach to learning math”, Karen discusses.

“To understand fractions, kids must first understand division. Toys such as Plastic Pattern Blocks and Pattern Blocks Work Tray (P1,080) not only teach children how to classify shapes, develop patterns and symmetry, but they also help develop the concept of fractions. Young learners are empowered to use their thinking skills and challenged to come up with better methods to arrive at a solution”, Karen elaborates.

Learning Mates
Learning Mates’ wide range of educational toys is guaranteed to heighten little children's curiosity for learning.

Some of Learning Mates’ bestselling items include:

Educational Wall Hanging Toys (P550). Made of 70% polyester, 30% cotton and fiberpill for filler of ornaments (like apple, ball, etc.), the interactive toys have various themes like Alphabets, Learn to Count, My Calendar, Under the Sea, Glory and Solar System. These are ideal for toddlers until the kindergarten level.

Noah's Ark, Carpentry Set and Beauty Kit (P600) and Medical and Dinosaur Kits (P650). Children love to pretend! The medical kits made of soft and felt materials, for instance, will charm the junior doctor. They help develop eye hand coordination and improve fine motor skills.

Bead Machine (P 1,159.75). With observation skills and fine motor movement as the learning goals, the bead machine is recommended for kids ages 36 months and up. Sort the beads according to each of the 24 challenge cards and turn the wheel when necessary.

Jumbo Lacing Beads (P910). Appropriate for ages 3 and up, the large size beads and colored laces help little fingers develop manual dexterity and fine motor skills while teaching them patterning and sequencing.

Attribute Logic Blocks (P640). This 60-piece set composed of 5 shapes in colors of red, blue and yellow is a great way to learn classifying, sorting and concepts like size and thickness. Highly recommended for ages 3 and up.

Animal Finger Puppets (P550). Use the 24 set of 100% cotton finger puppets to engage your children when you talk to them about kindness, helpfulness, and other family values. In addition, letting children play with the finger puppets can assist in enhancing their fine motor skills and develop their imagination through puppet shows. You may bring out the farm animals one by one, too, as you sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”. Children can be encouraged to make up new words to a familiar song as well.

Not just child’s play
Aside from educational toys, Learning Mates offers hand crafted faux leather animal bookends (P1,350) that keep hardcover or paperback books neatly in place.

Each one weighs around 1 kilo with natural cotton and iron fillings to keep books in place. They are available in giraffe, bear, penguin, milky cow, hippopotamus, horse, crocodile, pig and dog designs. The adorable bookends double as doorstoppers.

Karen assures that her products are safe and are made by companies and individuals who are dedicated to the welfare of children and families.

Her careful selection of educational toys is a testament to Karen’s belief that these enjoyable teaching tools are not just child’s play.

Online mom
The entrepreneurial mom began posting photos of her educational toys at in May 2008.

“Because I wasn't a computer expert, I built my site step by step. I worked on it when I had free time. At first, I joined the multiply site because my friend was using it to store her family photos. As I visited other people's sites, I discovered that they were posting their work and products online, so I decided to upload my toys online. People invited me to join their sites and slowly I built a network of buddies”, reveals Karen.

Although she has an online presence already, Karen observes that parents can understand the need to have their children play with Learning Mates’ toys better if she personally demonstrates to them how to use the products.

Occasionally, Karen sets up her free demonstration booth during school fairs and programs so that parents and children can play and discover the toys’ educational benefits.

Karen advises other moms who would like to start an online business to “be patient and persevere. Ask an expert to help set up your site”.

“Put God first in your lives, next is your family. Love and relationships are important in families. Invest your extra time in business, but God and family come first”, she advises other budding mompreneurs.

For its pre-Christmas promo, Learning Mates is offering a 10% discount on all items (except bookends). For orders and inquiries, call (0906)3068378 or (0922)5553120. E-mail address: Website:

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