When did buying a new toy for a child become so complicated? These days traditional toy stores are in decline and we have an abundance of choice at the swipe or click of a button from our smartphones and computers. Big plastic toys are cheaper than ever and TV and film merchandise is freely available as toys, bed spreads, clothes and more. But I’ve noticed that my ‘internet generation’ children are learning new ways to play from the videos they watch on YouTube and the different media they consume. Does this mean that they won’t want to play with wooden toys or eco friendly toys?

Deciding on your toy wishlist

When I was little girl in the 80’s, toy choices were pretty simple: they were related to a favourite TV show, they were on the adverts that you watched in between the Saturday morning cartoons, or they were in the Argos Catalogue. I watched ‘He-Man’ and ‘She Ra’ with my friends, not realising that we were witnessing the start of a merchandise revolution. Watch. Buy. Play. Character toy sets from television shows and films have been incredibly popular ever since, often taking more in merchandise revenue than the actual film or show itself.

But times are changing.

In our house, my children don’t watch the standard television channels. We don’t have Sky or cable TV, we have ‘internet TV’. Instead of watching the big TV channels and main ‘trends’ of their time, my daughter cherry picks random TV shows from Netflix and Amazon with things like ‘Dinosaur Train’ and ‘Transformers: Rescue Bots’ being shows that she prefers to ‘binge-watch’ over channels like Cbeebies. We managed to make it most of the way through my daughter’s first few years without her being bothered by Peppa Pig.

Rest assured, this isn’t about me making a ‘moral high ground’ statement about the types of TV shows my kids watch. Being honest, I’m somewhat embarrassed by the fact that both of my children will sit for hours watching YouTube videos of people opening up plastic eggs and lumps of play-doh if I let them. (For the un-initiated, look up ‘Cookie Swirl C’ on YouTube).

A side effect of their love of these inane videos is that when kind relatives and friends ask what they could buy my children for Christmas or birthday presents, I find it increasingly hard to come up with ideas. As much as my daughter would love a huge bag of Kinder Eggs to open, I’d much rather we had some ‘proper’ toys to play with as opposed to finding plastic shrapnel around the house for weeks on end. But with toy shops in decline and TV commercials being skipped through, it can be hard to know where to find inspiration.

 

My daughter will be 6 next month, I was intrigued to see what she would think about playing with a cardboard toy that she hadn’t seen on YouTube, and that none of her friends would have played with.

My cheeky toddler will be 3 in 3 months. With a short attention span and slightly bonkers approach to life I was curious to see if he could sit and play with a traditional style toy.

Traditional toys for the internet generation

So when a local mum from Reading asked me if I would like to review some of the wooden and cardboard toys she sells in her online eco friendly toy shop, I was really intrigued to see what my children would make of them. These toys are not the types of toys that my children would have seen on YouTube or television. In fact, they have more of a resemblance to the kind of toys that previous generations would have played with as kids.

“When I became a mum for the first time, I was shocked by the choice of toys on offer for different age ranges. I always found myself looking for toys that helped develop their imagination, their hand to eye co-ordination and their fine motor skills. I found that it wasn’t always the biggest, brightest or noisiest box on the shelf that offered this. Instead, it was some of the simpler wooden toys that offered more hours of satisfied playtime. Quite often these were toys that made me think fondly about my own childhood: wooden blocks, puzzles, role play toys. Toys that can be handed down through the generations and that don’t run out of batteries!” (Aleksandra from World4Kidz.com)

Looking on the World4kidz website there were quite a few toys that caught my eye, but I wasn’t sure what my kids would make of them. Knowing how much time Aleksandra spends researching suppliers and visiting toy fairs, I opted to trust her advice when she suggested that we try the cardboard role-play toy for my daughter and a wooden puzzle for my son

Here’s how we got on.

Tektorado: Cardboard Beauty Salon Cardboard playset, currently £10

This playset is rather unusual in that it’s a contemporary take on an old-fashioned concept of a dolls house. The kit comes completely flat packed and with the help of an adult you can build the structures (one large salon and a smaller boutique), ‘pop’ out the people and put them onto the bases and then decorate the salon with the supplied stickers. You don’t need to use scissors or glue, everything you need is in the box. Slightly older children would probably be able to set it up on their own, although the instructions did require a bit of ‘creative interpretation’ at the beginning when we were assembling the outer frame of the main salon.

The beauty salon comes in a large flat cardboard box which you can recycle afterwards.

My daughter did some of the simpler tasks like ‘popping’ out the cardboard figures.

We struggled with the outer frame to begin with but after a little bit of trial and error it all slotted into place.

My daughter played with her Nana to build the playset.

The figures have a contemporary, fashionable style to them.

You don’t need to use any tools or glue to assemble the pieces: just pop out of the cardboard and fold.

The playset held my daughter’s attention all afternoon.

This wasn’t a brand that we recognised, but that didn’t stop the enjoyment of playing with it!

Each cardboard figure has a little cardboard stand to help it stand up.

There were some big stickers to use inside the salon.

My soon-to-be-6-year-old had a lot of fun with her Nana building, decorating and then playing with the beauty salon. Standard wooden dolls houses are usually quite expensive to buy and can take up a lot of space. This cardboard version (which also comes as a dolls house, veterinary clinic and a fire station) is a lovely alternative. We wouldn’t have room for a full-size dolls house in my daughter’s bedroom, but this easily fits on top of her book case.

Playing with the finished salon.

Chatting to Aleksandra, I know that she is passionate about selecting toys that encourage the family to play together and I loved how this kept us busy all afternoon. The cardboard beauty salon is currently on offer and on sale at the reduced price of £10 instead of £12.

Learn to count and match wooden puzzle, £15

This puzzle fits into a compact box and can be played on a floor or a table.

Although some rather beautiful cardboard dinosaurs caught my eye as I scrolled through her website, Aleksandra suggested that my soon-to-be-3-year-old might like to play with something a little more robust. She sent us a ‘learn to count and match’ wooden puzzle to play with, and I was really surprised by the quality and the different ways we have played with the toy.

Inside the box there are wooden pieces with numbers and pictures on which you match up. Although he can’t read yet, my son was able to find all of the numbers, and I was able to count the dots on each piece with him.

The little man investigates what’s inside the box.

He will be 3 in a few months and the pieces were just right for his little hands to pick up and match.

He could see the difference between the numbers and the pictures and helped me sort them.

Each numerical piece has a matching pair of pictures that go either side: mice and cheese, bees and flowers. These help with the sorting element of the game too. Each piece is made of wood with a gloss finish to the front: they are really tactile and lovely to play with.

Each piece has lovely bright colours on it.

Matching up the pieces encourages counting and conversation.

His older sister couldn’t help but get involved: she took great pride in laying the numbers out in order on the floor. Meanwhile, the toddler decided to hide behind the curtain and climb on the chair. Attention spans in two-year-olds is not their strength!

His big sister was keen to get involved and sort things out.

They played together for a while, but his sister was keen to get the pieces into numerical order.

Meanwhile the toddler went in the opposite direction and hid behind a curtain!

Peepo! I see you!

Ohh, the grumpy face when I asked him to stop hiding behind the curtain!

The puzzle comes in a small box which is handy to sling into a bag if you’re going out to a relative’s house and want to take a few things with you. My only tip is that that you need to make sure you piece the puzzle together before you can get it back in the box. We learned this the hard way after our first play!

The puzzle comes in a small simple box. No fussy packaging to fight through to start playing with it!

The verdict?

I loved seeing my children play with these toys and I’m already coveting a few other items on the website. Neither of my kids were fazed by the fact that the toys weren’t linked to a TV show or film or that they hadn’t seen them being played with on the adverts or on YouTube. They were just happy to play. The added bonus is that as these toys are made of cardboard or wood, they are much better for the environment than the heavily packaged plastic toys that we see advertised. I would definitely recommend friends and relatives to select some of Aleksandra’s eco friendly toys the next time they ask for present ideas for my kids.

About this post.

We were sent these two items for review but I haven’t been paid to write the review or take the photographs: my opinions here are a true reflection of my experience.  I was happy to support another local mum with an honest review of something relevant to my children. Having spent some time with Aleksandra and seeing how passionate she is about the toys that she selects to range, I would have no qualms recommending her website and range to anyone looking to buy toys. If you’re reading this in April 2018, then you’ll be pleased to know she currently has a sale on a few items too!

About this Blog

I write this ‘Maidenhead Mum’ blog to share my experiences of life here in Berkshire and beyond. I fit blogging into my ‘spare time’ around my day job and family life, but I love to share the beautiful things that I find to see and do. For more posts like this, you might like to follow my Maidenhead Mum page on Facebook or on Instagram as they are the most frequently updated.

If you wanted to find out more about working with me for digital and social media marketing support for your small business, please email me at jodie@maidenheadmum.co.uk.

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