Teaching toy helps students learn to spell while having fun

Polyblox Totems help children formulate words

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Learning how to read and write can sometimes be a tough challenge for children, especially those who have some form of disability, like not being able to see or hear. 

One woman created a teaching toy that helps improve the way children learn while still allowing them to have fun.

"They're getting better grades in their spelling tests because they feel like we're not really having to fight, like you know, 'Oh, write it three times each.' That's boring, you know, they don't want to do that," Jordan Rawald said about the learning tool Polyblox Totems.

Rawald said the toy is helping her 1-year-old son.

"He was having a quite a hard time formulating words. We started using Polyblox and we use them in a way that we say the letter sound and he looks at the picture that coordinates with that letter and we sound it out -- he actually started talking," Rawald said.

Each block contains a letter, a word, a number and image, but it was also important for the creator, Laresa Tapia, to include Braille and sign language.

"The socioemotional skills, the empathy, come in when we're talking about the different ways people learn. Maybe my toddler won't learn Braille, right? But he's going to learn that not everybody can see, and I know a lot of kids learn sign language but it's equally important that they understand that not everybody can hear, that we all learn in different special ways," Tapia said.

She came up with the idea when she became a mother 11 years ago. Tapia said it's about giving every child a chance to have fun while learning.

"The whole point of Polyblox is what we refer to as joyful inclusion. Something that's very dear to my heart is atypical learners, learning with special needs -- that they can open up a box, that a mom who has a child who can't hear, can simply open a box of Polyblox and immediately connect and start spelling and doing activities with her child," Tapia said.

The company recently added technology to the words on the Polyblox through a program developed by the Leap with Alice learning tool.

"Augmented reality is where you can actually see the word come to life. It's all about engagement and retention and the only way you can get them to retain is to get them to participate," Caesar Medel, CEO of Leap with Alice, said.

And soon, Polyblox will be available to children who speak other languages. 

"We actually own the patent on all languages, so right now English is out in the market but we've just solidified with what Spanish is gonna look like. We're gonna see this in Italian, French, German, so all languages," Carolyn Izzo, vice president of Polyblox said.

Tapia said this learning tool is ideal for children 3 to 6 years old. In Central Florida, you can find the toys at the Orlando Museum of Art gift shop and Maison Baby Boutique in Maitland. They will also be available next year at Mommycon Orlando.

For more information, visit the company Facebook page here

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