Stretching potential

We went to visit my brother and his new fiancée yesterday.  My 18 month old was asleep.  My eldest whispered to me, “Mommy, where are the toys?”

“I don’t think they have toys, Sweetheart.  Go and see what you can find outside.”

He came back after 2 whole minutes.  “Mommy, please can you ask them where the toys are.”

Ok. The property is massive.  It’s also the home where I grew up.  There are big hills to roll down, bushes with ideal holes for dens, trees to climb, sticks to find,  rocks and stones for construction. Despite the wonderful space, warm weather and blank slate of nature, he was going to need some guidance.

Dad took him outside and wandered around with him, until he found a few sticks that could maybe pass as guns.  One stick was so realistic it might’ve been a gun in a previous life.  I’m not a fan of weapons and associated play but yes, here we were.  We have reached That Stage.

sticks-and-stones

Yet he was still bored.  “Mommy, when can we go home?”  Home to heaps of cars, sports equipment, clay and crayons, animals and superheroes, swings and the trampoline.

We don’t have tv.  My kids generally spend most of their free time building Lego, paging through books, or climbing the jungle gym.  They like to help me “cook” dinner (James called himself Jamesie Oliver yesterday), water the garden and ride their bikes.  Yet here in a new environment, my child’s dependence on accessories for play caught me off guard.

Why do our kids need to be entertained?  We can’t just blame screens (as I often do) because ours could perhaps be described as a techno-phobic household.

This generation lacks two things.

  1. a) The effort that must be put in to develop an active imagination
  2. b) Simple props for play that don’t suggest what the end product should be

I’ve caught myself giving my three-year old way too many suggestions.   I think I’m helping him with ideas, but I’m actually hindering the creative process by leading his mind down a certain path.  Want to check whether you’re doing the same?  Ask your child to draw something.  Then ask them what it is.  Don’t make any suggestions!  Their answers will blow you away.

We played with kites.  Today’s kids have drones.  A kite requires a stable posture, reactivity to sensory feedback from arms and eyes, and physical strength.  A drone requires strength in those same to thumbs that get so much practice on the phone.

We dialled numbers on the landline to call our friends. We had to remember the number, or look it up alphabetically in the telephone book.  We had to dial. We had to have manners to request from our friend’s parent whether we could speak to them. Today it’s all one touch, very little mental effort required. Oh wait, they don’t even need to speak.

Some of the reason my children might be a little lazy to put in the creative effort stems from my own desire for a more peaceful home.  I have found the last year to be really challenging with my youngest, and if I was prepared to be Mom Entertainment after school, a little less boredom might mean a little more quiet, a little less nagging.  So we buy new “educational” toys, organise play dates, follow Pinterest for “101 ideas for play with your preschoolers”, and bring more clutter into our homes.  I see you, tired Mommy.  I understand.  Me too.  If my children are “impressed” by my efforts, they’ll play happily at home.

But when it comes to toys –have a look at the demands they place on your child.  Are they simple or complex?  Do they leave anything at all up to the imagination, or do they have so much detail that “they can do so many things”.  Is there any room for creativity or do they aim to “WOW” your child? Is your child playing actively or just being entertained? Was developer really bothered about your child’s best interest, or was he selling to you, the parent, to impress you and make a quick buck?

Your child can learn so much more from simple props/loose items.  A colander becomes a space helmet.  The laundry basket is a boat. Let them think – what can be added to this “toy” so that it can go/be longer/reach higher/ move faster? What do we have in the house that can be used for x/y/z?

We naturally want the best for our children.  I myself looked at the baby toys this weekend and wondered which ones could get repurposed, yet I found myself hanging on to them just a little longer, scared to abandon a potential learning opportunity to Hospice.  But if I’m honest, I know that my kids would do so much better with a blank slate, less clutter.  Imagine what would happen if they came home to empty toy chests and just a few play props lying in the middle of the garden!  I tell you what, there might be some whining at first, but then…the magic would start to happen!

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Oh boi!

When Moluk released Oogi and friends (Jnr, Bongo, Pilla, Oogifant) I did not forsee the arrival of this precious addition to the zoo…

boi_water

Is it a duck? A penguin?  While I’m pretty sure it’s a bird of sorts, you might be surprised to learn that it’s a water bird!  Not only is Boi the cutest wobble toy we’ve found, with a captivating roll in all directions, but he surprisingly floats!  This makes Boi a dual-purpose bird – entertaining little ones on land and in the bath.

Add to the multi-purpose base his suction beak and voila! Possibilities are once again endless, as is the focus when Moluk design a new member of the family.  Of course he is great friends with other members of the Oogi clan..

What I particularly like about Boi is the wonderful sensory appeal.  The white base is so smooth and glossy you can’t help but run your fingers over the almost mirror-like surface.  And the black head and beak are made from silicone – squishy, malleable, and a great fidget toy.

While the simple colour scheme of Boi (as well as his waddle) is most reminiscent of a penguin, it also appeals to the popular monochrome Nordic theme in so many homes these days.

 

Boi will be arriving in South Africa in the next few weeks so keep your eyes on our Facebook page for news 🙂

boi_kid

New from MOLUK

A significant amount of time has passed since the last post, and in that time our friends at Moluk have been hard at work preparing two new toys for the European summer – Mox and Nello. Read below for news from Zurich…

Mox
Next to the doll the ball is probably the most popular and universal toy. Mox combines both worlds: It has the expressive qualities of a puppet with a big mouth and the endless possibilities of a ball that can be rolled, thrown, caught or even juggled. One of the biggest surprises to most people is usually the sound Mox makes when you knock with it against your head or other objects. Filled with coins or beans Mox becoms a rattle. If you squeeze it or turn it inside out the expression of the ball changes and you discover many new faces. It’s like a tangible, 3-dimensional emoticon and in our social media campains #moxicons will be one of the hashtags we are planning to use. With its trademark simplicity and depth of possiblities we see Mox as a strong new member or the MOLUK family. It has no restrictions regarding age and can be sold as a baby toy, compact travel toy, juggling toy, fidget toy for stressed manager and in many other areas. We can’t wait to see all the uses kids will come up with once they have Mox in their hands.

Mox comes in two versions: The open display is geared towards shops where it fits next to the cashier and should make for some fun conversation while the 3-set box is mainly designed for online retailers, gift shops that like items in boxes or educational vendors who prefer sets.

mox_faces

Nello
Nello is very closely related to Bilibo. Both are what we call “tools for play”: Simple, intriguing objects that tickle the imagination and invite kids to invent their own games and stories. Like Bilibo Nello unites several toys in one. It is a color puzzle, a nesting toy, a marble run, a floating island in the bath or a sand toy at the beach. You can roll, spin and swing the rings, throw and catch them. Use them as targets for games like tiddlywinks or as beautiful props for role and pretend play. The bold shapes and bright colors have an iconic quality and look great even when the toys are just lying around before or after play. Nello is made of the same robust material as Bilibo and 100% recyclable. It comes in sets of 3 pieces or a Nello Max set with 9 pieces containing all sizes and colors in one box. This offers a great value, especially for educational channels.

nello_colors nello_play1

Raindrops for Spring

At a recent trade expo called SARCDA we were very happy to see a surge in the number of parents, teachers, and toy retailers showing interest in a fantastic little water toy called Pluï.  Pluï, designed by Moluk, is also known as The Rain Ball, because children can control the rate of air flow through the toy by blocking the top hole with their finger – and create rain drops.  To date, Pluï has not sold very well – perhaps due to a lack of understanding of its potential,  but I’m happy to say that nursery schools and even swim school teachers from around the country have taken Pluï home with them.

If you’d like to read a full review on Pluï, read it here.  And remember, Pluï is available on www.straightzigzag.com.

Happy water playing in the warmer weather!

plui_play_2 plui

 

Too soon for school?

Here is a very interesting article posted by a mommy friend and, co-incidently, editor of our new book.  This article, School-starting Age: The Evidence, takes a look at a study by Cambridge University which identifies the potential risks of starting formal schooling at the age of three or four, including learning about letters and numbers.  A later start does NOT compromise their abilities in literacy or numeracy, and in fact starting too early can foster a negative attitude towards reading.

Children need more opportunity for free-flowing, spontaneous play – where there are no written guidelines or outcomes.  They need open space and a chance to use their developing minds creatively, rather than in parrot-fashion. 

So what should our pre-schoolers be doing?  Nursery schools should be encouraged to allow free play time with a variety of random objects that are multi-purpose.  In this way, two play sessions will never be the same.  Children will not be bored, and their self-confidence and creativity will soar as they are given a chance to explore the nooks and crannies of their imaginations.  One particular study quoted in the article states that “an extended period of high-quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households”.

If you would like to read more about the value of free-play opportunities and true play experiences, why not order a copy of our book Playvolution: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Valuable Experiences Through Play?

Happy playing!

an extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households – See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence#sthash.FnXH9SOC.wsgV4dgL.dpuf
an extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households – See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence#sthash.FnXH9SOC.wsgV4dgL.dpuf
an extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households – See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence#sthash.FnXH9SOC.wsgV4dgL.dpuf

What’s it all about?

With the imminent launch of our first book on the horizon, we have taken some time to think about what exactly it is that we do here at Straight Zigzag and whether the general public, parents, teachers, au pairs, aunties and uncles, grandparents, and anyone involved with children, are ready for the message that the book brings.

When the play company was an undercurrent for many of our plans for the future but not yet a reality, we felt like the ideas we wanted to share with the world were straight forward and original.  We had one aim: to make people realise the value of spontaneous play before this skill and activity was lost to a world of busy-ness.  Now that it’s all written down, I have come to see that even those who are advocates for play might not all be on the same side.  We have the pro-play in all its forms team, who will schedule activities in each of the following categories: gross motor, fine motor, construction, creativity, role play and imaginative play.  Then we have the spontaneous play team, who promote leaving kids to their own devices and stopping just short of anarchy.  We have the no-tech hippies who believe technology is robbing children of real life, and the gadget freaks who insist on buying every interactive screen to ensure that their children are not left behind.

In all this to and fro of who’s right and who’s children will turn out best, it’s important to remember why we argue for one side or the other.  What is it that motivated you to chose a side?  Was it a knee-jerk reaction to something the Jones’s bought or said, or did you come from a place of searching for a better sense of balance in your own life.  Before anyone stands on a soap box it’s good to acknowledge that the world as we know it is changing at such a rapid rate that we all clutch at the straws of certainty.  We want to be assured that our method is best, and that our children will turn out okay.

The comforting message of the book is this: children are resilient, and if left to their own devices, will figure out a way.  They will learn what they need to know and they will meet their basic needs.  Give them space, an imagination and gravity, and relax.  EGBOK.

[For more information on Playvolution: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Valuable Experiences Through Play please visit www.playvolutionbook.com]

After being back from the Nuremberg Toy Fair for a good few weeks I have yet to see a review of Moluk’s latest offering – so here is mine.  Meet the the cutest and most flexible (in many ways) little figure at the fair: Oogi!

Oogi is made of silicon.  He has extra-long arms and his head, hands and feet are little suction cups. When hurled from a distance towards any smooth surface, Oogi grabs hold with his head, a hand or foot, leaving him dangling there like Spiderman. His long arms are also very expressive, and can be tied, crossed, stuck or joined to make this little guy come alive.

Image

Oogi also has friends, and like any little person, the more the merrier.  When Oogi’s friends come to play, the options multiply. By the nature of the design, Oogi likes to hold onto his friends and forms a great play companion to the Bilibo or Bilibo minis.  Oogi is available in red and blue, and in two sizes, Oogi and Oogi Junior.

Image

Here are some of the reasons occupational therapists love Oogi:

  • Great for creative play and imagination;
  • Can be used to talk about and imitate emotions;
  • The silicon is easy for little hands to manipulate.  Tying his arms teaches the starting knot for tying shoes;
  • Throwing Oogi across the room towards a flat surface is great for loosening the shoulders and can be used for over- or under-arm throwing, improving eye-hand coordination;
  • It’s a great unisex figurine – limited only by the limits of the child’s imagination;
  • Safe for a large age-range of children, from toddlers to adults;
  • Great for group play; and
  • A great fidget toy!

One of my favourite activities with him is using Oogi against a mirror to make patterns, learn about left and right and play in the shaving foam.

What are your Oogi-ideas?