Tag Archives: Toys

New Toys

Back in April I wrote about our process of selecting some new toys – you can read about it here.  In May, when I attended the Manitoba Childcare Association’s Annual conference, I was able to connect with Chris at the Quality Classrooms trade show booth.  She was able to have my order brought to conference the following day so I didn’t have to wait for delivery – I was so thrilled.

So were my boys – they may be 18 and 21 now but they have been then official toy testers for the last 16 years and don’t seem to want to give up the role.  The toys were thoroughly tested over the weekend and introduced to the playroom gradually over the next few weeks.  Introducing many new items all at once would have created havoc and made it difficult for me to observe and evaluate.

The Geometric Stacker was the only item on my list that was wooden.  I am trying to eliminate much of the plastic from our inventory and so whenever possible I will choose items made with natural materials instead of plastic.  I introduced this toy first because it was one of my favourites.  Fitting those square blocks together before stacking them was surprisingly challenging even for the older children.

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The Caterpillar Gears and Butterfly Gears were also introduced.  The infants and toddlers love to remove the gears – and leave them that way so most of the time it looks like this;

NT02I tend to put the gears back in the ‘wrong’ spots which annoys the older children who then feel compelled to fix it for me.  Occasionally someone will ignore the ‘proper’ placement and use it to create a pattern instead;

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The Therapy Tangles (I bought two) are popular with the toddlers but some of the older children get very frustrated because they cannot ‘straighten’ the loops;

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The Swiss Melody Bells were the ‘must have’ item that all the school-age children selected from the list.  They clamoured for those bells every day eagerly anticipating their arrival.  The thrill wore off quickly once they actually tried them;

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My favorite feature of these bells is that the actual bell is suspended inside;

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So the tone is never affected even if the babies hold the bell like this;

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The most popular item has been the Star Buttons – which were not actually chosen by any of the children.  I selected them because I wanted something that was easy for the infants and toddlers to put together – they tend to get frustrated by some of the more complicated manipulatives and I wanted something they could successfully assemble.  However, first they have to get them away from the older children who make patterns;

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And tall towers;

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And people and animals;

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And even ‘flowermids’ which combine flowers and pyramids;

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I am pleasantly surprised by their interest.

Contemplation and Deliberation

Modifications and expansions to the play space over the past few years have enabled me to have a wider variety of toys available at the same time.  Elimination of old, broken and seldom used items from the storage area has also limited the number of items available to rotate in and out of play. So,  about a year ago that I decided it was time to consider purchasing some new toys.

I started looking at some of the many daycare supply catalogues that I have here.  Every year I get more sent to me.  Some of them end up as craft supplies or loose parts for the children to ‘read’ and use in their dramatic play activities.  As the children peruse the catalogues I take note of the items that interest them.  I was intrigued that some of the children pick out items that they want to ‘make’ rather than ‘buy’ – I do that too.

However, I know there are some new items that I do need to buy.  I made a rather long list of possible purchases then I put it aside for a while.  When I looked at it again I easily cut the list in half but it was still a little long.  Over spring break I printed the shortened list – with pictures – and gave it to the children.  I asked them for their opinions.  What items would they like best and why?

They were little help.

Not only did they not eliminate any of the items from the list but now they are expecting the arrival of the new items. Every day they arrive and ask if the new toys are here – I haven’t even placed the order yet.

Sigh, it’s going to be a big, expensive order.

Rats

Last month I bought some small stuffies from IKEA.  They fit all my criteria for good playroom toys;

  • Small enough that I can have several of them in the room
  • Not too small for the infants and toddlers
  • Inexpensive – they cost just $15 for all six of them
  • And most importantly – can be used in a variety of ways

Since they were first introduced into the playroom they have been popular with all the children.

They were used during dramatic play in the housekeeping area – as a food source;

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They went on adventures.  This one is having a bath;

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They frolicked in the field in the nature area;

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The toddlers are impressed by the convenient ‘handles’;

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And of course they are great to cuddle up with when reading a story;

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Great connection to the book she chose too 🙂

Colour Hunt

I’m not totally against the use of bright primary colours for children’s toys but they can become overwhelming.  Whenever possible I will choose to buy products with more neutral colours – earth tones are my favourite.  Still, many of the toys here were purchased long ago like this old standby;

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Toys like these are useful for activities involving patterns, shapes, sizes and of course colour.  But there is one missing.  Here too, one colour is neglected;

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In a colour wheel there are three primary colours – red, blue and yellow.  There are also three secondary colours – green, orange, and purple.  Why is there no purple in either of these sets of toys?  I find this annoying.

In our set of puzzle people purple was included – but this time the manufacturers neglected to include orange.

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Luckily I found some baskets that had primary colours;

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And all three secondary colours too;

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Perfect. Now we can hunt for colours.  Everyone pick a basket, search the playroom, and find items that match your basket.

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Some baskets were too full to carry;

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This was just one of the colour activities we enjoyed this week.

Mr. Brown Returns

I’ve mentioned before about how I periodically change the selection of toys available for play in the playroom.   Sometimes toys are rotated out of the room because the children have lost interest in them and I bring out ‘fresh’ toys.  Sometimes the change is made to make room for something that the children have requested.

Occasionally toys are removed from the playroom due to unrelenting conflicts over their use.  Mr. Brown (name given by the children) was one of those toys.  I don’t know why Mr. Brown was so popular but in a bin full of stuffies he was always first choice.

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The last time Mr Brown was out the children would arrive and immediately rush in to get Mr Brown.  If someone else was already playing with him there would be moping and sometimes wailing.  Other stuffies didn’t have the power of Mr. Brown.  Personally I liked many of the other stuffies better but I was in the minority.

Then problems began to arise over hiding Mr. Brown instead of putting him away at clean up time.  The first children in the room would look in the bin for Mr Brown and discover that he wasn’t there.  Arguments would ensue over who had him last and what they had done to purposely prevent others from playing with him.

Mr Brown and the other small stuffies were eventually removed from the play room and other toys were brought out.  It has been more than six months and this week Mr Brown returned.  He brought friends – some old and some new;

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It has been interesting to watch the children as they negotiate the power of the new toys.  New members of the group may have more importance than Mr. Brown.  I also find it interesting how small stuffies are the toy of choice given the wide selection of toys available.  Even the school age children are drawn to these toys over others.

The new farm toys are popular too.

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It is just one of the toys I purchased from the Nature Shop and from my first ever visit to the new Ikea last weekend.  I’ve already made a list of more toys to get this coming weekend.  Mr. Brown has some competition.

My Problem With Lego

Recently there has been a lot of chatter on the web about the new line of Lego designed for girls.  Here and here are two of the many articles that I have read.  Most of the articles question the gender stereotyping and argue that girls like ‘boy’ themed Lego too.  Yesterday Lego released this response.

My complaint isn’t related to gender specific themes – and I’m not alone.  You see, it was about eight months ago that I added ‘Lego’ to my list of blog post ideas.  The subject came up when we had a drainage issue with our main sewer line and called Roto Rooter.

I’ll give you a moment to try and figure out how those two things are related…..

Did you guess that Lego was causing the blockage?  Wrong. The topic of Lego came up when the Roto Rooter service tech went down to the basement and noticed this;

I have a 10 foot long by 4 foot high wall of bins that store the toys that are not currently in use.  The Lego bins are here because the pieces are too small for the infants and toddlers so I cannot leave it out in the main playroom.  However, the Lego is often chosen by the older children as a quiet time activity when the little ones are napping.

The Roto Rooter tech could hardly contain his excitement.  He wanted to buy my Lego from me.  He explained that he had a young son and wanted to start building a collection of Lego for him to use when he was older.  He complained that he had been unable to find ‘real’ Lego – the kind he grew up with – without a ‘theme’.  Lego that you can build with.

For those of you who don’t already know, I have five children ranging in age from 17 to 29.  I opened my family childcare home 15 years ago. I have accumulated, and kept, a wide variety of ‘good’ toys.  My initial licensing coordinator said my home was better equipped than some childcare centres.  I browse educational toys and supplies online and at conference trade shows but I haven’t been to a ‘toy’ store in a very long time.

So, I made a point of wandering through toy departments and visiting big toy stores to see what is available.  I was astounded – and not in a good way.  With the exception of a few small toys for infants I saw absolutely nothing with any real play value.  I know there are good toys out there but apparently they are not being stocked on toy store shelves.  All the Lego had some sort of theme. Even on the Lego website there are very few basic sets.

When I was a child, Lego was the ultimate toy.  It topped my Christmas and birthday lists every year.  I never got any because it was ‘too expensive’.  I did get some red and white Lego wannabes but they were made of a soft plastic and were easily distorted so they never really fit together properly.  They were so frustrating and I vowed that my children would get real Lego.

Building with Lego continues to be one of my favourite activities.  When I bring out my Lego bins for the children I cannot resist joining in.  However, the thing I find disconcerting is that very few children today – girls or boys – are prepared to build with Lego.  They are accustomed to using the themed sets.  They put the scenes together once – according to the instruction sheet – and then use it to re-enact a specific story.

Sometimes, when they first see my Lego bins there is a moment of stunned silence.

‘Where are the instructions?”

I threw them out, along with any specialty pieces that couldn’t be used for more than one purpose.  I also don’t have any Lego characters — if you want people you have to build them.  The children watch me build things.  They try to copy what I make.  They gasp when I take it apart.

‘What if you can’t remember how you made it?’

Eventually they create something of their own.  After a while they begin to work together and make things like ‘Lego Llama’.

Who was the mascot for all of Llamaland and a whole series of adventures that needed no instructions at all. It was built by children using their own imagination and creativity.

Lego for girls vs. Lego for boys isn’t the problem.  I think Lego may have forgotten what they were good at. Instead of being the best construction set ever, they have become action figure wannabes.