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.
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.
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?
Due to the nature of the toys that capture the imaginations of children and not necessarily adults, we’ve decided to review some great toys one by one, for the adults that buy them for the kids. Today’s blog post is the first in that series as we review the Pluï.
Pluï is a fun new water toy, perfect for summer as well as bath time. It’s a hard sphere with bumps, available in blue, yellow and green. At first I thought it looked a bit like a farm yard animal, maybe a cow or pig. But on closer inspection it becomes apparent that each little bump has a hole – and that’s where the fun starts!
Pluï makes rain. The name was developed from the french word pluie or rain. All you need to do is hold it under the water until it fills up. Pick it up using one finger to close off the single hole on the top of the toy. As you lift your finger to uncover the hole, rain starts to flow from the holes at the bottom of the toy. Persistent rain (until the water runs out). But this is where the fun comes in – stop the rain, or bob your finger up and down to create lighter drops or even drizzle. And if you have two or three pluï, and some friends, you could really create a downpour in the bath tub! Even tiny hands can manage two at a time.
Some little creative souls started their own version of Händel’s “Water Music”, each with their index finger tapping away at the top hole at a different speed to create their own rhythm as the drops hit the surface of the water. What fun! You see, moms and dads, it’s not about what the toy looks like to us, or what WE think it “does” or can be used for. A toy is merely an instrument with which a child’s imagination can be tapped. It provides a starting point from which they can create their own story.
As a paediatric occupational therapist, I have my own reasons for appreciating the design of Pluï. I like the size – similar to that of a tennis ball which gets a nice spherical grip with a large web space. This is something we’re always looking for to encourage strong hands and a good pencil grip later on. On top of that, I like the way the index (pointer) finger has to control the speed of the water flow. Individual finger movements are critical for the development of fine motor control and dexterity. If little hands are too tiny to manage that, a toddler can use two hands, one to hold and one to block the hole (great for bilateral integration). And water play as a medium is a lovely starting point for children with tactile defensiveness.
So whether you’re playing with your Pluï in the bathtub or in the swimming pool, have fun this summer. But remember – safety always comes first.
PS Here’s a video of some children playing with Pluï!
Last week I had the privilege of speaking to one of the world’s leading minds in toy development. Alex Hochstrasser, designer and creator of the Bilibo shared the essence of play with me:
“Children LEARN when they FORGET what they are doing.”
As an occupational therapist I spend my sessions planning exactly how a child will reach a goal I have for them through play. But what I have realised is that it is sometimes in that very planning that the essence of play itself is lost. It is when the child is totally absorbed in the moment, the experience, the challenge, and the joy of the interaction with an object or their environment, that true learning takes place. Let’s leave the planning up to the creative imaginations of the kids, for they have the heart and spirit to show us how to really forget what we’re doing, and just PLAY!
In a day and age where children are drawn to the latest branded and battery-operated toys, as an occupational therapist I’m searching for classic toys. By classic, I mean toys that in their simplicity afford children multiple developmental opportunies – for gross and fine motor skills, creative and imaginative thinking, perceptual development, sensory exploration, role playing and interaction with others.
History has given a few obvious classics. Building blocks can be so much more than towers. They can be cars, gates and trains. Villages and cities. Snakes and elephants. castles and dungeons. Pathways and roadblocks. Another homemade toy is the cotton reel – which can be turned into anything from wheels to french knitting.
Today I would like to introduce to you the Bilibo. This is a dome-shaped bucket/recepticle, with a wavy edge and two holes. It’s hard to describe for you because it’s not a “thing” that we are familiar with. In it’s very uniqueness comes the challenge – what is it? What can I do with it? How do I play with it? And through these questions, the child starts to explore the essence of play. Although not a classic, it will be lauded in the future for its unique contribution to development in a technologically focused world. To read more, go to http://www.bilibo.com
What can you do with your Bilibo? Who can you be?
What toys would you nominate as classics? All suggestions welcome, and happy playing!