Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wonder Dice by Haba

This set of eleven fabric blocks is a great "first" block set. Each foam block is covered with cotton and polyester (which is hand washable) and is easy for little hands to grasp and knock down. Each block has a different texture or pattern on it and there are flaps to lift, ribbons to feel, fabrics to rustle, and bells to rattle. Strengths:  The fact that there are different shapes and sizes of blocks included in the set is very appealing. Most cloth block sets are made up of mostly squares and triangles, but this one includes cylinders, half circles, arches, and different sized squares. This really allows for lots of different stacking opportunities. Weaknesses:  Because some of the fabrics are very light colours I have found that the blocks can appear "stained" much more quickly than other fabric and foam blocks that I have.

Laugh & Learning Kitchen by Fisher Price

A play kitchen just seems to be one of those timeless toys that every toddler can enjoy in one way or another. The Laugh & Learn Kitchen offers a wonderful range of exploratory activities with lots of great sound effects. The light over the sink & stove can be turned on and off, when the tap is pressed you can hear running water and dishes clattering, the oven door squeaks when it opens, and when you put a pan on the burner it boils or sizzles. There is also a recycling bin on the side of the oven where toys can be dropped into a tray inside of the oven. Additionally the door of the fridge is a three shape sorter (a milk carton is the square, carrots the triangle, and a jam jar the circle). The inside of the fridge lights up and there are peek-a-boo flaps that hide smiling fruits and veggies. Strengths: It's a sturdy toy that is interesting to explore. The tray that is inside of the oven is pretty roomy and can hold a variety of different objects. Weaknesses: The toy hinges together so you can actually close it for storage purposes. Unfortunately it doesn't latch shut so the two sides swing open easily and if you're storing toys inside they will naturally spill out. Another thing that I don't like about the toy (but this is probably just me) is that it does talk, so there are children that I work with that get caught up in just pushing the buttons to hear the voice. You can always take the batteries out, but then the other sounds on the toy don't work.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox

"Here is the blue sheep. And here is the red sheep, Here is the bath sheep. And here is the bed sheep. But where is the green sheep?" This is the type of easy, predictable, and repeatable text that is found in this little book about different kinds of sheep. The light and lilting text of this charming board book are a perfect compliment to the simple illustrations that show sheep frolicking on the swing, going down the slide, taking a sun bath, and singing in the rain! It's a great early book for toddlers that will help to build their understanding of different words and concepts and is also a great way to learn colours!

Little People Click n' Explore Barnyard by Fisher Price

This is another fun addition to the Fisher Price Farm set. This little "barn" comes with a farmer, tractor, horse, duck, and food bin that can be easily used with other Fisher Price toys. The pond has little peek-a-boo holes so when the child spins the "water" they discover fish and frogs underneath the surface. The door of the barn opens and closes, and the rooster that sits on top of the barn clicks when turned. Strengths: This is a simple toy without a lot of bells and whistles, which I like because it helps to encourage more imaginative play rather than repetitive button pushing or door opening/closing. Another cool thing is that the food bin can be attached to the back of the tractor and moved around the barnyard. Weaknesses: If you're looking for the complete farm experience you'll probably be disappointed with this toy. It's cute but doesn't have as many exploratory opportunities as a big barn. However, it's a great supplemental piece if your child really enjoys farm play.

Little People Tow n' Pull Tractor by Fisher Price

This is a sturdy little tractor that is a great addition to any farm/barn play set. The tractor is a good size for toddlers to manipulate and there aren't any little parts that can be pulled off and swallowed. The tractor rolls smoothly on all types of surfaces and when the farmer is pushed down on the seat of the vehicle a little song about "towing and pulling" plays. One fun aspect of the toy is that the pig in the haystack actually pops up and down when the tractor is pushed, so it's a nice little surprise for little ones when they play with the toy. Strengths: The toy comes with the farmer and cow that can be taken out of the tractor and used with other farm toys. The pig is cute, but stationary. Weaknesses: The tractor and trailer don't come apart, so you can't use either piece separately. Some children seem to like the fact that they have a "big" vehicle to play with but others become frustrated that they can't get the two to come apart.

Little People Baby Animal Nest by Fisher Price

I like to have lots of options for extending the play with the children I work with, so I decided to add this little "shed" to my farm collection. It's a simple little toy that basically consists of three beds for a bunny, chicken, and llama. They toy doesn't make sounds, light up, or move, so it's really just a nice piece for encouraging imaginative play. The children I work with like matching the animals with their pictures behind the nests as well as putting together animal families into their house. Strengths: It's a simple, quiet toy that provides lots of opportunities for creative play and isn't that expensive. Weaknesses: If you want something that is high-tech this isn't the toy for you.

Little People Animal Sounds Barn by Fisher Price

Every toy collection should have a barn and a nice array of animals. This is another really solid addition to the Little People collection of "real life" toys. The barn comes with Farmer Jed, a cow, horse, pig, sheep, and goat that can be easily stored in the silo. There is also a little chicken that stays attached to the front of the barn and when you push it from side to side a hay bale moves across the hay loft. There are great sliding windows on one end of the barn that uncover baby chicks and bunnies and the silo is a fun place to drop and hide the animals. If you choose to use the toy with the batteries (I don't) the different animals will oink, cluck, moo, baa, and neigh when put into their "stalls". Strengths: This is a fun barn with lots of areas to explore. The children I work with really seem to enjoy the sliding chicken the most because you can put other animals (or Farmer Jed) into the hay loft, push the chicken and make the other characters tumble off of the roof of the barn! Weaknesses: The biggest weakness that I have noticed is that since the back of the barn is open, it's easy for the animals and farmer to fall out when you pick it up. It's not the "old" Fisher Price Barn but is still a classic in it's own right.