Browse Month

September 2012

Five toys that I think have merit

If you read my post a while back, you may have detected a touch of negativity in the way I view the toys that we are expected to buy for our children. Amazon is full of horrible, pink, plastic rubbish that children will probably pick up only once. If you dig a little deeper though, you will find plenty that will give your children cause to think, learn and laugh. Remember though, the thing that gives most toys their staying power is the child’s playmate (i.e., you).

Tumbling clown

You can buy click-clack tracks everywhere (the wooden toy where cars zoom down four little ramps in sequence) but this particular cause-and-effect toy you have to know to look out for. I use it all the time, because it’s compact, it attracts children’s attention, and it’s easy for children to get involved.

Set the little man up at the top (he can jump up the ladder, or even fly up there), give him a gentle push, and by the magic of gravity and a hidden weight, he will cartwheel his way slowly to the bottom. It doesn’t sound much, but it is what you make it. £6.78 at Amazon, plus £5.99 delivery – still a bargain if you ask me.

Bubble trumpet
Bubbles are the king of toys. They’re exciting enough to make almost any child find a way to ask for more (if you manage to hold off blowing more, that is). They give you and your child a real sense of shared purpose, of shared attention, and shared attention is the basic stuff of communication.

There’s no better way to sharpen that focus than to use a bubble trumpet to make one big bubble. It slows the process right down. It’s highly amusing when it pops, or is popped, in your face. Furthermore, it’s much easier for young children to blow their own bubbles using one of these. Only available on import at the moment from Amazon, with punitive postage. I bought mine for a rather dear £10.99 plus a couple of quid postage. I’m sure it’ll be back soon.

Latches board
I don’t own this – it’s a bit dear for me, and I’d get minimal use out of it. You might wonder whether this is the right kind of thing to be giving your child. It really depends on whether or not there are latches in the house that your child can reach that you don’t want them opening. If that is not a concern for you, and you want your child to develop their motor skills and their attention skills, then why ever not?

Many children are enormously preoccupied with doors, switches, locks and latches. They don’t do it to annoy us – they recognise that the adult world is full of these things, and the adult world is out there for children to master. Giving them toys that accept that fact seems sensible to me, and the queen herself, Maria Montessori thought so too. If you’re handy, you can construct your own. Otherwise, it’s a hefty £17.20 over at Amazon.

Doll’s house (on a budget)

In my pretend play posts in this blog, I talk about large-world imaginary play. If your child has done a lot of that kind of thing – putting teddy to bed, giving him tea, wiping his nose and so on, then maybe they’re ready for small world play.

This is made of tough cardboard, tough enough to last long enough for a child to work out whether or not this is the kind of thing they’re into. A gamble worth taking – £12.99, over at Amazon, plus £3.95 delivery .


Is it just me that calls this stuff ‘floam’?

People have some weird things they don’t like touching. I personally can’t abide the idea of soap under my nails. Makes me shiver, ugh. Some people have a real issue with polystyrene. I’m not sure what they would make of floam. It is made of tiny polystyrene balls, held loosely together with an inherent gooeyness that seems to last forever if you store it correctly. It’s dry to the touch and weird on the eye. It’s not as good as plasticine for model-making, but then that’s not what floam is about. You can mix the colours together if you want to, but you’ll spend the rest of the night separating them back out. Floam is £12.20 from Amazon.