Guide For Parents to Choose the Best Children Educational Toys

Finding a balance between a toy that entertains and one that educates becomes every parent’s challenge. Toys need to be fun above all so that a child feels delighted when they’re playing and stays interested in the toy. Choosing a toy that stimulates a child in a positive way should also be part of the decision. Safety features, functionality and durability ensure a good purchase and one that lasts. There are a few key factors to consider that help make the choice easier.

What to Consider when Choosing a Toy

Child’s Age: It’s better to buy a toy that a child can grow with instead of one that’s babyish. Kids become bored in a hurry with a toy that fails to challenge their curiosity. Toys are usually rated for a particular age group but most children will appreciate a «big kid» toy if it’s safe for them and makes them feel grown up.

Child’s Preferences: Always think about the child first and what might appeal to them. If they seem to enjoy music, look for beginning level instruments. Active kids need sports oriented items and may not appreciate a book unless it’s filled with exciting images. Girls that love frilly things may be thrilled with princess dress-up clothes while her sister who loves to climb trees would enjoy a jump rope instead.

Appearance of the Toy: Younger children need toys that attract attention with bright colors and cheerful images. Make sure the toy is attractive once the packaging is removed. Action figures and characters from favorite movies inspire kids to start a collection of their own.

Durability and Maintenance: Buy toys that endure rough treatment so that children may play freely without concern. Consider whether batteries are required and can be conveniently changed. Toys manufactured by reputable makers may cost a little more but provide longer durability and the ability to be used by other children in the family.

Function of the Toy: Try to find toys that provide useful entertainment and allow the child to think on their own rather than one that just requires pushing buttons. Toys that allow creativity such as drawing, painting, sculpting with clay or gluing models may seem old fashioned but never go out of style. Kids will enjoy spending some quality time making something on their own. Sometimes simple toys such as soccer balls or a set of building blocks provide hours of fun especially if they are updated with trendy logos or new features.

Safety Issues: Toys made from small pieces may harm toddlers or the younger siblings of older children. Check the labels for components and potential harmful materials and don’t introduce anything into the home that can’t be carefully guarded.

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Soccer Cleats Guide – General Tips on Soccer Cleats

Soccer cleats are athletic shoes that are specially designed for soccer players. Soccer shoes have large studs or cleats on the bottom that assist players in gripping the surface. These studs help players to be easily moved in the desired position.

Generally the cleats are made up of molded plastic because metal cleats are illegal as they cause danger to other players. Plastic studs are round in shape that offers excellent grip on the hard mud of the basepath. Soccer shoes or football shoes can have both plastic as well as metal cleats on the sole whereas golf shoes have metal cleats.

Replaceable cleats are the best option for soccer or football players. Cleats of soccer shoes can be removed and replaced with another kind. Players can choose cleats as per their requirements. These studs or cleats are designed to provide exact traction or grip but these studs should not be so long because extra long suds can pose a risk for the player like knee injury.

Different manufacturers provide soccer cleats of great quality so the players should buy the best fit. Players should keep certain points in mind at the time of buying soccer cleats. They should find a soccer specialty store near their home. Players must know the exact shoe size so that they can play comfortably. They can also get information from the supplier about current and upcoming sales on soccer shoes.

Athletes should use soccer cleats for two or three months before finals. They can easily get all about their shoes with regular practice. They can talk, to salesperson or the coach, about which type of soccer cleats suits them. They must choose few pairs for trail basis and then select the best out of them. Whenever you're going to try the shoes on, don't forget to wear socks. You should check whether your heels are comfortable or not.

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The Tea Ceremony Around the Globe

2737BC. The passage of time from 2737BC to 2014 is almost incomprehensible to me. The change, the modernisation, the evolution. What is the significance of this date?

This is the year tea was discovered.

Yes, in 2737BC, in China, the Chinese emperor stumbled across a mysterious potion after leaves from the camellia sinensis plant accidentally fell into the water his servant was boiling for him to drink. As a herbalist, he embraced the opportunity to try a new concoction, sipped the delicate liqueur and immediately fell in love; a love that has been shared by billions of people since.

But it is mind blowing to think that tea has been consumed by people for over 4000 years. And perhaps even stranger to think that in Britain, we have only been drinking tea (our saviour, our comfort, our ‘pack-your-kettle-last-so-it’s-the-first-thing-out-the-lorry’) for a short 400 years.

Even so, this is an incredible amount of time to develop the traditions and conventions associated with drinking it, and the tea drinking ritual is one steeped in cultural customs.

It is perhaps a generalisation, but when we think of tea drinking rituals, it is the Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies that immediately spring to mind: formality, silence, connections to nature, tea as a gift, a way of offering thanks or apologies to a relative.

Rule-governed and purposeful tea drinking? The officialism appears alien to us.

On reflection though, perhaps there is ritualism in our own tea consumption. Doesn’t tea follow meal times, help calm our nerves, welcome us home after work, or welcome friends over (imagine not offering a friend a brew after knocking on your door. Ultimate social faux pas), lift our spirits and console us? Although we do not wear robes or kneel down, tea does have significance: comfort, safety, friendship. If this isn’t our tradition, then I don’t know what is.

Tea is not just enjoyed in the countries mentioned above. Tea has successfully bewitched people in every continent across the globe, which has led to it being branded as the second most widely consumed beverage on the planet after water. Tea’s ability to permeate cultures has arguably enabled it to survive these 4000 years, each bringing their own traditions and quirks in which to celebrate this distinctive liquid.

And this is what we will here explore; how tea drinking traditions differ in some of the top tea drinking regions of the world.

China

As mentioned above, in China the consumption of tea is ceremonial. Not only do the Chinese people celebrate tea, but they use tea to formally celebrate or consolidate occasions, such as serving tea at family gatherings, as a symbol of formal apology and as a way of politely addressing and thanking parents for the giving and receiving of partners at weddings.

It is the tastes and aromas of the tea which are at the heart of the ritual. Each utensil is carefully washed or cleansed using the first infusion of the green tea leaves to ensure that the second infusion’s taste is not coloured by any foreign bodies, like dust particles, so the tea is pure.

Importantly as well is the way the tea is poured; slowly, in one motion, across all cups (which are small clay pots) and only half full. The other half of the cup is said to be filled with friendship and affection; therefore binding host and guest in their tea drinking experience.

Japan

In Japan, the tea ceremony centres around the making of Japanese Matcha tea; a green tea ground to a fine powder which is world renowned for its excellent healing powers, high concentration of antioxidants and rather bitter taste.

The ceremony is named Chanoyu and focuses on the aesthetics of tea making rather than the taste or smells, making the experience more of a choreographed performance than a quenching of thirst.

The ceremony’s composition dates back to the twelfth century and involves the host’s serving of the tea, as well as the presentation of the utensils and ceramics used to prepare it, the arrangement of flowers in the space and calligraphy. These items can all be modified by the host to best fit the occasion for which the tea is served. It is also the host’s task to have considered their guests’ view of the tea at every angle in the space, to ensure that their experience will be one of purity, serenity and tranquility: a weighty responsibility.

The thoughtful consideration that is required for a successful ceremony often ensures that the bonds of friendship between the hosts and their guests are strengthened after the experience is concluded.

India.

In India, tea is served on the streets by Chai Wallahs, or ‘tea makers’, who blend their spicy chai tea on their stalls at train stations, bus stations and on every street corner.

Authentic chai is milky, sweet and spicy, made from thick buffalo milk, Assam tea, cardamom pods, ginger, cinnamon and often what seems like a ton of sugar. The ingredients can vary, but the ritual of serving generally stays the same: the Chai Wallah brews up all of the ingredients in a large metal pot over open coals which are placed on the stone ground. Once simmering, he pours the liquid through a sieve into a teakettle, then pours the chai into small terracotta pots from a great height. The drinking cups are only used once; consumers throwing them to the ground once they have finished, smashing them to pieces, to allow the clay to get trampled back into the ground.

Chai’s popularity in the UK has steadily grown in the past year (it’s one if our best sellers!) and it’s easy to see why. Chai tea is delicious; warming, spicy, soothing, it’s like Christmas in a cup and yet I drink it all year round! OK, we like to have it our way- we tend to brew Chai with hot water rather than in hot milk and individual consumers choose whether to sweeten delicately with honey- but the resulting comfort is the same.

Equally, much of India’s tea is renowned for its medicinal properties, mainly because of the strong ties to Hinduism and Ayurvedic tradition: a system that inspires us to live by alternative medicine, ultimately governed through a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Tea blends are therefore steeped in a philosophy that inspires the ‘art of living wisely’.

Russia

Rather like the UK, Russia was introduced to tea in the mid-1600s, but whereas we strove to steal the idea from China, the Russian Tsar was given tea as a gift from the Chinese ambassador to Moscow. Of course, he loved it (who doesn’t), and quickly a line of trade was organised between the two countries.

Tea in Russia is not just about the liquid itself but about the heat that brewing the tea gives rise to, and the warmth felt through consumption (Russia can get a little chilly at times). Russia’s tea ceremony is therefore centred around the use of a samovar; a large metal tea urn with decorative handles and a spout.

Typically, the samovar has more than one layer to it. Simple samovars have a bottom layer housing the hot water, which is actually heated by filling the small soldered pipe that runs through the centre of the urn with hot coals. Above this sits a small metal teapot, often of the same metal material, and a concentrated form of brewed tea, zavarka, is made here before being diluted by the hot water from the urn.

Russian Caravan tea (so named as a result of the camel trains that first brought tea to Russia) must be mentioned here. It is the perfect blend to brew in a samovar as the teas used have strong, dark flavours: Chinese Keemun and Formosa Oolong tea, sometimes with hints of Indian black teas like Assam to add a maltiness to the blend.

Morocco

Inshas Allah, ‘with god willing, all good things come with time.’ This is the proverb by which Moroccan people brew their tea and signifies the respect they show to the timely process of making the perfect cup.

Morocco is famous for its Moroccan Mint tea; a blend of Chinese green tea, fresh mint leaves and a lot of sugar (often five times the amount of sugar to the amount of tea!)

The tea making ritual is one of leisure in Morocco and if invited to assist in making the tea, you are honoured. Incense is lit and those who are taking part in the serving wash their hands in orange blossom water before they begin.

Firstly, loose green tea leaves are placed in a round bellied teapot with a conical top and long curved spout, and hot water added. Much like in China, the first infusion (left to brew for just one minute, before being poured into a tall glass) is used as a cleanser, this time for the leaves rather than the flasks, to rid any impurities the leaves may have picked up through travel. After this, the loose tea is brewed before adding the sugar and mint.

The spout is one of importance to the teapot. Curvature to the spout allows for the server to pour the tea from a height of around half a metre into the small glasses below, to create a frothy foam on the tea’s surface.

Tea is served often in Morocco: after each mealtime, when entering some shops, to welcome guests in the home and even to mark business deals.

Iran

Tea is also the national beverage in Iran, with tea drinkers enjoying mainly green tea and black tea to quench their thirst or as a comfort, respectively. No occasion can take place without tea being served and, in many regions of Iran, light coloured tea is a marker of disrespect from the host to the receiver. Principally, Iranians like it strong.

Perhaps it is the liking for a keen strength to tea that has led the people of Iran to discount the water as a part of the tea. Through the use of a samovar, Iranians heat the water and simply use and see it as a way of extracting the aromas and flavours thickly from the leaves.

Typically, tea is drunk from glassware and this is held by the rim of the glass between the thumb and forefinger with the pinkie used to balance. Often, held in the other hand, is a large pipe connected to a hookah, or qalyoon as it’s locally known; a tall, ornate smoking device that uses hot flavoured tobacco and water. In the absence of alcohol, tea houses, where tea and the qalyoon are served hand-in-hand, act as a social hub where young Iranian people can relax and socialise, much like us westerners would do in our local pub.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is another of the world’s biggest tea-drinking countries, with its tradition once again being rooted in the giving and receiving of tea as an act of welcoming and politeness. Guests are offered tea on arrival into a host’s home and it is considered impolite to refuse the beverage.

Kazakhs are known, much like the Russians and Turks, to use samovars to brew and serve the tea; however, differently to the Russians, the server only fills the kasirs (which are small, wide-mouthed saucers), to around half full. This ensures that the tea is always served hot: no one likes a cold cuppa (unless it’s iced, of course).

The guests to the ceremony are then required to pass their empty kasirs back to the female host as a way if thanking her and showing her respect for that which they have received. She then ‘re-half-fills’ the cups and passes them to her guests once more; a process which continues, creating a graceful, rhythmic and visual ceremony, beauteous to behold.

Britain

In Britain, (one might have known!) our tea traditions involve food. These customs were developed in the early 19th century, first by the upper classes who championed Afternoon Tea as a way of bridging the gap between lunch, at 12 o clock, and dinner at 8 o clock. Tea was served at around 4 o clock in the afternoon along with small sandwiches, scones and cakes. Heaven.

High Tea is different, although sometimes (incorrectly) the terms are used interchangeably.

In industrial Britain, workers home from the factories and mines would require immediate sustenance after a day of physical hard labour, and so a substantial meal would be served to them accompanied by a cup of strong, sweet tea at around 5 o clock. This became known as ‘tea’ (which us northerners still to this day sometimes use), and the ‘high’ aspect is a reference to high backed chairs and higher table the lower classes would sit at to enjoy their tea (whereas the upper classes would be seated in low lounge chairs and have their tea served on smaller, occasional tables.)

Taking time to enjoy tea has always been important in this country regardless of class, right up until the invention of the teabag. When the teabag was born, a dip in quality occurred. Beautiful unfurling leaves slowly releasing layers of flavour no longer existed: a throwaway pouch of powdery black dust, bitter to taste and quick-to-brew lay in its place. We are committed to changing that. Lovers of loose leaf, we are promoting taking time out from your day to enjoy the perfect cup of tea, slowly brewed from high quality leaves. We are bringing back the ‘good old days’.

Get Your Kids Excited About Gospel Music With Gospel Piano Lessons

You've probably heard that children who learn to play a musical instrument are more likely to succeed in school and in their adult lives. Playing an instrument like the piano develops coordination, reasoning, reading, and listening skills, and it can be a great way to get your children interested in things that you love.

Instead of enrolling your kids in traditional piano lessons, you can show them the joy of piano lessons with music music. You can even enroll them in Gospel piano lessons online. If your family goes to church every Sunday, this is a great way to get your kids involved in the service and to get them more interested in advancing the Lord through the week and through their lives.

Gospel music is moving and exhilarating, and children do a lot better when they are included in things rather than being told to sit still and behave. When your children spend weekdays learning gospel chords on piano, they'll start to recognize the songs you sing in church and to be able to sing along, too. Then they can entertain friends and family at home by showing off the results of their piano lessons with the Gospel music they've learned.

Gospel music has a long and rich tradition, both in and out of church, and starting with a vocabulary tutorial online is a great way to get your kids interested in piano lessons, gospel music, and participating in church events. These online tutorials make learning to play gospel chords on piano easy and fun.

You may remember long, boring, and difficult piano lessons and practice sessions that seemed to never end when you were a child. Fortunately, whenever you want to learn how to play gospel piano chords yourself, or whatever you want your child to have piano lessons in gospel music, these tutorials will make learning this musical instrument natural and fun.

You and your children can even take a booklet piano tutorial together. This will not only instill a love for this beautiful music in your children, but it also creates a healthy family bonding time, too. This is incredibly important in your child's development and in forming healthy family ties that will last all of your lives. Your child will love learning to play the piano and learning about the Gospel music that you love, and you'll love watching your child grow and progress through the process.

Understanding the Unfortunate Situation of the Al-Fida'I (Palestine National Team)

"Does Palestine have a football team?" That got me excited to the point where I ended up buying a round of second tobacco fill-ups for the group. The simple answer to that question was a "Yes". But me being me, wanted to explain to them the little that I knew of the sport in Palestine.

Football had been present in Palestine since the 1920's, the earliest of all when you compare the time when the sport was introduced into the region. In fact, the country had provided excellent footballers at the time, that were even recognized at a global stage. One of them was Jabra Al Zarqa who, based on his performance, attracted the likes of Arsenal FC. That was 1920's.

Where is the country now in terms of football? Fifa ranks Palestine at 157 in the latest world ranking release. Is it justified to an average individual that concentrates on stats and numbers? Yes, it does.

But if you go beyond the numbers and look at how a dominating country in Arab football just turned lame ducks, it is quite pitiful and inspiring at the same time (from a football perspective).

Fifa acknowledged Palestine in 1998. Since then, it had participated in several friendly and competitive matches with teams mainly from the Levant region (Syria, Jordan & Lebanon) or Far East nations. Their first game on home was played in 2008 against Jordan. A decision later since it was acknowledged with the reason being the unpredictable security concerns that exist and still exists in the country.

The most successful Palestinian national team coach was an Arab Israeli by the name of Azmi Nasser who twice took the responsibility of managing the team, once during 1999 – 2000 and then 2005 – 2007 (year he passed away). During his tenure of 21 games in those 5 years, he had managed to pull out 8 victories.

The disappointing and an important feature among a lot, is the background of how most of their matches were operated on. As the team is made up of players from both Gaza and the West Bank area, the travel restrictions infused by Israel on people traveling between the two regions, does not make it possible for these players to train together. They have to meet up in any neighboring countries to train together.

Secondly, there have been cases of where individuals from both regions are not granted permission to exit, which then puts the causes problems in the preparations. One such incident that I can distinctly remember is during the qualifying stages of the 2006 WC, the first team goal keeper who would travel to Egypt – Palestine border on a daily basis to cross over to Egypt in order to join up with the team. And when he was able to get through, he was physically and mentally tired to perform. This leads to bringing in players of Palestinian ancestry to the team causing communication tissues with the local Palestinian players.

They do deserve a lot of praise on pursuing their passion for the sport, even if they have to go through certain difficulties. The team had recently qualified for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup hosted by Nepal, where the winner qualifies into the 2015 AFC Cup.

As Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian football federation, said after the first game on home soil:

"Palestinian blood, Palestinian flesh, the Palestinian national anthem on Palestinian territory.

I am pretty sure I can say for all of us that we the football fans all across the world are proud of what you have achieved and the awaiting success.

PS: I would recommend all of you to watch Goal of Dreams , which is a documentary of the Palestinian national teams, struggle as they aim to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. A must watch.

Look forward to my follow up post on why I expect the Palestinian national team to be notified in the future in the regional and global stage.

Pakistan’s Chances In The World Cup 2011

Pakistan has a realistic chance of winning the World Cup and more so because the pressure on them is much less compared to the other teams this time. Moreover they are not playing in front of their home crowds, but are still playing on familiar flat tracks. Beside being a very balanced side, this Pakistan team like always have players who can deliver a knockout punch at the most crucial stage of the game, which is very important in One Day format of the game. I expect Umar Akmal to be the trump card for Pakistan. Each player is capable of winning the match on his own. Ahmed Shahzad looks an exciting prospect. He could be even more dangerous on the subcontinent pitches. Mohammad Hafeez seems to coming into his own and can be crucial for Pakistan’s chances in the World Cup. His spin bowling in the middle overs could be handy.

Shahid Afridi can be a match winner on his day. If one of those days happens to be a game in the knockout stages of the World Cup, it will brighten Pakistan’s chances in the World Cup. What more could be said of Abdul Razzak. There is no other better all-rounder than Abdul Razzak in World crciket in shorter format of the game save Shane Watson. Yunus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq can play perfect anchor and the other attacking batsman can play around them. Kamran Akmal can be a great finisher and can provide explosive start at the beginning of the innings. If Umar Akmal comes good, nothing can stop Pakistan from winning the World Cup. All the players in the current Indian team play almost in a similar style. They could play different sort of game according to the situation, but Pakistan has variety in their batting. Ahmad Shahzad is an attacking batsmen. Mohammad Hafeez can carry on the innings and has the ability to score quickly at the same time. Yunus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq can play a waiting game and drop anchor. What follows is firecracker. Which team has batsmen like Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, and Abdul Razzak coming at 6,7, and 8. None of the team in the tournament has a more lethal late order than Pakistan. If I have to pick one team to win this tournament, It is Pakistan. They have everything in their favor. I would not be surprised if they also get a lot of crowd support from the crowd.

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