Toy of the month – August 2014

Quut toys – Alto and Cuppi

One of the toys that I was excited to discover at this year’s Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg was by young Belgian design company Quut. These young designers and parents had re-designed the way that sand toys should look and work -finally!

My kids absolutely adore playing in the sand, both at playgrounds and at the beach. They can be there for hours on end, which is an impressive feat given children’s short attention spans.

However, all the sand toys that I have bought so far to make sand castles has usually resulted in a sandy mess! What impressed me most about the Quut Beach toys were the ingenious designs that they had come up with which were relatively compact in size, brightly coloured and made of durable hard plastic which meant they were not just another throw away sand toy designated for the rubbish bin after a summer holiday.

As we were living in Nuremberg at the time I originally wrote this review, there were no beaches close by, however, we had a summer holiday planned to Turkey in late May and I wanted to buy some of these toys to test out on our trip.  I chose the Alto and Cuppi as I thought they were best suited to our needs of wanting to build sand castles and my kids love a good marble run which you can create with the Cuppi. They also both fit in our suitcases!

We had a lot of fun playing around with these toys to make the perfect sand castles on our trip away. I have to admit though my husband was a much better sand castle builder than me, but shhh don’t tell him!

In playing and creating sand castles with both the Alto and the Cuppi ( it is good to use as a scoop if you don’t have a shovel), I would say a few things… you need good clean sand, it can’t have pebbles in it as they can create air bubbles which don’t allow the sand castle to stand up. Also it can’t be too wet as then the castle just collapses. I think these toys would be perfect in sand pits as well as at the beach. There is definitely some trial and error in building a castle with these toys but you have a lot of fun in the process!

We have even used the Cuppi in the bath which the boys loved as they could tip and pour water to their hearts content. Not as much fun for Mama who had to clean up the floor afterwards.

We have also used the Quut beach toys  a fair few times at our local playground. I have to say all the kids in the playground where quickly attracted to the brightly coloured designs and they wanted to have a go at building a sand castle straight away. We have had crowds of kids each time we have brought the Quut toys with us and they have all had an absolute ball with them!

I am looking forward the fun we can have with our Quut over the Summer now we are living back in Australia!

Designed in Belgium and made in China

Ages: 12 months

RRP: Alto £14.99 and Cuppi £7.99.

Great for: construction, fine motor skills and fun in the sun! 

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Toy of the month – July 2014

Dinosaur Snappets

I am so upset to have lost this particular toy review for Snappets! My original piece on Snappets was all about “ Realising your dreams” and that if you believe in your dreams that they can come true; with a bit of passion, dedication, motivation and desire.

I was so thrilled to be sent a Snappet prototype back in July and to be given the opportunity to review this fabulous new toy that was not yet even on the market!

Snappets are paper hand puppets that you guessed it make a “Snap!” when you open and close the dinosaur’s mouth. They are made from a single piece of cardboard. They now come in over 8 different dinosaurs and are available in 2 different types – full colour or black and white, so your child can colour and create their own dinosaur.

Zachary Opaskar designed his paper hand puppets back at University 15 years ago but it was not until recently he revisited this original design and with the support of his fiancé he decided to turn his design in to reality.

With his own money, he was able to make the first design and die to create his first prototype. He was starting to turn “Snappets” into reality. However, he didn’t have the financial backing he needed to complete his dream of 7 more dies to create the 8 Dinosaur puppets he had originally designed.  With the help of crowd funding program, Kickstarter, he was able to raise the USD $10,000 and more that he needed for the dies to make his paper puppets a reality as a fab new toy.

Kickstarter is a brilliant website that allows designers, singers, creatives and more to start up a campaign to raise money toward the design they want to become reality or an album they want to produce.

Through building up social media interest and local support in his hometown, I can happily say that Zachary received all the funding for his Kickstarter campaign that he required to start his Dinosaur pupper business.

Snappets are now in production and all paper puppets have been sent out as of the 18th October to the supporters who funded his Kickstarter campaign. HUGE Congrats Zachary!

And to the toy review you ask?

Snappets are pretty easy to build following the online vimeo tutorial as well as the instructions provided with each puppet. I had to help both my children to build their puppet but I think from ages 7+ they could do it themselves. My eldest was able to part of the construction himself and need my help for the smaller, trickier bit.

On each Snappet page there are some facts about each Dinosaur that you are building.

My kids had a ball running around imagining they were dinosaurs, chasing each other, giving the dinosaur food and generally causing dino chaos!!

One thing I would say about the prototype which may have been fixed with the new Snappets, is that the paper inserts where you put the puppet together can come out during rigorous “dino play”. To rectify this, I used some sellotape/sticky tape over these inserts to ensure they did not come out anymore.

I think Zachary has done an utterly awesome job with these fabulous dinosaur paper puppets! He has realised his dream; raising the funding for his designs through a crowd funding program and ultimately created a completely unique and creative toy for kids.

It just goes to show that if you believe in your dreams, one day they can and they will come true!

Designed and made in the USA.

Ages: 4+ 

RRP: USD $3.99 each or a pack of 4 for $14.99

Great for: construction, creative/role play, and they would make great party favours! 

Disclosure: in order to complete this review, we were given our Snappets as a gift. 

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Toy of the month – June 2014

GG* Oekaki House by Kukkia

I always loved  playing with an “Etch a Sketch” as a child, creating drawing after drawing and happily or unhappily erasing them when I was finished.  I had been on the lookout for one for the boys after they were playing with one on a ski holiday earlier in the year. However,  once I started researching those available they didn’t get great reviews, with many saying they broke within a few months. I thought I would prefer to spend a little more money and find one that was well made, sturdy and not prone to breaking and it would not doubt save me money in the long run!

I then saw an IG post from Abacus Kids regarding a wooden magnetic drawing board and I knew this was what I had been searching for! Plus Faye was having a little sale on at that time, so I couldn’t resist buying this toy for my son’s birthday!

The gg* Oekaki Drawing board house comes in a cute little carry bag for travel on road trips, to the grandparents or even out to restaurants. It also helps for easy storage AND the drawing board is as cute as it looks in the photos!

My son adored playing with this present on his 2nd birthday. The first thing on the toy he was drawn to was the abacus on top of the house. He played with that for a few minutes before he then moved on to playing with the actual drawing board.

When he first started to play with the drawing board,  he loved playing with the stamps and stamping them on the board. 6 months down the track he can now use the pen more and make swirls and scribbles which is great for his fine motor skill development. His eldest brother J, loves drawing with it as well and creating little masterpieces. I adore that the drawing board is in colour too! I always remembered mine as a child was black and white.

This toy is not cheap in comparison with the plastic variety, but it is well made, seriously cute and a lot of fun for your kids! This is definitely a case of quality over quantity and I am glad I chose this wooden drawing board over the plastic variety.

One point to note, is that the little running dog that erases each creation was a little stiff to start but it has loosened up with use.  The only other thing I would mention is the screen sometimes cuts out with the drawing but if you shake it or pull the dog across, it fixes that problem.

We have other toys from Kukkia like their little wooden car and I have to say they are great quality, gorgeously designed and beautifully presented.

Designed in Japan and made in Vietnam by Kukkia.

Ages 2+

RRP: £50.00

Great for: fine motor skills, creative play, hand and eye coordination, shape and colour recognition and learning to draw/write. 

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Toy of the month – May 2014

 Apple House by Rock and Pebble

If you follow me on Instagram you will know how much I love and adore Rock and Pebble! They are a truly unique, inspiring and wonderfully creative label brought to you by the awesome Mr Printables  (check out this site for AMAZING free yep you guessed it,  printables).

It was love at first sight when I saw their Apple and Pear houses in February this year via Abacus Kids‘ IG account and I knew that they would make the perfect 2nd Birthday present for my youngest H.

As he loves apples, it was the Apple House for us. I adored playing with my dolls house as a child. It was one that my father had made for me and it had the coolest silver roof!! I felt that just because I had 2 boys and not girls, that didn’t mean I should deprive them of the same joy, imaginative play and fun that a doll’s house provides.

The Apple house is a perfect unisex doll’s house that has been so brilliantly designed that it comes all flat packed in a cute grey bag.  It allows you  then to pack it up when it is not in use. I have to warn you though, it will be in constant use!

As we bought our Apple House as part of their original launch, we received 4 cute pebbles (wooden peg people) included. You can now buy these separately as Modern, Color and Alphabet and they come with reusable clothing! So adorable and yes we had to buy these too as our Apple House likes having guests come to visit.

Doll’s houses by their nature are generally big and bulky and require a lot of room in a child’s bedroom or playroom.  I wanted something we could travel with and easily assemble and dissemble when required.

Rock and Pebble are a US based company that manufactures the houses in the UK using European Birch wood. They felt it was more environmentally sustainable to have the houses made close to where the wood is cut rather than shipping it all the way to the US to manufacture.  I love their catchphrase, “Natural, non toxic, sustainable is our goal.”

Their inspirations for both their doll houses and pebbles have come from their parent company, Mr Printables. Both of the designs were amazing printables that were so hugely popular they decided to create something more permanent using sustainably sourced wood.

If you want to inspire your child with wooden toys that are brilliantly designed and manufactured and that provoke your child’s imagination and sense of  wonder and help to contribute to a greener world, then look no further than Rock and Pebble. Plus these doll houses look  seriously stunning in your children’s room!

Ages: 3+ ( although with parental supervision due to the little pebbles, it is fine from 2+) 

RRP £80.00

Great for: fine motor skills, imaginative/creative play and role play.

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Toy of the month – April 2014

 Starring Us – Rocket Train Adventure

This  April,  my “Toy of the Month” is a rather special one! It is a personalised children’s book called the “Rocket Train Adventure” by Starring Us.  I was asked to review this book and I was given our copy as a gift in order to complete the review.

As we live over 15,000 km away from our family who all live in Australia, this review has special significance as my children have only seen their families in real life a handful of times. This book helps to remind them of their beautiful family members back home, who all miss them dearly.

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