I hope you have started your 2017 with joy, love and happiness and that this year you have set many mindful intentions to perhaps be less busy, be more present and to enjoy each and every day.
I have had the boys the past 6 weeks over the summer school holidays and normally I am a little apprehensive as to how I will keep them entertained but this holidays seemed, well a little easier. As they get older there is more interaction, sustained play and for a longer period of time. There have been tantrums don’t get me wrong, they have been loud and long but perhaps parenting is getting that teeny tiny bit easier…well until next week when things will no doubt change again.
This month sees us review the brilliant French Marbotics range. This is a range that I took notice of last year as I was intrigued by the idea of mixing wooden toys and technology. The Smart numbers and Smart letters range are distributed exclusively in Australia by Keld Industries who kindly sent me the range to test out and review.
After realising this review will become much too long for you my lovely readers, I have decided to split out the review and for January review Smart Numbers and for February, Smart Letters. Each product deserves its own review as there are 18 different applications across the 3 free apps provided. This product is one where you definitely get your money’s worth!
Two Little Ducklings – Australian animal flash card set
I am always so excited to find unique toys and gifts that are handmade and created by wonderful and truly divine people, case in point Two Little Ducklings. I discovered Jacinta’s IG feed back in January this year and I straight away fell in love with her designs and creations. She was one of the first accounts that truly took my breath away with her beautiful images and products. Jacinta very kindly gifted me a set of flash cards to review for this month’s Toy of the Month.
Jacinta Weir is a Melbourne based designer who designs and makes cards, invitations, prints, gift wrap, name charts, as well as educational gifts for children. All designs are digitally printed on environmentally friendly paper.
The products that first drew my attention were her beautiful flash cards. I am always on the look out for new ways to educate my children and flash cards are a fun way to introduce them to the basics. Jacinta now produces 6 different designs for her flash cards being: alphabet, shapes, counting, colour, animals and my personal favourite, her Australian animal flash cards.
As my son’s were both born in England but they have Australian heritage as well, they have not grown up knowing all their native Australian animals. They know the Kangaroo, Koala, Kookaburra and Crocodile but not too many others. This flash card pack was the perfect way to introduce some new and old Australian animals to them and have fun along the way.
Arriving in a minimal packaging is a pack of 16 gorgeous cards. Each card is approximately 10cm x 15cm with rounded corners and a divine animal on the front with large text underneath telling you the name of the animal.
We had a great play session one afternoon going through each card, sounding out the words, looking at each picture and making the noise of each animal. We even sang a few songs and played a memory game with them as well. There was a lot of fun, noise, laughter and learning going on that rainy afternoon. Suffice to say after our little flash card session, my boys now know a little more about Australian animals!
Ages: 12 months +
Great for: hand and eye coordination, memory aid tool and observation skills
Disclosure: we were gifted this pack of cards in order to review them.
Orchard Toys – Giant Road Jigsaw Puzzle and Playmat
I have to say we are HUGE fans of Orchard Toys in this household. We cannot get enough of their brilliant puzzles and games which are well designed and stand up to test of toddlers and kids playing with them day in and day out. We do take care of our puzzles but I have to say these are fantastically made as they don’t easily bend and are sturdy and strong.
I also love that Orchard Toys are designed and made in the UK. It is so rare these days to find large toy companies that still produce in their country of origin and I love that Orchard still do! It certainly shows in their products.
The Giant Road Playmat Puzzle is a fantastic multi-functional toy that is not only a giant floor puzzle but it can also be used as a play mat and racing car track. This is quite an unusual puzzle, in that in using the 20 large puzzle pieces provided, there is notjust one way to construct the puzzle. Instead it has been so cleverly designed that there are multiple ways to build the puzzle, which means you can have a different track or street scene every time. You can even build 2 small puzzles if you need to appease 2 children! The design on each puzzle piece are of a busy town and its streets reminiscent of a London street or busy high street in England.
We use this puzzle over and over again and it can be set up for a number of days to allow full play capacity. We all help to build the puzzle together in the design we decide works for that day and then the fun really begins! My boys just love racing their cars around the puzzle track. They get out their Hot Wheels cars, Playmobil, wooden peg dolls and cars and we make a whole town scene which we then make up little stories for the cars to add another element to play time.
There are fantastic every day activities included on the puzzle, like people crossing the road, elderly people feeding pigeons, physically disabled people in wheel chairs, people carrying groceries, school children crossing the street, an icecream vendor, people walking their dog, and construction workers working on the roads. There is so much to look at and so many different scenes that can be used to create a multitude of stories and help to educate children about everyday life as well as to create imaginary situations.
This year Orchard Toys brought out an addition to this puzzle, the “On the Farm” Giant Jigsaw Playmat puzzle which I viewed at the Spielwarenmesse in February. This is a 14 piece puzzle that comes with stand up characters that you can use to add to this Giant Road Puzzle. They also have the Giant Town Puzzle Playmat which also can be used with the Road and Farm giant puzzles. All 3 puzzles are an amazingly creative concept in giant floor puzzles which you and your children will enjoy spending hours of fun constructing, creating and playing.
Ages 3 +
Included: 20 pieces in a sturdy carry case
This is a great toy for: problem solving, construction skills, creative thinking, gross motor skills, and imaginative play.