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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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#PlayPatrol : Number Fun

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol | Posted on 18-06-2015

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For our final Play Patrol mission with Bigjigs we were asked to choose something to test out and review. In light of Little Man starting school this coming September I decided to browse the more educational offerings as opposed to adding more toys to our playroom. He’s very good with letters and recognising them, and we have a wide array of books and posters and stickers throughout the house with them on, including the alphabet going down the stairs. What I wanted to do was improve his number recognition, look at his counting and basic math, and help his knowledge of time. He is really keen to learn to tell the time because so much of his day is structured by what time it is, for example he is only allowed to play Minecraft from 4pm – otherwise he’d be on it ALL day. With this in mind I selected a lovely bundle of number related items from the vast Bigjigs catalogue.

The most logical place to start was the popular Learn To Count set. The board comprises of the numbers zero through to nine, and they are represented by the corresponding number of dots. You also get ten tiles with the number written on, and colour coordinating rings of each appropriate number. Your child matches the tiles to the dots, and then pops the rings on the relevant stick. It teaches counting as well as matching up information, whether it be numbers or colours. I love this, and its one of those Bigjigs items I’ve had my eye on for a while now. Little Man is enjoying matching the tiles to the dots, and both he and Little Dude like to play with the rings, though to be fair Little Dude  mostly likes to try and eat them.

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To continue the counting and matching them we also got the Traditional Wooden Dominos. Dominos is one of those classic games and I’m surprised we don’t own a set already. There are many ways to play the game, but for now we are putting the double six domino down and leaving all the others faced down on the floor. We then take it in turns to pick a domino and see if we can place it. This is a great way to teach taking turns, and with each domino we pick up we are counting the dots and seeing they match. Each number of dots is the same colour – if there are six dots they are all red, five dots are all blue, etc – so again we can match up colours as well as numbers.

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Looking ahead to him beginning school and starting on expanding on his math skills we also got the Add & Subtract box and the Times Table Box. Both boxes contain square wooden tiles which are, as you’d expect, brightly coloured. On one side is a sum, and on the reverse is the answer. This is a great tool for learning, though its a shame the boxes don’t contain sums with higher numbers than 9. I think the inclusion of up to the 12 times table would have been beneficial as that is typical what is taught in schools. One of my favourite things about these two math boxes, as well as the dominos set, is that they come in sturdy compact storage boxes so everything can be easily packed up and put away for another day.

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The concept of time and telling the time was aided by the Clock In A Box. Little Man spends most of his day asking me “What is the time…?” “Is it nearly four o’clock…?” which can get a little wearing. He recognises what four o’clock looks like on our large wall clock but what I loved about the Clock In A Box was that it taught children to read the time in both digital and traditional forms. You set the time with either the moving fingers or using the tiles in the tray, and your  child matches the other clock. What is seriously lacking however is the 24 hour clock times. The digital numbers only take you to 12:00. Surely all digital clocks then go to 13:00, 14:00 and so on? Not this one unfortunately. A disappointment for me.

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To ensure Little Dude wasn’t feeling left out of this #PlayPatrol mission we also got him something to begin his number journey. My First Matching Numbers puzzle is a cute simple matching jigsaw puzzle. The base board features bright animal pictures. One snail, two – oddly fat – butterflies, three ladybirds and four bees. You get four numbered tiles and your little one has to match them up. Each bold number features similar patterning to each animal to help you on your way. This is a super cute little puzzle that keeps Little Dude entertained and most importantly occupied whilst Little Man and I tackle the maths sets he received.

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Numbers are a massive part of life and I want both my boys to be confident in their ability to recognise numbers, to count and to do maths throughout their lives. These six wooden sets from Bigjigs are certainly going to help introduce them and support them in their early years of learning.

It has been an absolute PLEASURE working with Bigjigs toys during this year of Play Patrol, and in the previous year too. They are without doubt my favourite wooden toy company and one I will continue to support for years to come. Rumour has is that new Play Patrol operatives will be being sought this summer so do make sure you are following them on all their social media channels to be in with a chance of working with this wonderful company. Thank you Bigjigs – you’re the best.

#PlayPatrol : Mission Four : Lacing Animals

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol | Posted on 17-11-2014

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For this times Play Patrol mission Bigjigs sent Little Man their Lacing Animals set. The set comes with four boards featuring an animal, and then four shapes which match one of the animals bodies. The point of the set is to match them up and fasten them together using the included laces. The boards, shapes and laces all fit neatly in the included storage box – this is a big plus for me as it limits items getting lost. Lacing Animals is a great way to develop fine motor skills, dexterity and improving concentration. It is aimed at children aged 3 years and up.

Little Man wasn’t particularly thrilled with this toy. He’s never used anything like it before so it took some persuasion to play with it as opposed to his other toys. Matching up the animals was easy enough, though I think he enjoyed intentionally mismatching them as well. For me this just shows a great form of imagination play! Lacing was tricky, but its not something he’s ever really experienced before so it was all about developing a new skill. It kept him entertained for a short time, though he did grow frustrated after a little while. I think this will help develop his dexterity and should also help with future shoe lace tying. It strikes me as a great Montessori method toy, which is something we’re trying to bring into the home more and more since he transferred to a Montessori preschool at the start of September. Definitely a toy to add to our Montessori box.

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I thought this way a really cute toy. Nice and bright, with good detailing and a handy storage box. I’m sure with practice Little Man will get into it more, but for now he just likes seeing what crazy looking creatures he can create! The boards aren’t as thick as I’d like and the shapes are similarly thin. Its not one of the better made toys we’ve seen from Bigjigs, but I imagine the thickness is due to the laces. Overall, a good fun toy to aid concentration and dexterity.

#PlayPatrol : Mission Three : Pirate Multi Layer Puzzle and Jungle Mobile

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol | Posted on 23-09-2014

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Little Man returned to preschool a couple of weeks ago. He’s doing three sessions a week and having his lunch there so he’s there for about four hours each time. We made the decision to change his preschool at the end of last term and we’re really pleased with where he’s going now, and he seems a lot happier. He’s also a lot tireder. I’m getting told what he’s doing each day and it sounds like there’s a lot of running around in the garden with his friends, as well as lots of fun and games and activities indoors. He goes on a Wednesday, Thursday and a Friday so by the time we get to the weekend he’s still pretty tired. I’m sure this will sort itself once he’s used to his new routine, but for now I like to keep Saturday activities fairly relaxed. He takes a trip to the local library with Daddy in the mornings, but we tend to try and do something a bit more chilled out in the house in the afternoon. Our latest Play Patrol mission looked like it would be a great activity for our lazy weekends.

He was sent the Pirate Multi Layer Puzzle. This is basically what it sounds like – three jigsaws layered on top of one another. Each one gets progressively bigger as you work your way up, and the finished puzzles fit together neatly in a tray.
We’re big fans of the pirate theme to this puzzle – Swashbuckle is one of Little Man’s favourite TV shows – and the three pictures are really good. Nice and bright, and with lots of detail so there’s plenty to talk about in them. I also think the addition of the small cutaway on one piece per jigsaw makes them much easy to remove from the tray layer by layer. I also think the puzzle is great value at just £8.99.

Unfortunately I have a few issues with the toy too.  The pieces aren’t traditional jigsaw pieces – they’re all random irregular shapes. I think traditional pieces would have been better, albeit larger than usual. I think the set would be more child friendly if the jigsaws were square – the curved top section pieces don’t fit quite as neatly and as flush as I’d really like. Finally the set is aimed at children aged 2 and over. 2?! I don’t think many 2 year old children would be able to complete these puzzles without a lot of help. Little Man is almost 4 and he found them tricky and got increasingly frustrated.

This is, for us, quite a disappointing toy from Bigjigs. The quality is what you’d expect from their range, but I think some adjustments are needed to make it as good as other items.

Little Dude had another lovely delivery however. He was the very excited recipient of a Jungle Mobile. Now he already has a mobile in his bedroom – a farm themed one which Nana bought for him – so we hung this mobile up in the new playroom. Its currently balanced a bit precariously by the french windows but I’m hoping to arrange a more permanent fixing soon.

The mobile features four jungle creatures – a lion, a giraffe,an elephant and a zebra as well as trees and plants and coloured balls. They’re all suspended from wooden bars and they spin and move nicely in the breeze. Again its another brightly coloured wooden toy – thought I am slightly confused by the bright purple elephant – and there’s a lovely amount of detailing on all the pieces. Its a beautiful mobile and one that Little Dude merrily stares at whenever he’s sat or led in the playroom.

Lots of positives from Mission Three, though a few negatives too sadly. Lets see what Mission Four brings.

#PlayPatrol: Green Toys Tool Set

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol | Posted on 07-04-2014

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Well we’ve finally come to our last mission as Play Patrol Agents with Bigjigs after a brilliant year “putting fun to the test” and it seems rather fitting that George sent Little Man one last Green Toy for him to test out. We’ve become huge fans of Green Toys this past year and Little Man loves the fact that he can take them into the bath with him – where you’ll find the majority of them at the moment – or out into the garden without fear of ruining them. Several Green Toys have gone through our dishwasher this last few months and they’ve come out as good as new. Its probably my favourite feature of these eco friendly toys.

This final mission was to review the Green Toys Tool Set.
All the items you’d expect from a toy tool set, but with that little bit extra you’d expect from Green Toys. Six tools are included in the set – which comes in blue or pink – and each is a highly realistic replica of the kind of tools children would find mummy or daddy using around the home. Each tool has the name of the tool on the handle thus helping your child to learn them by name as well as appearance. The toolbox also says “Toolbox” on the side. In addition to the tools you’ll find a small selection of nuts, bolts and nails which can be fastened into the holes on the toolbox using the appropriate tool.

Solid, well built, eco friendly and educational, this toolset is a lot of fun. Its been used in the bath – a plumber in the making apparently – as well as being taken around the garden to do running repairs on the shed and playhouse, used to saw, hammer and screw sand, and it was even left outside in the rain by accident. After weeks of use and a couple of trips through the dishwasher its still looking as good as new. Little Man does have a wooden tool set as well which has similar component parts to this one, but for me its a bit more fragile so tends to stay indoors. This one can be used outside and in, as well as in sand, mud and bath water. I like that Little Man can do his “work” with this set wherever he wants, and I love that the names of the parts are written on them so he can learn the words. Whilst he is already a frequent user of the word “Screwdriver” – due to Doctor Who I’m afraid, not an obsession with DIY – this toy is a good way to widen his vocabulary to other tools. At almost 3 and a half his vocabulary isn’t quite what the experts think it should be so anything that helps improve that is an immediate winner with me.

We have had a wonderful time working with the team at Bigjigs and look forward to seeing what the next group of agents come up with. If you’re interested in becoming a Play Patrol Agent do fill out the application form here and send it to George by 11.59pm on April 14th.

Play Patrol: Green Toys Rocket

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 09-09-2013

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My love of BigJigs toys is pretty clear, so when we became Play Patrol Agents I was really hopeful that we’d get to review products from my favourite brand. I ADORE Green Toys. Not only are they eco-friendly and made from recycled plastic, but they are hard wearing, long lasting and most randomly, dishwasher safe! Luckily for us the lovely George at BigJigs sent us this Rocket from Green Toys to review as our most recent mission.

Brightly coloured toys are what I’ve come to expect from BigJigs and this one is no different. Bright red and bright blue colouring makes this rocket stand out a mile. The rocket itself is made up of four component parts – the main rocket, a detachable top capsule, and two intrepid astronauts. The door on the main rocket and a second door on the top capsule both open allowing access for the astronauts – the capsule doorway is a bit of a tight squeeze! Within the capsule you’ll find extra detailing with buttons and computers on the door, whilst the main rocket has steps on the inside of the door to allow astronaut access.

Little Man is a bit of a typical boy, and loves spaceships and rockets. He adores Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story, so this rocket from Green Toys was the ideal choice for him. He runs around the garden with it making whooshing sounds, and sits getting the astronauts in and out of each section. He takes off the capsule and launches that about and takes his astronauts on missions to all kinds of places. For him, this product is firm favourite.

For me, its another brilliant quality product from Green Toys. Yes, the astronauts are a bit plain and simple in their design and they don’t “do” anything, but with a child’s imagination they are off on their adventures. The method of separating the capsule from the rocket is simple – Little Man can do it more often than not – and the bright colours make it easy to spot. I love that if Little Man gets it messy I can pop it into the dishwasher making it super easy to clean, and I love how toddler friendly it is, both in design and size.

Part of our challenge for this review was to take a video of Little Man using the rocket. Below are FOUR videos of Little Man playing with the rockets under the silent – mostly – instruction of Daddy. That thing he is looking at most of the time behind the camera? Daddy waving his arms around and “directing” him. I love the final video where Daddy is showing another fun use for the rocket. We hope you enjoy them.

A firm two thumbs up from Play Patrol Agent Little Man for this one, and from his Mummy too!

 

Play Patrol: Build Up Train

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Product Reviews | Posted on 18-06-2013

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When your little one learns to walk it is often with the aid of a push along toy. Once they are walking on their own its good to get them a pull along to trundle around after themselves. I know we had a couple for Little Man during his early toddling days. If you are looking for pull along toy inspiration you can’t go far wrong with the Build Up Train from BigJigs. What’s more, is that its actually TWO toys in one.

The Build Up Train is a lovely pull along toy for children aged 1 year plus. There are three “carriages” which can be separated too, and a nice long cord to pull them along.  Each “carriage” holds a selection of wooden blocks and shapes as well as a few friendly looking passengers. The beauty of this toy is that these blocks and passengers can be taken off and rearranged as your child wishes. Each “carriage” has three wooden poles on it for the pieces to slide on to. The combinations and patterns are endless, and its a great toy for honing those all important fine motor skills, as well as imagination play. Once everyone is loaded safely on board the train can be pulled around till it reaches its destination.

I think this a really lovely toy for children aged 1 to 2 years old. Its brightly coloured and has nice solid chunky pieces to play with. Little Man however was a bit underwhelmed. He pulled the string a bit, poked around with a few pieces, and then wandered off and hasn’t really looked at it since. But Little Man is two years and eight months old so I think in all fairness this toy is a bit young for him anyway. I love the multi-use you get from it, as both a pull along and a stacking toy. I can see young train fans being thrilled with it, and I’m certain Little Man would have loved it a year or so ago. Not a complete loss though. We’ve packed it back up and its currently stored in the loft for any future members of the family that may appear in the next few years.

A great first foray in to pull along toys for any new walkers. Thank you BigJigs.

Play Patrol: Chunky Alphabet Puzzle

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Product Reviews | Posted on 23-05-2013

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I am a big fan of toys which are educational, especially when your child doesn’t realise they are learning. Learning through play is something I am keen for Little Man to do, so the arrival of our first Play Patrol toy brought an immediate smile to my face.
 The Chunky Alphabet Puzzle is an ideal educational toy for Little Man. As the name suggests you have 26 chunky letters on a board. Each one is the perfect size for a toddler to pick up and is brightly coloured, instantly making it appeal.  You can remove and replace the letters individually, or as Little Man prefers to do, tip them all out across the floor. The cut out sections of the board beneath each letter are coloured the same as the individual letter to help little ones by recognising colour matching as well as shape. There is also a lower case version of the letter in the corner of each cut out.

The learning opportunities of this toy are excellent. I hope to use this to teach Little Man about letters, colours, simple spellings, shapes, phonics and I believe it will also help encourage his talking. He’s already a big fan of it, picking the letter “M” out and giving it to me and saying “Mamma”. He also recognises the “A” as being the first letter of his name. Though he can’t say his name yet he does hold the letter “A” and then point to himself.

Obviously I really like this toy. Its a good solid wooden toy with many years of play in it. Its well built and sturdy – essential for Little Man and his new found love of throwing. I like the bright colours and the use of both upper and lower case letters. It looks beautiful sat on the shelf in Little Man’s room, or more often than not out on the floor. Whilst the pieces do go everywhere – I dropped most of them myself getting it out the toy box to photograph – you always know which you’re missing, and because they are so bright finding them is usually easy enough. I know this is meant to be a visual toy, one that you can display as well as play with, but I do feel the need to put it in something with a lid to try and protect it and stop us losing any letters.

Overall another wooden toy success from BigJigs Toys – I can’t wait to see what comes through our door next.

Bigjigs Play Patrol Finalist: Farm House Sorter Review

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Bigjigs Play Patrol, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 21-03-2013

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I was very excited and proud to reach the final stages of Bigjigs‘ search for members of their new Play Patrol. As one of the final 12 battling for one of just 5 spots we were sent a product to review as our final task. We received the brand new Farm House Sorter.
Shape sorters are something of a classic toy, one that I’m sure in some form or other every child owns. I know Little Man has owned more than a few in his life and they are a toy I’m generally a fan of. The premise is simple enough – you get a selection of shapes and a base unit with cut out holes in. You match the shapes to the holes and the shapes store inside. One of the reasons I like shape sorters is the fact that they are compact and the objective of them is basically to tidy up!

The Farm House Sorter from Bigjigs is pretty much what it says on the box. The ‘base unit’ is a wooden farm house. The ends are designed to look like the walls of a house and the top has a slate roof design, typical of traditional farm houses. Along each side you will find cut out holes in the shapes of things you’d expect to find on the farm – eight animals and a tree – and the shapes themselves feature the item on one side and then the name of the item written on the reverse. It all stows away nicely, with the “roof” removable for easy access and a carry handle so little ones can take it wherever they go.

From a parents point of view I think this is a great toy. Wooden toys are something I am very keen on. Yes we have plastic ones too, but only of the best quality. Wooden toys are long lasting and I can see this toy being used for many years to come. At the end of the day its not just a shape sorter. As well as improving hand-eye co-ordination and dexterity, it teaches animal recognition – Little Man is already pointing at and signing the names of animals he recognises – and can help with speech. If you clearly say the name of the animal as your child picks it up or puts it into the sorter they will eventually mimic you. It will be a great spelling aid in the future, with each word being written clearly on the reverse of the shape. Start simple with “Cat” or “Pig” and work up to the longer words such as “Horse” or “Chicken”. There’s a good range of animals featured, all of which you can point out on trips to a real farm, but I must admit I find the addition of a “Tree” a little weird. Trees are hardly farm specific. Surely another animal could have been thought of, or this strange ninth piece just eliminated all together.

I love that the roof comes off to allow instant access to the shapes but also the effort which has gone into designing the lid so it looks like a roof and the way it attaches to the house. This toy has a great aesthetic appeal to parents and children alike. The farm house will look great on a shelf in a child’s bedroom or playroom. It looks like a quality toy because it is a quality toy. The design team have obviously put a lot of thought into how it looks and that is abundantly clear. Each shape is a different bright colour so this toy could also be used to teach those. I love the handle. Its nice and sturdy perfect for toddlers to use. Little Man has already wandered around the lounge proudly carrying his new farm house. The handle ensures its carried upright too, so there’ll be no pieces scattered all around the house.

The Farm House Sorter is suitable from 1 year plus and is available now from the Bigjigs website.