Get to Know the EI Staff: Product Manager, Marcia Gresko!

How long have you worked at Educational Insights?

I have worked at EI for 14 years.

What drew you to working here?

I’m a former teacher. I was a teacher for 15 years. We do materials and products that help kids in the classroom and help kids learn at home. It seemed like a natural extension of what I had done before, but it was also something different. After teaching for 15 years, I was looking for something different as well.

What did you teach?

I taught high school English for 8 years, I taught preschool for 7 years, and I worked in a pull-out program for a year with gifted kids, but I don’t really count that with the 15 years because it was part-time. I still volunteer in a classroom every week. I work for an hour in a local literacy program teaching struggling readers.

What was your favorite toy growing up?

[laughs] If I tell you that, then you’ll know how old I am! Did they have toys? Let’s see, we played with sticks! Well, I can tell you what I remember. Well, I loved skates. I had skates when I was a kid. Back in those days, parents just let you go anywhere. My mother wanted me and my brother out of the house. We skated everywhere. I also loved my hula-hoop. I had a doll that was called a Patty Play Pal that was 3 ft. tall. My uncle was in the toy business; he was a distributor. He got me this Patty Play Pal for the holidays one year…it was huge!

What’s your favorite toy here at EI?

Well, of course, Magic Moves wand. It’s my invention from last year and its fun because it’s deceptively simple. It really does teach kids a lot of things even though you’d think it was just a movement toy. The biggest thing is that kids get up and dance and move creatively, but it also teaches vocabulary. I had a lot of sophisticated vocabulary for the age group it’s designed for. It’s really designed for three-year-olds to maybe five-year-olds. It uses words like slither and soar, but it also uses bounce and jump, which are really simple words. It uses sophisticated words so that they are exposed to some rich vocabulary, which I think is really important for kids.

There are some technical things that as a teacher, if you were to work with kids moving to the tunes that I would actually do that would help kids surprisingly with things like the alphabet. So, if you swim and if you cross what’s called the midline of your body, that’s really that kind of physical activity that is supposed to be good for beginning readers. You move fast, and you move slowly. It’s really just a kind of deceptively simple thing. It’s well designed. I worked really hard with the team here. I worked with an outsider. I’m really proud of it and it’s doing well.

What inspired you to make that? What was your most unconventional inspiration?

What inspired me to make that game was that I was a former preschool teacher, and again, back in those days [laughs], we used records. I used records and I would give the commands like, “Okay, stomp like a dinosaur!”

First of all, it has all the light shows and everything, so it’s not just a command. It has entertaining and colorful light shows. It also allows kids to lead a musical session. It’s not always the teacher in control. So, when we filmed our little commercial here, one of the kids was actually in charge. It really allows kids to build self-esteem and build some element of control.

What’s a typical day like for you outside of work?

[Laughs] Who’s outside of work for enough hours for it to make a difference? The weekends are probably what I can speak to. Around here, we work very long hours, especially during the summer because it’s our busiest time since we’re trying to get product out.

I run errands. I love to bake. I love to read.

Advertisements

Giftable Goodies Under $25: Preschool Toys and Games

With the holidays around the corner, we understand that shopping can be stressful and pricey! Here is a list of great preschool gift ideas—all under $25!

Puppet-on-a-Stick™ (set of 3)– $23.99

Ages 4+

Three oversized, easy-to-handle puppets on sticks inspire imaginative play with silly faces, movable mouths and endless possibilities.

Get your puppets here: http://www.educationalinsights.com/product/puppet-on-a-stick–8482-+%28set+of+3%29.do?from=Search#

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game™– $21.99

Ages 3+

This award-winning preschool game develops matching and sorting skills, strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and pre-handwriting skills. To top it off, it’s fun to play with the whole family. What more can you ask for?

Get your copy at your local Target or here: http://www.educationalinsights.com/product/the+sneaky%2C+snacky+squirrel+game–8482-.do?sortby=ourPicks&sortby=&&from=Search#

Magic Moves® Electronic Wand– $19.99

Ages 3+

Nothing gets the kids up and movin’ like Magic Moves! Ninety fun physical commands, twinkling light shows, and 26 musical tunes to get little ones up and moving! This powerful wand not only gets them exercising, but it also promotes creativity and listening skills. Perfect for indoor play on rainy or cold winter days!

Check it out here: http://www.educationalinsights.com/product/magic+moves–174+electronic+wand.do#

BBQ Blitz!®– $24.99

Ages 4+

This burger building bonanza helps work fine motor skills, color recognition, and matching while having a flipping-fun time with the whole family.

Get your grill on here: http://www.educationalinsights.com/product/bbq+blitz!–174-.do?from=Search#

Buck, Buck, Moose!™ Game– $12.99

Ages 4+

Buck, Buck, MOOSE! This fast-action, color-matching card game is perfect for preschoolers! This riveting ranger game will help your little ones with color matching, speed, and sportsmanship.

Check out the forest fun here: http://www.educationalinsights.com/product/buck%2C+buck%2C+moose!–8482-+game.do?from=Search#

Magic Moves Featured in Parents Magazine

Magic Moves Electronic Wand

Hooray! Magic Moves was awarded Parents Magazine’s Best Toy Award in the preschool category. Check it out!

http://www.parents.com/fun/best-preschool-toys-of-the-year/

From Inspiration to Conception: Magic Moves

Marcia, here. I’m the product manager for Language Arts and Teacher Resources, and I make toys for Educational Insights.

Here’s one I invented last year — Magic Moves. It’s my absolute, all-time favorite.

There are thousands and thousands of toys in catalogs and stores! Where do they come from and how do they get there? Magic Moves started with an idea from my past life as a preschool teacher. For seven years, I read stories, did arts and crafts, dug in the sandbox, turned a jump rope, and “Hokey-Pokeyed” my way about. By far, circle time was my favorite time of day. It was cut-loose fun where we sang, danced, and got the wiggles out assisted (back then) by a tape player!

Fast forward 20 years to working in product development for an educational toy company. I wanted to make something that would make circle time magical, that parents could use to inspire their kids to be active, and that was simple enough for preschoolers to play with themselves.

I put my idea – a talking, musical magic wand that would promote creative movement play – down on a piece of paper and pitched it to the team here. I wish I could say its brilliance cast a spell over them, but it actually took me three tries to convince the group that it would be successful. So, if you think you have a great idea, stick up for it!

After the idea was approved, I hired an industrial designer to draw a picture to show the factory what it would look like.

I worked with a programmer to write a document to show the factory how it would work.

I worked with a musician and lighting designer. He wrote the tunes and designed the light shows that go with them. He also designed this cool simulation to show us how they worked together.

I had taken some wonderful workshops on creative movement and music and wanted to make sure the wand had a variety of musical styles so we incorporated Latin, Afro Pop, and techno or “club” style music.

I also wanted to inspire children to move in different ways so there are slow tunes and fast tunes; heavy, ponderous tunes for stomping, and sinuous, mysterious tunes for slithering. And, that’s another thing. I wanted the children to hear rich vocabulary in the course of their movement play – stomp, slither, and strut, for example.

In the meantime, the factory made me a model so I could test its size with children. It turned out to be too big so they made me a smaller one to test with kids again. This one worked.

Next, the factory made me what we call a breadboard, a circuit board with switches that simulate how Magic Moves would work. It’s kind of weird looking, isn’t it? This helped me test the wand’s programming, lights, music, and speech.

The factory also made me a plastic model with nothing inside. That model was used for photography for the wand’s package which our Creative Dept began designing. They also designed the decorations that add to the wand’s magic – like the stars and swirls.

At this point, the factory made me another model. This model looked like and worked like the real thing only the electronics were outside the toy. It had to be tested and tested some more so that we could determine that it was working as expected.

Finally, in October, everything was ready for production to begin. The factory started making Magic Moves. The first shipment of the toy arrived in our company’s warehouse in December – ready to ship to the toy stores that ordered it. From concept to shelf, it took over a year and a half to develop Magic Moves.

I’m so proud of it I want to ….strut like a peacock!

 

October is Children’s Health Month

October is Children’s Health Month and we’ll be celebrating all month long with fitness/health related tips, articles and activities for the whole family on our blog and Facebook!

[Here’s a quick tip: If you like us, you’ll be entered for a chance to win $500 worth of EI products!]

Keep a look out for upcoming posts regarding child health and well-being this month and keep your eyes open for a behind-the-scenes look at our featured product of the month, Magic Moves! If you didn’t know, Magic Moves is all about… MOVIN’! It has your kids shakin’ it up and workin’ it out. What better way to get healthy than to dance it out and have fun with your kids?

 

To kick start the month, here’s a fun fact: Did you know that your heart is about the size of your fist and weighs about as much as a softball? 

Speaking of softball, why not take 30 minutes out of your day to play outside? It’s time to get up and start movin’!

 

Magic Moves wins 2012 Brilliance Award from Brilliant Sky

Let the music move you!

What a way to start the month off! Our featured product of the month, Magic Moves™, just won a 2012 Brilliance Award from Brilliant Sky! How cool is that?

According to Brilliant Sky Toys & Books, The Brilliance Awards “recognize products that represent the very ideals that Brilliant Sky Toys & Books was founded upon – the importance of quality, the value of open-ended play, and the simple beauty of a child’s fascination and delight.  The products must meet the company’s high standard of offering developmentally sound products for children and must also engage children and encourage the growth of important values, such as self-esteem, patience, tenacity and cultural sensitivity.”

We are so honored to have received this award. Our team couldn’t have done this without you, our fans, in mind.

Bridge the Gap: Indoor Fun!

If you find yourself inside this summer and you need to burn off some energy, here are some great recommendations that we have to get your kids moving and active inside.

One thing that I used to do with my boys is that we would do a blanket fort! You get some cushions, you get some blankets, put them over the back of a chair, and make some tunnels. It was a lot of fun. They loved it! Another thing you can do is play indoor volleyball with a balloon! Just blow up a balloon about this size and try to keep it up in the air and the goal is to try and keep it from hitting the ground. It’s a lot of fun. Also, you can do freeze dance! Get your favorite music and play freeze dance. Kids love dancing and it’s a great way to keep them really active.

If you want other ideas, we have something called Magic Moves. Now, this is great. It has 90 physical commands and it also has matching music. It’ll even expand their vocabulary with words like “prowl” and “soar”. Let’s not forget games! Board games are a great way to spend a summer afternoon with your little ones. We recommend BBQ Blitz and Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel!