Saturday, April 6, 2013

Stacking Tower Toy by Sevi

This is a sturdy little wooden peg stacking toy that is great for young children who are still in the process of learning how to stack toys. The toy itself only stands about 4 inches high when fully stacked and there are only four pieces that make up the body of the lady bug (there is also a stacking dog, mouse, cat, pig, and little green bug). Even though this toy is small it can help young children learn about matching patterns when trying to build a specific shape. The toy is handmade with hard woods and painted with a vegetable dye finish. Strengths: It’s cute and small enough to easily fit into a diaper bag. Because it’s small it is very easy for inexperienced fingers to manipulate the rings without much difficulty. Weaknesses: It’s a bit expensive for such a small toy, but it’s durable which is well worth the money.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Animal Tower Stack & Nest Cubes with Shapes by Hape Eco Toys

If you are looking for a great stacking toy that will “grow” with your child this one is definitely worth checking out. Not only do the wooden cubes stack in to a solid tower but also neatly nest together without any difficulty. The five cubes are easy to handle and have smooth edges that won’t hurt little fingers. What is especially noteworthy about this toy is that not only does it stack/nest, but it is also a simple shape sorter. Each cube has a picture of an animal on it and the shapes correspond to the food that the animal would eat. For example, the tiger has a little bone with some meat on it, the monkey eats bananas, and the rhino eats the grass. The shapes can be matched to the picture of the food on one side of each cube and then the shape easily fits into the slot. Another great feature of the stacking blocks is that on a third side of the cube the pictures show simple parts of the animal (e.g., feet, tail, etc) so the child can guess what part belongs to which animal. It really is a great toy that can be used in many ways by children at different stages of development. It is also important to note that the Hape Eco toy line, which is relatively new as far as I know, is made using FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood and non-toxic water-based paints in packaging made entirely from recycled materials. It’s a great toy from a company that is environmentally responsible. What a wonderful combination! Strengths: Everything – I love the toy and the children I work with enjoy it immensely. Weaknesses: Absolutely nothing that I have found.

Tobbles Neo by Fat Brain Toys

This fun stacking toy is one that truly catches the attention of busy toddlers! Tobbles Neo are lightly weighted spheres made of smooth plastic on top and a more textured, soft, easy to grip plastic on the bottom.  These vibrantly coloured spheres can be stacked traditionally or in fun and unusual angles. Because of the texture on the bottom half of each tobble and the fact that each sphere has a small indentation on the top, stacking is an easy task for toddlers who are learning how to coordinate fine motor movements. They are also great for promoting colour recognition, basic size concepts (e.g., big and little), and simple cause-effect relationships. Strengths: This is a fun toy that can keep toddlers entertained for a fairly long period of time. It is a simple toy, but one that offers great play value for the money spent. It’s also one that can grow with a child. I’ve used it with children as young as 10 months olds and as old as three years (and every age in between), and I have yet to find a child who doesn’t find a new way to explore and play with the toy. Weaknesses: Because of the indentation on the top of each tobble they can be difficult to roll, which frustrates some children. Also, you must have the base (it comes with the toy) in order to stack the tobbles. If the base is misplaced the toy basically becomes a “ball toy” which, as I’ve mentioned, can lead to frustration for some children. Overall it’s a fun toy that puts a new twist on a stacking game.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lacing Sheep by Plan Toys

If you are looking for a puzzle toy for an older child (2 ½ years and up) that incorporates skills like matching and sequential ordering this is a wonderful toy to check out. The body of the sheep consists of five separate wooden rings that are held together by a strong elastic cord covered with colourful wooden beads. The head and tail of the sheep are attached to either end of the cord. The beads correspond in colour to small painted rings on each section of the body of the sheep (green yellow, blue, red, and orange). The wooden rings that make up the body can be taken off the cord so the child is able to rebuild the sheep. Children are able to rebuild the sheep in several different ways. First, they can match the colours on the inside of the rings to the beads on the elastic cord. Second, they can match the colours of the rings with one another (e.g., red to red, blue to blue, etc.). Finally they can rebuild the sheep according to the size of the rings moving from small to large and back to small. Strengths: This is a simple but versatile toy. It can help children learn basic concepts like colours, matching, and sorting based on the size of an object. I have found that children at many different levels of development enjoy the toy. Some like to chew on a ring, some like to match, some like to count the beads, and some actually use the toy for the intended purpose! Whatever they do with it, they seem to enjoy it. Weaknesses: The elastic cord that runs through the middle of the body of the sheep is strong and needs to be pulled with a very firm grasp to attach the end of the sheep to the rest of the body. The last piece just slides over the elastic cord, but the cord can be difficult to pull out. I snapped my fingers with it once and it really hurt. I can’t imagine how it would feel on little fingers.

Sheep in the Cloud Rattling Figure by Haba

This simple little toy is a wonderful clutching toy/rattle for children who are interested in simple cause/effect play or enjoy grasping toys and exploring their sensory aspects. This small sheep has a stacked design of solid wooden rings and two small “hands” threaded on a cord that is integrated into the centre of the toy. It’s small enough to be easily help even by little hands and the soft rattle of the arms when the toy is shaken produces a pleasant soft clacking noise. Like all Haba toys it is earth friendly, with materials coming from sustainable managed forests and the stain on the wood is non-toxic and water based. Strengths: It promotes visual tracking (following with the eyes), listening skills, and grasping skills. It is a solidly built toy and there is no risk of any of the parts separating from one another. I like it because it is small enough to tuck into little spaces so children have to use sounds or word approximations to get the toy from me! It’s also great because if you use it to promote a social exchange with a chronologically or developmentally young child you can gently rock the toy just out of the child’s reach and wait for them to smile, look at you, make sounds, or physically move in order to get the toy. Weaknesses: It’s a small toy and a bit on the pricey side, but it is well worth the investment.

Pound and Tap Bench by Hape

This charming musical bench is a fun toy for young children at many different developmental levels because it has two separate pieces that can be used independently of one another or combined for a great sensory experience. The toy is both a pounding bench where a child can use the hammer to knock balls through holes on the top of the bench and xylophone that produce a lovely tinkling sound as the balls roll over each individual steel bar. What’s neat about the toy is that the xylophone can actually slide out of the bench and be used independently. This wooden and metal toy is well constructed and is very child friendly (no nasty sharp edges or places to get little fingers pinched). The finishes on the toy are non-toxic so if something winds up in the child’s mouth there is no need for concern. Strengths: This is a truly fun toy that the children I work with enjoy playing with. The balls, which can be played with independently, are easy to pound through the little holes in the top of the bench and the fact that the xylophone can be removed from the bench opens up other options for play. Weaknesses: The toy is described as one that can play a musical tune when the keys of the xylophone are struck. I think this is an overestimation of what it can actually do. You can make sounds on the key board, but it’s not a toy that will actually teach your child how to create music. As a fun thing to bang on with the hammer the toy is great. If you’re expecting music to actually be produced you might want to look a bit further. Overall it is a really fun toy that children have lots of fun exploring.