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Why we LOVE wooden toys

The best toy I’ve ever bought the children? Without a doubt, the Grimm’s large rainbow. Wooden toys have a longevity that makes them particularly appealing to me, a mum of three children.

When my eight-year-old son was small, I fell into all of the parenting toy traps possible. Our house had turned into a plastic city, full of noisy, garish toys that he would lose interest in almost immediately. By the time Zoey was born six years later, there was nothing left from Harrison’s baby and toddler years to pass down.

That’s when I knew things had to change…

I resolutely refused to go down the same pathway with Zoey (now 2). I hated the waste and the short-lived play-ability, so I made it my mission to seek out good quality toys that lasted longer than a few moments. This is really where wooden toys come in: I think it speaks volumes that wooden toys have been around for centuries.

Thanks to the wonderful world of Instagram, I found out that good quality wooden toys still existed, particularly in fact, from German toy makers. It made my teacher heart really happy to know that traditional style toys were still loved by children in different parts of the world.

After only choosing quality toys for the last few years, I can thoroughly attest that wooden toys are worth it in every sense. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider them over their plastic counterparts:

Wooden toys are value for money:

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Wooden toys make excellent Christmas presents. They are also likely to be played with far longer than the latest ‘fad’ toy.

Okay, so on the surface, yes wooden toys look way more expensive. Initially I had my doubts over whether they would be worth the initial outlay. However, after starting off the wooden toy collection with building blocks and a medium Grimm’s rainbow two years ago, I can definitely confirm that they are worth every cent.

They aren’t toys that you buy everyday, but carefully considered purchases. Personally, and speaking from experience here, I’d much rather than have fewer, good quality toys in the play room over a stash of ‘trendy’ toys any day.

Young children cannot cope with a mass of toys surrounding them on a daily basis. They get overwhelmed by choice. This is part of the reason why we re-organised our play space and established the Discovery Table series.

Wooden toys are great for imaginative play:

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The blue and purple elements of the large Grimm’s rainbow made wonderful ocean waves.

When is a rainbow not a rainbow?

Well, when it is a bridge, bird, slide or even a musical instrument! Wooden toys have endless play-ability. The child is doing the thinking rather than the toy itself. Featured above is an ocean theme where a Grimm’s rainbow and miniature cave was used by the children.

Children aren’t stifled by the same barriers as us. Whereas you and I might just think, ‘ well that’s a gigantic rainbow,’ they will transform it into a whole range of other items. Besides, If you’re genuinely stuck for ideas, you only need look at Instagram. I am always in awe of the ideas I see there!

Wooden toys are gender neutral:

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Wooden toys are designed to be played with by everyone. Both my son and daughter love using them in their play.

‘Gender neutral’ has become a popular term in recent years. Take a trip down any of the major toy-store aisles and you will see why: the majority of toys on offer are specifically aimed at either boys and girls. With a boy, girl and another boy on the way, I’m constantly searching for toys that are gender neutral. This is a matter of practicality for us as well as a desire not to stereotype.

Whilst I am by no means a staunch feminist, now that I have a daughter I have a heightened awareness of toys that have been designed in a certain way. She does love the doll she picked out herself; but she’s also a huge fan of toy trains and trucks. Wooden blocks or rainbow people can belong to anyone.

In the photo above, we had spent an entire weekend building a zoo from cardboard and other scrap materials. Both children were really engaged with the process and as you can see, Grimm’s building blocks, houses and rainbow people complimented the activity perfectly. You can read more about that activity here.

Wooden toys are environmentally friendly:

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Magical Moments: A wooden rainbow village under the tree in our backyard

Watching those scenes of plastics pollution in Blue Planet 2 brought home the environmental issues in such a vivid way. We can`t eliminate all plastics from our life, but I’ve become more aware of the purchases we make and I’m on a mission to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible.

Recently the eldest (9) asked for the latest fad toy that: ‘all the children have in school.’ However, after he showed me a clip on YouTube, I could see the limitations. It was a single-purpose toy that would be discarded at the bottom of his cupboard within a week. Thankfully Harrison also understands this and knew that he only really wanted the toy because everyone else did! The recent Jurassic Plastic art installation at the 2018 Sydney Festival would’ve given anyone food for thought on this subject matter.

This brings us neatly back to wooden toys. Brands such as Grimm’s use natural dyes to colour their products. They are handmade with love and care. The visible quality of the toys also means that:

A. They are unlikely to be left broken at the bottom of the toy box.

B. You’ll want to keep them as an heirloom for your children to pass down to future generations.

Wooden toys don’t have an age limit:

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Harrison (9) and Zoey (2) playing side-by-side on our ‘city’ discovery table

Santa Clause very kindly gave Zoey a range of Grimm’s goodies on Christmas Day. The whole family spent the morning building structures with them. Surely toys that appeal to both a nine-year-old and a two-year-old have got to have a good thing going on? There aren’t in fact many toys that Harrison would willingly share with his sister, but wooden toys are an exception.

Each week I create a new discovery table designed to capture the interests of my eldest two. Tables that feature our wooden toy collection sustain the interest of both for far longer.

Have I persuaded you to try wooden toys?

Don’t hesitate to contact me here or via my social media pages if you have any questions about starting you own collection.

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Want more?

If you liked this post, please check out the following:

Discovery Table Week 8: Zoo!

Discovery Table Week 5: Rainbow

Discovery Table Week 6: Nature

Discovery Table Week 4: The Ocean Waves

Before you throw that away…

Nature Walk Activity Guide

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We built a zoo…

Inspiration often strikes when we have a billion tonnes of recycling to use up! After so many trips to IKEA recently, we have a serious surplus of cardboard. Whilst we always recycle, it seemed like a shame for these huge canvases to be immediately consigned to the yellow bin.

With another baby on the way, I’m not as up for massive messy projects (literally really, since I can no longer hoist myself off of the floor!) so we made use of the dining room table to make ourselves a zoo. This project was inspired byDiscovery Table Week 8: Zoo!

Here’s a photo diary of the process:

On Saturday we set about mapping out the zoo. My 8 year was eager to do this, drawing roads and animal enclosures with the help of a Posca pen.

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Posca pens are well worth an investment. We LOVE ours!

By the end of day one, we had a basic outline of the zoo. As you can see, my 2 year old also made her contribution! When creating with very young children, I think it’s really important not to be too precious about the end result. I would much rather have Zoey involved and exploring materials than have perfect colouring!

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On Sunday, the project really started to come together. Everyone had got over their colouring in fatigue from the previous day and using a range of crayons, pens and paints helped get the job done quicker. We started to add signs (using cut-off pieces of cardboard) and trees made from paper towel rolls and green foam.

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All we really needed to do then was play! Our Grimm’s rainbow people became the tourist and the minature animal collection we had was also put to good use! If you follow us on Instagram, do check out the story we made on this project – I absolutely love the conversations Zoey was having between the animals and people!

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Key Learning

  • Creativity: drawing, colouring and making all feature in this project.
  • Writing: my eldest wrote and spelled all of the words himself. On this point, let them spell words themselves – again this isn’t supposed to be about perfection!
  • Fine motor skills: drawing, cutting and writing.
  • Imagination: visualising what the zoo might look like, role play with the final results!
  • Language development: learning names, acting out roles, making animal sounds.
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Discovery Table Week 9: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This is the penultimate week in our discovery table series and I couldn’t finish without featuring another of our favourite books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle! We have LOVED sharing the tables on the blog each week but with a new baby on the way, these posts will finish after 10 weeks. Not to worry though, as we will be keeping them going in real life – just keep an eye out on our Instagram and Facebook pages!

 

First look:

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This week’s table features a lot of play food! At the recommendation of my insta-buddy Julie Curtin, I decided to feature Eating the Alphabet alongside The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a way to explore healthy eating and occasional foods.

The inspiration:

The very lovely Johanna from Hello Pear sent me these gorgeous story stones and they’ve already proved a massive hit with both my children and one of my students too:

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Story stones are a fabulous way of helping children to retell stories in their own words. With my student we combined the stones with these days of the week blocks – both are available from Hello Pear. 

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Food glorious food!

For the rest of the set-up, I simply gathered together a range of play food into a felt IKEA shopping basket that would fit the  ‘healthy’ and ‘occasional’ categories for the children to sort:

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Want more? 

Check out the rest of the discovery table series by clicking on the links!

Discovery Table Week 1: Baby Clinic

Discovery Table Week 2: The Alphabet

Discovery Table Week 3: The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Discovery Table Week 4: The Ocean Waves

Discovery Table Week 5: Rainbow

Discovery Table Week 6: Nature

Discovery Table Week 7: Music

Discovery Table Week 8: Zoo!

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Hopfest: Easter Week Egg-stravaganza!

 

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Do you remember all the way back to December when we did Craftmas? Well this is kinda the same and kinda different because now it’s all about Easter and springtime fun! There’s an awesome crew of kick-ass craft ladies involved again, you can find links to the Instagram feed at the end of this post.

We’re Welsh and as daffodils are basically the national flower of Wales AND a springtime flower, we decided to make this beautiful bouquet for you. Being heavily pregnant (at the time of writing this) meant that a simple craft was an absolute necessity this time around. I was also really keen to use recycling as they key element. Something about having another child makes me hyper aware of environmental issues, so we’re really striving to reduce, reuse and recycle materials wherever possible!

So here’s what we made: egg carton daffodils that can be made into a bouquet or presented as a wreath, as shown here:

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You will need:

  • An egg carton (ideally for a dozen eggs)
  • Hues of non-toxic acrylics in yellow
  • Green chenille sticks/ pipe cleaners
  • Glue gun and approximately 3 glue cartridges.
  • Ribbon
  • Pompoms
  • Embroidery hoop or cardboard
  • Green felt

 

Step 1: Paint your egg carton

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We used hues of yellow and orange to make the daffodils. We didn’t buy any extra paints, but made the most of what we had in the craft cupboard.

Paint the egg carton in its entirety as you will using all of it to make the daffodils! We decided to paint the whole thing first and then cut out the sections. Afterwards, we added details to the individual cartons.

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After cutting, you’ll be able to go back over the carton and add details. Note that you need the smaller, central dividers too!

 

Step 2: Glue guns at the ready!

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Add glue both underneath AND on top to make the stems extra secure.

 

Grab the larger ‘egg cups’ (seriously, my pregnant brain is struggling to describe these!) and glue green chenille sticks to the underneath of each. Unless you have an older kiddo around, this is best left as an ‘adult job.’ Harrison (aged 8) helped with this part.

 

Step 3: Assemble your daffodil

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I cannot tell you how seriously tempting it is to just write ‘glue the smaller thingy into the larger thingy.’ Thank goodness for photographs! Okay so, place a blob of glue onto the end of the smaller cone shaped sections and place in the middle of the egg cups. You might need to hold them in place for a little while until dry.

 

Step 4: Arrange prettily

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Place in a vase and use as a center-piece on Easter Sunday or give someone special a bunch of ever-lasting Springtime flowers.

 

ALTERNATIVELY…

Go the full distance and turn the daffodil bouquet into a springtime wreath.

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You will need an embroidery hoop, pompoms, green felt, green pompoms and your pre-made daffodils.

For this part, we simply wrapped the stems of the daffodils around the hoop, then glued the flower head in place. To cover over any wooden gaps, we used strips of green felt for petals and pompoms as extra decoration – because when isn’t there a good excuse to use pompoms?

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The final result!

I hope the ramblings of a heavily pregnant lady weren’t too off-putting! If you want more ideas please check out the following links:

Before you throw that away…

Simple Mother’s Day Crafts 

To follow along with Hopfest, use the hashtag #hopfest on Instagram or hit ‘like’ on my Facebook feed.

 

 

 

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Hot Air Balloon Craft

Big balloon, big balloon Bigger than the sun and moon. Flying high In the sky Fly, fly and fly and fly!

I’m pretty sure that all parents know the Peppa Pig song, right? If not, I promise that as soon as you listen to it, it’ll be stuck in your head for an eternity! It was well and truly on rotation after a trip to the Canberra Balloon Festival, which takes place every March.

 

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Up early to watch the balloons from the National Arboretum in Canberra

After an early start on Canberra Day, we decided to get our craft on. The original idea was to do a paper mache hot air balloon, but after failing to find a single balloon in the house, we went for option B instead.

You will need:

  • Paper lanterns -ideally in white, but we just used what we had!
  • Non-toxic acrylics
  • Paint brushes and sponges
  • Chenille sticks
  • Disposable coffee cups
  • White thread
  • Sticky tape or pins

 

Step 1: Set up an invitation to create

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Our lanterns were left over from a Star Wars themed party, but white would probably work better.

With four of us crafting, I set up the large dining room table with an assortment of paints and brushes.

 

Step 2: Get busy with the paint!

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The beauty of this craft is that you can get a range of age groups involved. We had Zoey (2) crafting side by side with her Nana. The key is to make sure you are using non-toxic paints!

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Note that the kids don’t have t-shirts on. Acrylics don’t tend to wash out of clothing so it’s best to either leave them off or wear a smock. 

Harrison went for a blue and red ‘Japanese’ theme (he loves his Japanese lessons at school) whilst I created random splodges with a sponge.

Step 3 – Leave to dry

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Our balloons took most of the day to dry. Afterwards, we punched holes into the tops of disposable coffee cups then attached chenille sticks so that they hung from the lanterns:

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Taking Timmy the Sheep for a ride in the balloon!

Finally – display your craft!

hot air balloons

This is the kind of craft that could potentially take up a lot of room in the house, so we made it part of our new play space instead. Because the lanterns are so light, we were able to use white thread attached with sellotape.

Want more?

Check out the following posts:

Our New Play Space

Why Mess is Best