Reviews: play

Reviews: play

Reviews by Alice Ellerby and Jess Hazel

Voxblock Starter Pack

Sometimes you discover a product that has a transformational impact on your child. The Voxblock was that product for us. It is a screen-free audiobook player that functions so simply and intuitively that it allows children autonomy over the stories they listen to. My 6-year-old isn’t yet reading independently and while I love reading with her, the Voxblock allows her to have quiet time with a book on her own. When she first got it, she carried it around with her until she’d listened to all 2 hours and 39 minutes of A Bear Called Paddington! The audiobooks are beautifully designed blocks, and both they and the player are durable and lightweight, perfect for children to handle. You can listen through a built-in speaker or headphones. The starter pack includes the player, a protective bumper, and three audiobooks, and there’s a great range to choose from – classics, contemporary stories, music and meditations. AE


Fantastic Flowers

This is a fabulous educational art box for children. LOLA themes its boxes, and through the various art activities in Fantastic Flowers, children learn about different ways artists have been inspired by flowers through the centuries, before having a go at creating their own floral masterpieces. The materials included are all good quality and so much thought has been put into curating the art activities. We loved the cyanotype sun print, which is magical, and relatively easy for young children to achieve a beautiful result. We also enjoyed the 3-D vase painting. The photographs in the booklet provide inspiration, but there is a lot of space for children to use their own imaginations to create unique results. By understanding a bit about the artists whose work inspired the activities, children are encouraged to think of the art they make in the context of ‘real’ and valued work. AE


Bespoke Handmade Waldorf Doll

This beautifully crafted doll is lovely to hold! Dalston Dolls makes one-of-a-kind dolls to order, with some ready-made options available online. The dolls are gender-neutral, and kept intentionally simple to inspire open-ended, creative play. Natural fibres are used, including wool stuffing, which is warm and helps hold the comforting smell of home. Sustainability is important in the production of these dolls. High-quality recycled materials are used, and for this doll, material from a pair of woven wool trousers was repurposed for the coat. Excess British wool from Devon Duvets is used for the stuffing. Each doll takes around 10 hours to create, resulting in a durable, quality toy that will be a companion for many years. Mopsa, the maker, likes to work with parents to create unique dolls for their children – then there’s real magic! JH


Basket Funicular

The Basket Funicular by Kraul is a brilliant interactive toy for children. It is simple to operate and there are lots of set-ups you can try – horizontal, vertical, diagonal – so playing with it can evolve with children’s ideas about what they’d like to transport and where. I loved seeing the scientific thinking it prompted in my 6-year-old as she observed the effect of heavier versus lighter cargo. My children love small world play and they enjoyed transporting their favourite toys, creating a lovely story around what they were doing. The Basket Funicular is simple to set up and older children (from about 9) will be able to do this themselves. The string included is really long, so it’s fun to be ambitious with the route the baskets take. AE


Little Skittles Bowling Set

These skittles by Korko are made of a beautiful cork, making them smooth, durable and lightweight, perfect for young hands, and appropriate for indoor use. I love this classic game; it’s great for playing in families as it appeals to all ages. I played with my 6-year-old and 2-year-old and the game can be easily adapted to suit all players, with those who need to standing closer to the target. These skittles are for children from 18 months, and they are wonderfully tactile objects. My littlest was able to set them up herself, which was satisfying for her, and they come in a useful box you can store them in. A fun way to develop hand–eye coordination and to practise counting and taking turns. AE


Autumn Leaf Trio Set

The play dough is wonderfully sensory. The colours are punchy and as soon as you open the tin, you’re hit by the gorgeous fragrances. We particularly loved Autumn Leaf Orange which has a delicious smell of orange and cinnamon. Each 300g tin holds a good quantity of play dough and the texture is just right for easy manipulation by small hands. My children have always loved the hands-on, child-led nature of play dough and they enjoyed this set for hours – rolling, cutting, stamping, making pretend food. The dough lasts well, but when it’s past its best, it can be composted and the tins can be recycled, though they’re so lovely, I’m sure you’ll want to resuse them. AE


Spooktacular Oak Stamps

We used this beautiful stamp set with the Curiosity Corner play dough, and they’re perfect partners. The stamps are lovely objects in themselves – the shapes have been laser cut, and the oak blocks have been sanded and finished by hand. The Spooktacular set is great fun for Halloween and includes pumpkins, spiders, a ghost and a monster. My children loved experimenting with them and creating Halloween play dough biscuits and spooky scenes. Each stamp is approximately 2cm in height and 4.5cm in diameter, so they are easy for young children to hold and use. AE


Fly, Butterfly, Fly! Colouring Book

I had previously read the children’s book Fly, Butterfly, Fly! by Dom Conlon, illustrated by Anastasia Izlesou, so I was thrilled to discover this colouring book edition. The lyrical story tells of a Cabbage White who emerges from her cocoon and journeys around the world to encounter different butterfly species, environments and cultures. The illustrations are fabulously detailed, and children will love getting lost in the intricacies of the pictures. My niece has always enjoyed colouring – it’s a real flow-state activity for her – and she loved experimenting with the natural patterns, colours and shapes in this book. There is so much to colour, it’s an ongoing project for her, and I love that at the end of it, she’ll have a storybook she has helped to make. AE


Large Spinning Top Base with Three Tops

Love HeartWood is a sustainable woodturning business that creates handmade wooden gifts, toys and homeware, and these spinning tops and base have been beautifully crafted. The base is made from sustainably sourced local sycamore and the natural markings are lovely. The smooth finish means the tops spin for ages, and the concave surface holds them in place, rather than them skidding off across the floor. It was a great challenge for my children to master the spinning action and they loved watching the colours merge into stripes as the tops spun. We enjoyed trying to guess which of the three tops would stay spinning the longest. When you’re not playing with them, they make a lovely ornament, and the tops can be personalised too as a special gift. AE



Published in issue 86 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print. 

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