A bunch of toddlers and a blank slate

So yesterday was a new experience and a big risk. We took some toddlers, a new photographer and an open forest with a bunch of our toys to see whether we could get some great shots of the kids having fun.  The kids knew each other but didn’t see each other often.  None of them were models save for posing for their moms’ IG accounts.  They weren’t familiar with the toys.  And guess what? We got some great shots.  Why?

There was no agenda.  The kids were presented with open-ended toys.  The photographer needed some explanation as to what could be done with them, but the kids didn’t.  Kids have the most fun when they are able to use their imaginations, and when toys have more than one purpose.

I saw a quote recently that said “Ask: Is this toy 90 percent child and 10 percent toy, or 90 percent toy and 10 percent child? If there’s only one thing to do with it, then the toy is controlling everything. This one’s more open-ended, so he gets to make his own world.” – Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, professor of psychology at University of Delaware and co-author of the New York Times best seller speaking about Bilibo from Moluk.

There is a school of thought related to play called the Theory of Loose Parts.  If you know me personally you will have heard me talk about it many times.  When children are left in an open space, with random unfamiliar objects lying around, they will start to imagine, create and play – creating their own toys and play space in a unique way that allows for much more brain development than the fanciest toys we can provide.  You see, play is innate.  Children were designed for play.  We as adults interfere way too much and way too often, stifling the creativity that is waiting to emerge.

Anything can be used as loose parts: old tyres, wooden offcuts, buttons, household items.  When children are given the freedom to explore we will be astounded not only by their creativity but also their ability to handle what we might see as dangerous objects.  Scandinavian playgrounds would shock many helicopter parents with their liberal use of loose parts and their faith in children’s abilities.  Yes accidents do happen, but they happen anywhere.  We need to intervene less and watch more.  And if you want to treat your children to new toys, look for ones with infinite opportunity to be used in creating their own play scenarios.

Happy playing!  And we’ll share some of the pics soon 🙂

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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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 🙂

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Why your kids aren’t satisfied with simple

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.

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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!