Stretching potential

Posts tagged ‘Play’

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!

Toy Review: Pluï

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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!

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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.

Happy Playing!

SZZ

PS Here’s a video of some children playing with Pluï!

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”.

Madiba loved the children

In the light of Thursday’s sad news of the passing of our much-loved and respected Tata Nelson Mandela, I thought it only appropriate to ponder for a moment on this great man’s life before we launch into the chaos of the festive season.

Firstly, I’d like to welcome all our new readers.  When I’d blogged previously, Straight Zigzag was more of an ideal, a philosophy about play, a notion of how we’d like to see children develop.  Now I can honestly say that Straight Zigzag has launched into the atmosphere, become a name that people ask us about and is developing the momentum to really change the way that us adults see the “work of play” that children understand so well. You’re all so welcome and we’re happy to know that you’re along for the ride!

So back to our former president and the father of the nation we call home.  So many tributes have been playing non-stop on our tvs and radios for the last 4 days, and in so many of them we read and watch how Madiba treated the little ones.  There have been videos of children singing happy birthday to him, Mandela stopping to greet the sick, stories of how he acknowledged the children of those who worked for him.  One overarching value – compassion.

Maybe in the last few days you’ve received an email from us regarding Bilibos and Plui’s, but let’s not forget that Straight Zigzag is so much more than a toy shop.  Our real aim is to reach those who are missing out on play opportunities for whatever reason.  We’d like to attribute the Toy Sharing aspect of our vision to Madiba – a vision of sharing a generosity of spirit with everyone. So if you have reasonable looking toys that are no longer loved by your children, log onto www.straightzigzag.com and connect with us on the Toy Share page – we’ll make sure that some play experts (i.e. occupational therapists) match them to children who will love them.  Also use the opportunity to explain to your children where the toys are going – and that perhaps for every new toy they get this year, they could share one with someone else.  Compassion is a big word but it can be understood by the little ones when we show them how it’s done.

Wishing you and your families a happy, playful holiday season!

 

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Wait but why: a blog about those toys from yesteryear..

Wait but why: a blog about those toys from yesteryear..

So as I’ve mentioned before, we will not try to reinvent the wheel here.  We’re quite happy to draw your attention to the works of others who seem to have a unique grip on the concepts of “play” and “toys” – whether those be old or new, popular or not.  If you grew up in the 80s, then take the time to read this post from “wait but why”.  Happy reminiscing!