Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fun Play Houses

Well we have had a long break with the summer holidays but we’re back now and by the looks of the weather much of the fun will have to be inside the house. Did you ever have a playhouse when you were a child? I can remember building a small tree house with my Dad when I was younger; my brother and I had hours of fun playing snakes and ladders and other games up in that tree.
Getting your child’s imagination going is great for teaching them to keep themselves entertained but with all this wet weather what good is a tree house? Well, how about a castle? First thing you need to do is get yourself off down the local supermarket and get some cardboard boxes and some strong parcel tape and a good pair of scissors. Now cut the boxes into sections and tape them together, you now need to draw out your castle shapes. All you need are three sections; a front and two sides. O the front you want to include your towers, you could even have an opening drawbridge if you are really handy.
You can make your castle as big or as small as you like, make sure you get your child involved with cutting out the shapes and taping it all up, you could even paint it all when you’re finished building it.
Now your child has somewhere fun to play and let their imagination run riot. For those of you who don’t have the time to build your own castle or are looking for other ideas for having fun with the kids check out this link to our play houses.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer holidays, ‘What do we do?’ Part 2

If you are lucky enough to be by a beach or out in the countryside take some time each day to take the kids out. Kids will get board quickly when stuck inside the house for long periods. Try to spilt the day up; in the morning spend an hour at the beach, park or in the countryside, come home and get the kids involved with making lunch. This can be great fun, let them make their own sandwiches of various concoctions. Always make sure you are present when kids are in the kitchen, don’t be tempted to leave them unsupervised.
After lunch have some fun in the garden. If you have a hose pipe get the kids to run around the garden trying to avoid getting squirted by the hose. A paddling pool is a great investment for the summer holidays as it brings hours of fun for the kids. You can benefit too on those hot summer days by getting your feet wet whist playing with the kids.
As we all know the summer can bring rain too so here are a few tips for keeping the kids busy inside too.
Get some fun videos for the kids to watch, try to make them educational. There are some really good DVDs teaching your kids about animals and geography.
Have lots and lots of paper and pencils so your kids can draw wonderful pictures. Keep resources like egg boxes and cereal boxes, all children love to cut and glue to make artistic creations from all sorts of rubbish.
Younger children enjoy repetition so have some songs and games that will keep them happy day in, day out if the wet weather sets in this summer.
Here are some cheap ideas to keep kids busy in the summer hols for under £3

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Summer holidays, ‘What do we do?’ Part 1

The summer holidays can be a nightmare particularly for those who can’t afford to take the family away for this reason we at the Smart Start blog have come up with inexpensive ways to keep the kids entertained over the summer.
For those of you who are far from the beach but still have a garden why not get the kids building dirt sand castles? All you need are some old margarine and yogurt pots to create whole heap of fun for the little ones. Sounds disgusting I know but imagine the fun your kids will have with a bit of dirt and water, it will keep them happy for hours.
Here is a great link for free art and craft ideas. Get free emails with suggestions on how to keep the kids busy throughout the summer hols.
Why not spend an hour a day playing games to help your child’s development. Fun games like ‘I spy’ can help with your child’s spelling or simply sit in the garden and get your children to count how many birds they can see. Spend time in the garden talking about the different things you can see. Get the kids to draw pictures of all the different things they see.
With all the good weather we are getting at the moment, don’t waste it indoors get the kids out walking or take them to the park. Kids love to play with other kids and what better way for them to meet other kids than at the park.
For some great ideas on inexpensive toys for the summer check out

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Puzzling Fun

What better way is there to connect with your kids and have fun at the same time and also learn than to play games. The games don’t have to be expensive; you can play noughts and crosses with a pencil and paper or Pictionary with a pencil and paper. Kids love to get involved and all that’s required is time and energy. One of the best things we can do for our children is to spend time playing with them not only does it help to cement good relationships with our children but after the initial effort it is fun. Try and take just half an hour or even an hour to play with your children each day and you will help to build their confidence and social skills too.
Puzzles and games are great for stimulating the brain cells from a very young age your children will be able to fit together small puzzles, if you don’t have much cash use cardboard and draw a picture on it then cut it into bits so your child can put the bits back together you could even use shapes, letters or numbers cut up into bits.
There are lots of traditional games out there like Monopoly a great game for older children helping them with mathematical problem solving and how we all have to pay our bills.
Here at Smart Start Toys we have a great selection of puzzles and games many for under a fiver so you don’t need to break the bank in order to get something fun and educational just click here

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Learning through water play.

There is much for your child to learn when playing with water, from an early age you can use water for your child’s development. What could be more fun than splashing around in the bath filling bottles and containers and emptying them over Mum’s lovely new floor, another good reason not to have carpet in the bathroom when kids are around? But seriously bath time can be fun and educational at the same time and it doesn’t require fancy or expensive toys.
Getting your child to fill and empty containers of water helps their mathematical skills learning how many cups it takes to fill 1 container or 2. The great thing is that your child has great fun while they are learning and you can have great fun with them too.
If it’s a nice sunny day why not get all your old pots and pans out in the garden and get your child to race across the garden filling the pots at one end and emptying them into a large container at the other, time how long it takes them or if you have 2 or more kids have them race each other. When they finish ask if any of them can remember how many pots it took to fill the container.
If you are lucky enough to have a paddling pool why not get the kids to time how long it takes to fill you can also teach your children what floats and what doesn’t, explain to them why a boat floats and why a stone sinks to the bottom. Kids are naturally curious and will thoroughly enjoy testing different items to see the results.
If you are looking for some bath fun for older kids take a look at this bath bomb science kit.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pretend Play

Well after my previous, somewhat premature assessment of the great British weather we should consider moving back inside the house for playtime. In true British style the weather dictates where our children can play, unless your fortunate enough to have a spare, large garage for the swing to go and a ball to be kicked it looks like we are confined to indoor activities.
I remember I was very fortunate to have a large house with five bedrooms when I was a child and my brother and I often use to play hide and seek, this could take some time to play given the size of the house. When the rain is drizzling outside you often hear the moans of young children who are bored and can’t think of anything to do. Why not set them a challenge to come up with a really good activity that keeps them happy for 30 minutes and if they mange this give them a small prize this is a great way of getting your kids to use their imagination. After having rewarded this behaviour 2-3 times your child should be skilled in keeping themselves entertained and the moaning should stop (ok, maybe not all together).
Here’s an idea that you could get the kids to do once a week. Give them a load of old clothes that you are not too concerned about and get them to act out a play. If Dad’s a builder let your son use his old jeans and work boots to become his Dad on stage or your daughter could pretend to me Mum if Mum’s a teacher, doesn’t matter who they pretend to be it’s great fun and all the family can have fun together. If you find your children really enjoying themselves you may want to consider spending a bit of cash on some masks or outfits, who knows they may become the next Leonardo Dicaprio. Check out this link if you want some more ideas on pretend play

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Play Safe Kids in the Garden

Ok we all know that safety regulations in the UK can sometimes spoil our fun, whether it’s because children aren’t able to go on various school trips anymore or as someone laying a carpet needs to wear a hard hat. However, I for one feel that a lot of good comes from playing and working safe! We have all heard some horror stories about how children left unattended in the garden have suffered severe even fatal injuries. Not to get morbid or fanatical I would like to offer a good link which covers safe and secure ways of letting our children enjoy the great outdoors in the safety of their gardens.
What are the fundamentals or guidelines one should follow to keep your children safe when playing in the garden? Here is a great link to give you some details on safe play a great resource for all safety tips for our kids.
One of the most important things to remember when purchasing a toy for the garden is to read the instructions the manufacture has given. Many accidents result from simple neglect of carrying out this basic rule.
Gardens are a great source of entertainment and healthy exercise for kids, whether they are digging up your lawn (I say this as I remember one summer when I was 6-7 years old I decided I would attempt to dig to Australia and believe it or not my Mum just let me get on with it, I guess she figured it would tire me out or just keep me from under her feet) or swinging from a tree or kicking a ball they can be kept busy for hours. Healthy exercise is essential for our children and our gardens can be a great place for this, maybe you yourself could spend 10-15 minutes kicking a ball with your children.
If you are looking for fun and safe activities for your kids in the garden why not consider a leaf swing this can be easily fastened to a tree or even a rope ladder for climbing up into the tree.
Here are some other great ideas for outside toys
Play safe and keep safe always keep a watchful eye on young children and do not let them play unsupervised in the garden.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Natural Toys

Nowadays with all the concern about the environment it is worth taking time to consider what materials toys are made from and what impact these will have for our children and grand children’s future. The term carbon footprint is used to describe the resources we use and also the environmental changes we cause personally due to the products we use and buy on a daily basis. When looking at the toys we buy for our children maybe we should consider what is the future for all those plastic toys we buy? Well if that plastic is not recycled and used for something else it will stay in our environment for ever where as wood can take as little as 1 week to leave the environment and will enrich the environment too.
Natural products and natural toys are a sure way to reduce our carbon footprint and make the future brighter for our children and grand children. Toys made from natural products can still be fun and cheap for children to play with. Let your children develop their fine motor skills and mathematical skills by using wooden toys like this Balloons and Rings a sure way for kids to learn and enjoy themselves whilst keeping green too.
Games like shut the box helps again with problem solving and memory skills, also great for building confidence in younger and older children. Children, as we all know, can have hours of fun just playing with a pencil and paper and you can’t get more natural than these.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pocket Money

In today’s current financial climate it is wise to be prudent with your cash the same is true for our kids. It seems today that most of the toys you buy for under £5 are likely to break within five minutes of them arriving in those inquisitive hands. There are however some really good toys on the market which are not expensive and still give hours of pleasure without breaking. Plastic toys are a big ‘no no’ if you’re looking for something that will last the test of time wooden toys are far less likely to break and yet many can be found for under a fiver.
A good way to educate your child early in the discipline of finance is to give them pocket money. Children by nature will continue to ask for anything and everything without consideration for cost or time. A good way to combat this obsession in your child is to give them a certain amount of money each week that is theirs to spend on some sweets and a small toy. This way your child will begin to learn the value of money and also how long their money has to last them and should stop the endless inquiries as to whether they can have this or that. By teaching your child the value of money you give them a gift that will last them a lifetime.
Fun, colourful and educational toys can be found from as little as £1.50 wooden castanets are colourfully decorated in various animal designs making them a perfect addition to young children's musical collection. Percussion and rhythm are the foundations of musical appreciation and castanets, which are very easy to play, are perfect for children to learn about and enjoy rhythm. Smart Start Toys carry a range of toys all from under £5 which will last your child many years of fun just follow the link pocket money.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Early Learning, Language and Literacy
What can be more important to your child’s development than language and literacy? However, many children still grow up struggling with their language and literacy skills. Give your child a head start by introducing language and literacy at an early age; don’t wait until they go to school before they are encouraged to develop their language and literacy skills. There are so many ways in which we can make learning fun for our children simply games like ‘I spy with my little eye’ and the alphabet song make learning a fun and enjoyable experience for children.
Encourage your child to learn to write the letters of their name even get big copies of the letters and get your child to colour them in or dot to dot the letters and get your child to join the dots. All of this will boost your child’s confidence and development.
The more a child is shown letters and encouraged to sound them out or just play with them your child will naturally develop their language and literacy skills. There are many toys on the market which specifically help children with their language and literacy such as colourful alphabet books, pop up letter books. We all know children love to touch and feel things so why not get them some letters they can safely play with.
Developed and designed for Smart Start Toys we have this beautifully embroidered wall hanging is a unique learning tool for young children as they take their first steps into reading and spelling. The chart includes 40 first words that are taught in the primary classroom and include words that cover first combinations of vowels and consonants. Each word has a corresponding picture and there are enough letters to spell each word. Just follow the link My first words

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Ride on Toys

Ride on toys are great for toddlers and small children up to the age of around 7 years old, the benefit of these wooden ride on toys is that they help develop the skills needed for balance and coordination. When you child becomes confident to ride for example a 2 wheeler bicycle then you would have helped the child’s skills develop by starting off early with the wooden ride on toys.
The earlier you try to develop these fundamental skills of balance and coordination the better, as many of the youngsters today are not getting the benefit due to the huge increase of video games and television. A child should be able to develop their skills naturally through play and ride on toys help with this development.
Ride On Toys Simplicity
Primary colours are perfect, as we all know primary colours stimulate young children, so when choosing the right ride on toys you may want to consider colours and material. Wooden Ride On Toys are simple and traditional and will live up to taking rough treatment when your toddler is growing up.
There are many styles of Ride On Toys to choose from, firstly the classic pedal car, it suits ages from 3 upwards, its ideal for those kids who love to drive. It’s made from strong steel and very tough, and the look is great.
Next up would be the Classic Red Racer, again it’s made of very strong durable steel and very easy to handle, your kids would love this one it also has rubber tyres, easy on the floor, suitable for ages between 1-3
The Giraffe Ride-on shape sorter, ages 18 months up, it’s made of wood and has 4 slots for different shapes to go in, this toy holds lots of interest for toddlers with its strong primary colours it also acts a table when the blocks can be used to make buildings.
Kiddimoto Scrambler, this toy is suitable for ages 3 upwards, now this is quite a clever toy as it’s a bike with no pedals, not only does it help teach a child how to develop balance but children won’t scrape their feet when they ride it, and once the child gets the hang of it, they can go straight onto a 2 wheeler bike without the need for stabilisers
Another is the Kiddimoto Superbike its practically the same as above just looks different.
The Shape Sorter Zebra is another one like the Giraffe Shape sorter but it’s got black and white stripes of course
Transporter Trike, this is suitable for ages 1 upwards, now this is a good looking sturdy trike, ideal for toddlers up to pedal age, its brightly coloured and made of wood.
Wheelybug Ladybug, this Ride On Toy is suitable for ages 2 upwards, this multi award winning wheely bug as great for boys and girls, they move in every direction and can be great fun as its quite unique and will surely help develop spatial awareness and gross motor skills enhancement.
Other additions are the Wheelybug Bee, Wheelybug Cow and the Wheelybug Mouse.
If you are interseted in any of these products follow the link here Ride on Toys

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Early Learning and Baby Development

What can be more important than the early learning and development of our children? Children quickly develop a keen interest in the things around them using all of their five senses to work out how things smell, taste, look like, feel and sound. This gives parents the opportunity to let their children use toys that particularly stimulate and develop these senses, giving their child an understanding of the different smells, tastes, colours, textures and sounds there are to experience.
Babies are naturally drawn to bright colours, reaching out to touch and to feel objects that offered to them usually resulting in them tasting the object too. This is an important aspect of the child’s development and one which can be capitalised on with the right choice in stimuli. Children’s toys can be great stimuli for your child and help to structure their development particularly their fine motor skills and visual senses. Toys that get young children to use their ears, eyes, fingers and hands will aid early development and improve both their fine motor skills and visual senses. If your child is actively engaged in experimenting with all their senses they will quickly learn what sounds, colours and textures they like or dislike.
Young children require 24/7 care and this can be hard work, giving children educational toys can keep your children entertained for hours and all the time you know they are developing necessary skills. Here at Smart Start Toys we offer a range of different educational toys to stimulate your child’s senses and improve their early development in particular we offer Curly the Cobra. A multi sensory fully entertaining toy for children still in cots and play pens......pull his tongue and watch curly shake; squeak the ladybird; squeeze the tactile butterfly; peek-a-boo fun in the flower mirror. It is bright and extremely colourful for visual stimulation and it attaches to cribs, playpens and strollers. We also have Daisy the Activity Turtle a gorgeous gardening turtle character full of tactile, sensory fun with a rattling watering can; vibrating gnome; squeaking snail friend; crinkly butterfly; realistic feel seed packet; crinkly jingling hat; this fun colourful baby toy provides plenty of activities to keep any child intrigued for hours.
For further information follow the link Early Learning and Baby Development

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Friday, March 27, 2009

'Learn to Sign with Oli'

A fun approach to learning sign language that can be taught to children (and adults) of all ages. There are four stories about Olli the monkey and each story is preceded by various signs that can be weaved in to bring the story to life.
All children love using sign language because it is a natural, stimulating way to communicate that is learned easily. This is great for hearing and non hearing children and also children who's first language is not English. With the use of simple signs even babies can be taught to communicate non verbally.
Many schools and nurseries now teach sign language as part of their curriculum and this book , along with 'Learn to sign and Cook with Olli' is fun and easy to follow and will soon have the youngest of children enjoying communicating with sign langauge.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wooden animal puzzles

Hop, Jump and Skip into Spring

Hop, Jump and Skip into Spring

Spring is on it’s way and with it birds, flowers, longer days and (we hope!) sunshine! What better way for children to pass the time and learn about their natural surroundings than with some well considered garden projects that are fun, educational and interesting.
Now is an excellent time to get planting. Children can start off by planting seeds of their favourite fruit, vegetables and flowers in empty egg cartons on the windowsill. A garden planner will help with organising what and when to sew. When the weather improves have the kids help with digging holes to plant the growing seedlings. With their own little gardener’s tools, kids will be more enthusiastic about gardening. Don’t forget to mark rows of vegetables with the seed packet on a stick so you remember what is growing there. The flowers can make a pretty border around the vegetables and will also attract butterflies.
Kids will love to help weed and water a garden they have helped create; so a child sized gardener’s bucket and watering can will top off the equipment list for the kids. Even a mini wheelbarrow can be great fun too.
And keep it educational! (They’ll never notice!) - Let the children read the seed packets themselves! Any chance for trying to read will help with their education at school. Talk about the seeds, germination, how things grow; what is needed for a plants growth; photosynthesis! It’s all educational and great fun too!
Once the vegetables are grown and the butterflies have arrived, children can have fun catching butterflies and keeping them for short periods in a butterfly garden.

Another great project in readiness for spring is making a birdhouse. Smart Start Toys have wooden birdhouses and bird feeders that can be built and painted by children and placed in the garden for the birds. These creative kits are great for rainy days to be made in readiness for sunnier, warmer weather. They are educational and fun and create a permanent attraction in the garden and can be used to attract and study birds.

As everything starts to come to life again after the long cold winter months, the availability of natural learning is literally on our doorsteps and we should take advantage of these natural learning resources as much as possible, so that children have a better understanding of their surroundings. Children love learning when it is fun that knowledge can be effectively transferred for use at school.

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