Stretching potential

Archive for the ‘Creative thinking’ Category

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]

Introducing: Oogi – a funny little figure

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.

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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.

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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?

Book: Playvolution

Straight Zigzag is getting ready for the launch of their book, Playvolution – The Ultimate Guide to Developing Valuable Experiences Through Play.

Go to www.playvolutionbook.com to sign up.  You’ll get information regarding release dates and where the book can be ordered, as well as FREE DOWNLOADS of great things to keep the preschoolers busy.

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Happy playing!

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Impressions from Spielwarenmesse 2014

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I’ve just returned home from a crazy week-long trip to Nuremberg, Germany, where anyone who’s anyone in the toy world, from maufacturer to retailer, has been meeting new people and showcasing their ideas. Twelve massive halls presented every toy you can imagine.  Halls with dolls and puppets, to model railways, to tech toys and new trends.  Countries presented the very best they had to offer.  While some designers punted the traditional and classic toys in a new way, others made apps to drag every possible play thing into the digital era.

I have posted a short 2-min video for those who would like a visual walk-through…

One of the most exciting concepts at the fair was the addition of a Trend Gallery, in which new toy trends are analysed and presented.  I will be covering each of these in separate blog posts over the coming weeks.

Another highlight was the release of two fantastic new toys from Moluk, the Oogi and Plui Rain Cloud.  These will also be covered in their own blog post and we’ll send you links for their videos as soon as we have them.

Happy playing!

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“Spontaneous pl…

“Spontaneous play is the delicate dance of childhood that strengthens the mind and body, and nourishes the soul.” – Dr Joe L. Frost

Play is boring!

Yep, I said it.  Come on- you have to agree with me, it’s what most of your kids think.  Most of the under 10’s, and dare I say under 7’s, I meet these days are glued to a screen, be it a 50-inch flat-screen in their bedroom, Dad’s iPad or Mom’s smartphone (or their own!).  Dare to voice the sentiment we all grew up with (“Go and play outside”) and these techno-savvy preschoolers will bombard you with a long list of why they can’t.  It’s too hot. It’s too cold.  I don’t have any friends to play with.  You must come too.  There’s nothing to do out there.  Play is boring.

Gone are the days when the tools needed for play were your body, some space and an imagination.  Children want to be entertained.  Fun less creative effort.

The comments from our recent trip to Disneyworld were delayed as a result of Nelson Mandela’s passing soon after our return, so let me start the new year by sharing some of my thoughts from that fairytale experience.  Here in South Africa, most children have heard of Disneyworld/Disneyland, yet although they might wish to visit, a trans-atlantic flight to a theme park is beyond the scope of most vacation budgets.  As qualified professionals never too old to play, we eventually had the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

Disney has it all worked out.  Even from the highway leading up to Disneyworld you are invited to believe that dreams really do come true.  Everything is magical.  Everything works.  Everything glitters.  As soon as you enter The Magic Kingdom every building and character looks as though they stepped straight off the set of one of the many Disney movies we all grew up with, and there, in the distance, is the blue and white castle which sparkled at the beginning and end of each one.  The symphonies playing over the loudspeakers put a bounce in your step.  It is a world without sad faces, without litter, without evil characters.  Every interaction is an invitation to be entertained.  Little girls dressed up as princesses prance around in mini ball gowns and with tiaras in their hair.  My goodness, even the queueing is turned into an entertainment experience with video games along the way as you wind your way ever closer to Space Mountain, you’re invited to share a joke with Mike from Monsters University at the Laugh Floor, or you play with the honey in the Hundred Acre Wood.

And yet, amongst all this happiness, was an uneasiness in my soul.  While some families posed for portraits here and there, many children spent the day staring at their iPads as they tapped the screen to Instagram yet another snap of the day. I couldn’t help but feel that they were missing out on the whole expereince – to really look at the beauty and intricate detail of the environment.  Did they notice the bushes cut into characters from Alice in Wonderland? Did they see Winnie the Pooh sneaking past as he headed towards a meet-and-greet area? Did they feel the fake snow falling on their noses that wasn’t cold?

Randi Zuckerberg, (yes, sister to Mark from Facebook fame) commented in her book Dot Complicated on the phenomenon gripping today’s children – that if you didn’t post a pic of it, it didn’t happen.  So actually what I was witnessing was a severe new form of social anxiety – if these children didn’t post it, did it really happen?  Were they really there?  What would their friends think? Well let’s be contraversial for a moment – I propose that it’s those children who DIDN’T post every moment that were really and truely there, in the moment, absorbing it all.  They were the ones who had the full experience – they saw, smelt, heard, felt and tasted every carefully thought out Disney detail.  They were the ones who were in essence PRESENT for the experience.

You would think that in a world that provides insta-tainment at the click of a button or a swipe of your finger, children would be ready to lap up every detail of a done-for-you play experience.  And yet, it’s that very same world that robs them of the play they paid many dollars to “see”.

Tinkering and learning and playing co-exist

My brother was a “tinkerer” as a child, and tinkering as a form of play can have far-reaching benefits.  Check out this article from the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303610504577418230462238156.html …