Avoid the summer slide: Some toys, puzzles and games that keep kids' minds sharp all summer

MILWAUKEE -- School is almost out for the summer! And you can help your kids avoid the dreaded brain drain with some fun games and puzzles. Sherry Artemenko with Play on Words joins Real Milwaukee with the newest learning toys on the market.

Magicube Story Building by Geomagworld, 3 and up, ($34.99)
• Dream product for a speech pathologist as it provides 143 characters and props for telling 'The Three Pigs'
• 5 pages of magnetic clips attach to the cubes to tell the story, changing characters` faces as the story progresses
• 'Where is the wind blowing? (Wolf`s huff and puff)
• Builds understanding of important elements of a good story
• Prepare for reading and writing

Bright Lights Soccer Ball by VTech, 6 months and up, ($14.99)
• What`s summer without a game of soccer with your baby or toddler?
• Toss the ball: encouraging phrases, songs, directions, activated by motion
• Learn rhymes, vocabulary, concepts, opposites, counting, social language
• Babies talk more to a face

ARTributes by Simplyfun, 7 and up ($33.00)
• Kids pick 2-3 attribute cards and draw image representing that word
• Players guess, my 7 yr. old drew 'sweet' which we guessed, ice cream/strawberry
• From jumpy, cold, gloomy, tall, busy to sparkling, wet or lazy
• Learn vocabulary, all about adjectives and how word is associated with their drawing

Acorn Soup by Peaceable Kingdom/MindWare brand, 2 years and up ($17.95)
• Best beginner games for preschoolers encourage pretend play
• Let`s get out our recipes and make some soup for squirrel
• Follow the recipe, by category, counting, matching, sequencing
• Stir it up for some pretend play

CODENAMES: Disney Family Edition by USAopoly, 8 and up, ($24.95)
• Loved Disney movie illustrations in a grid for game board
• Key Card shows location of their Treasure Cards to be guessed
• Cluemaster gives clue that applies to several cards to be guessed by their teammates
• 'amber' 'sizzle' 'submerged'
• 'competitor ' described Merida from Brave and Lightning McQueen.
• A mom said, 'Look at the words you`ve learned!
• Vocabulary, association, description skills, critical thinking, all to crack the codes

Ravensburger VW 3D Puzzle, 10 and up, ($29.99)
• Kids couldn`t wait to assemble this puzzle
• Wonderful opportunity for several generations to talk and assemble together
• Play began to resemble a team as we gathered numbers by section, 'I`ve got the 20`s'
• Some were assembling by the numbers on the back of pieces while others were matching the illustration
• All of a sudden strips of pieces went 3D
• Had fun as kids were surfers

Otrio by Spin Master, 6 years and up, ($34.99)
• Kids and adults quickly became addicted to this game
• Seems simple at first but really requires concentration, critical thinking, strategizing offensive and defensive moves to build one of 3 configurations to win
• Have trio of large, medium and small colored rings, ascending descending order, 3 of the same size in a line, or 3 co-centric circles on one space
• Players shocked when someone won, everyone started explaining their strategy--one Dad teamed up with his son when mom was the biggest threat
• Tapping language, visual memory, spatial and critical thinking skills

Long and Tall Puzzle 123 Rocketship by The Learning Journey International, 3 and up, ($14.99)
• Love puzzles because they have so much learning potential
• Draw the whole family together as being assembled
• This 5` rocketship was constructed by 4 year-old, siblings, grandma and mom
• Calling out pictures from each stage associated with 1-10
• Looking for astronauts` feet, wrenches and 'Where do the paint pots go?'
• Identifying, naming and sequencing numbers, describing sections of the puzzle, using positional words: higher, top, under, next, last
• Finished and said, 'Blastoff!'