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Play is everything!

Today is national Playday. In fact it’s national Playday’s 30th Birthday (Happy Birthday Playday!). We thought we’d take a moment to tell you what we think to play and it’s role in people’s lives. Yes we know, we run a toy shop so we’re a little biased, but we also come from a variety of backgrounds both academic and ‘in the trenches’ when it comes to childhood development.

In every single avenue of research, in every bit of common sense about children, we are yet to discover someone who has discouraged play and seen anything beneficial happen as a result. Play is the perfect means we have of learning about our world through a kind of ‘test-drive’. As children, we play-act as different types of people, with different jobs, and discover things about ourselves through this sort of pretend experience (the actions aren’t real but that doesn’t mean the feelings have to be pretend).

Play opens our eyes to the world. It builds our skills. What’s more, the play that we enjoy as children (before ‘real-life’ kicks in) allows as a moment, just the briefest breath of air, in which to voyage to far off places from the comfort of the rug behind the couch. Wherever you are, whatever you have planned today be sure to take a breath, to break away and enjoy the diversion for just a moment. If you have a little person in your life then all the better, children are the perfect guides to the amazing, incredible world of play.

Happy Playday everyone, from all of us here at Fun Junction

 

PS If you’d like to be involved and you live in or around Perth (Perthshire), then head along to the South Inch today between 10am and 3pm to join in with a host of play activities for Playday (don’t forget to pop in to tell us all about it on your way back 😉 ).

PPS If you’d like a glimpse of the deeper ideas behind play please pop along and check out a popular post by John The Toy Shop Guy titled ‘A toy is not a thing, it’s an island of happiness‘ (it’ll change the way you look at toys).

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Our virtual shop

Now thanks to the wonders of modern technology you can go for a virtual wander round in our Perth shop (you can find a tour of our Crieff shop here). Don’t forget to watch out for the Wallys (you know from ‘where’s Wally’) that we’ve hidden in every panorama. We’ve hidden surprises and jokes all over the place so please take a wee moment to virtually wander round. Hope you enjoy your tour, the Fun Junction Team.

 

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News Flash: Snap discovery rocks scientific community to its core

We now interrupt your important stream of cat pictures and videos of people watching other videos/opening stuff to bring you this important public announcement.

Early this morning Dr Gerald Jeerif of Funstible Tech made an unprecedented discovery. It all came from (as so many scientific discoveries do) a small lab accident. Dr Jeerif often likes to start the brain juices pumping with a quick-fire game of snap with the lab technicians but today, instead of reaching for the ‘snap’ cards he mistakenly grabbed a pack of ‘pairs’.

Not noticing his mistake the technicians and Dr Jeerif continued to play a fully functioning game of snap! With pairs cards!

“This discovery could have untold ramifications,” notes Dr Jeerif “for starters think of the space that might be saved from only packing one set of cards.”

When we asked him about his next step in research he became quite animated:

“Well our first move will have to be an investigation into whether ‘snap’ cards can be used to play ‘pairs’, but I have to say that I’m excited about the future. I already have a hunch about ‘donkey’ and ‘old maid’, and one of the lab techs even suggested looking into links between ‘ludo’ and ‘frustration’ and possibly even between ‘lotto’ and ‘bingo’ (though I think we might be getting ahead of ourselves there)”.

It’s not clear where Dr Jeerif’s research will take him next, but what is clear is that the world of identically-marked, image-based, card games will never be the same again.

Thank you for reading and try not to let this discovery disturb your day too much. All the best from all of us here at Fun Junction news.

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Language Therapy and play: Part 1

hello sunshine hide and seek thimble game prepositions thinkfun toddler preschoolWe’ve decided to try something different this week; we pride ourselves on helping people find just the toy they need (even when those needs might be very specific) but occasionally we have our knowledge of play bolstered by experts. There are a huge range of ways in which play can improve the lives of children and adults alike and it’s sometimes nice to be able to show this off. This week we’ve been lucky enough to have speech and language therapist Lynsey Paterson (who runs ‘Dialogue’ Independent speech and language therapy services) sit down to answer a few questions about a couple of the toys she uses in her sessions. Thank you Lynsey.

Fun Junction: The other day you kindly sang the praises of two Thinkfun Games that we stock: ‘Hello Sunshine‘, a hide and seek game using a friendly-looking little sunshine plush, and ‘Roll and Play‘ an active, dice-based actions and expressions game. What features of these games in particular do you like?

large_hello_sunshine_thinkfun_think_fun_toddler_gameLynsey: When I am looking for resources to use with children I am considering a lot of different factors. The most important one for me as a speech and language therapist is what areas of language is the toy targeting. “Hello Sunshine” is fantastic for targeting prepositions. Prepositions are words that describe the location of something and will include in, on, under, beside, in front of etc. Prepositions normally develop in child’s speech between the age of 2-3 years as children begin understanding question words like “where?” and when they start putting several words together into short phrases like “The ball is in the box”. (See www.talkingpoint.org.uk for good information about the stages of language development.)

Hello Sunshine” is a versatile game for targeting both the child’s understanding (receptive language) where they have to follow the instructions given by the adult and also their spoken language (expressive language) when they get to tell the adult what to do – which all kids love doing!

The “Roll and Play” game is more general as it covers several different areas of language. For example, name something that is red, do an action like wave goodbye. Games like this can be good as general language enrichment games which would be perfect for any parent, childminder or nursery to use to promote a language rich environment.

large_roll_and___play_thinkfun_think_fun_game_toddlersAfter the language demands, the durability and look of the toys have to be right. The Thinkfun Games are brightly coloured with all cards with a laminated finish which helps make sure the resources stand up to little hands! They also have handy little pockets built into the toys so the cards don’t go missing. Both these resources are like soft toys which I know can be an issue for cleaning – but they are machine washable.

Finally, I do believe that toys have to be fun for everyone who is playing with them – and that includes the adults! Everytime I use both these products, we have fun – especially when using “hello sunshine” develops into a hide’n’seek game!!

Fun Junction: We advertise these games as being suitable for children aged eighteen months and up, do you find that this limits the age range who can enjoy the use of such games or do (clients/patients) not mind using games aimed at such young children?

Lynsey: I must admit I tend not to pay too much attention to the ages on toys as I tend to find all children develop at different stages. I tend to focus more on what the language demands of the activity are and how do they match the child I am working with. Also there are so many ways you can increase the difficulty of the games which means you can extend the use of an activity. For example if you were working on the child’s ability to understand prepositions with “Hello Sunshine” then you could add 2 commands together instead of just one. This makes the task much harder! Finally, the “Hello Sunshine” has some blank cards where the child can create their own instructions which is great for generalising the children’s language too.

Sometimes I will also use resources for a completely different use than they are attended for. For example the “Roll and Play” dice has different colours on each face. The colours relate to different approaches in Speech and Language Therapy like colourful semantics (which colour codes different parts of speech to help children understand how language is structured). I have also used Velcro to attach different symbols to the dice for a game (e.g. different clues to help someone guess the meaning of a word). It is always a bonus when you can get multiple uses out of one game!

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Lynsey Paterson is an experienced speech and language therapist (SLT) who runs Dialogue – Independent speech and language therapy services. As well as being a SLT, Lynsey is also a Family Support Co-ordinator for Perth Autism Support and a mum to two primary aged children. Please go to http://www.dialogue-slt.co.uk for more information about Lynsey and the services she offers or follow her on Facebook or over on Twitter.

We’d like to thank Lynsey for taking the time to talk to us about these brilliant wee toys. We’ll be inviting Lynsey to contribute her expertise to our blog again in the future so if you have any questions about toys and language development please don’t hesitate to pop them down in the comments section below. Thanks for stopping by and we hope this information has been useful for you. All the best, the Fun Junction Team

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Getting the bugs out

large_Hexbug_nano_original_motorised_bug_bugs_insect_insectsHexBugs are back!!!!!! What’s more they’ve brought some friends along, not only do we have a range of HexBug Nano, Hexbug Nano v2, and the larger ‘original’ HexBugs (though most people recognise the ‘Nano’s best), but now they’re accompanied by a whole new range of aquatic robots including jellyfish, seahorses, and even a remote-controlled angel fish (seriously, what bath could be complete without one?).

Here’s a brief wee run-down of what they all do (all HexBug products are suitable for children aged 3 years and up):

The original, the one, the only, Hexbug Nanos!!! Prepare to become fascinated with your floor, entranced by your end-tables, wonder at your worktops, and be diverted by your dining table, thanks to these amazingly entertaining little robot bugs. Just flick the switch and watch them wobble around interacting with their environment.

large_hexbug_original_robotic_insect_robot_bugOriginal Hexbug: Bigger than his younger siblings (the Nanos and NanoV2s) this is a terrifically diverting wee character, watch him scuttle around like a real insect. This really is the ‘original’ hexbug, basically using the same design as the first HexBugs released in 2007. They were created using the simpified robototic techniques employed by BEAM robotics (where engineers try to simplify the mechanics as much as possible to create responsive yet robust machines). The original HexBug is a lot of fun and it’s amazing to watch its ‘behaviour’ as it explores its environment. (Batteries included, please be aware that colours may vary from the picture shown.)

large_HEXBUG_NANO_V2_gravity_loop_with_one_hexbug_motorised_bug_bugs_insect_insectsHexBug Nano’s have gone through their own wee evolution and have sprouted tendrils from their backs, meaning that the can now scale the inside of vertical plastic tubes, now their environments are a whole lot more interesting, incorporating lengths of clear tubing for them to climb. The picture on the left is of the ‘Nano V2 Neon Gravity Loop Set‘; in this pack you get one Hexbug Nano V2 (colours vary) along with the awesome gravity-defying play-set that is ‘Gravity Loop’ so you can watch your HexBug V2 navigate complete loops turning over and over throughout their habitat. (batteries included). You can also buy Nano V2s individually and they come with one extra piece of tunnel each.

large_hexbug_aquabots_2.5_jellyfish_jelly_fish_really_swims_with_bowlAnother awesome addition to the HexBug family is are the ‘AquaBots’. These little robo-creatures are water tight and will go to ‘sleep’ after a few minutes of use, to ‘wake’ them simply tap the tank, swirl the water or just touch the AquaBot (see you can’t do that with a real fish). The brilliant thing about these is the variety, you can get a seahorse, a jellyfish (there’s even a pack that comes with its own tank, which you can see pictured). There’s even a remote controlled angelfish.

As you can probably tell we’re very excited to have HexBugs back in the shop. Hopefully we’ll have enough stock soon to get a couple out on display. Currently all of the HexBug family members described here are in stock and available to buy through our website or in store. Thanks for popping by to our blog for a visit, all the best the Fun Junction Team.

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Deciphering the labels

not for under 3 three toy labelling label age appropriatenessSo what’s the difference between ‘not for under 3’ and ‘suitable for children aged x and up’? We work in toys so for us this is clear and simple, but we get that it isn’t always easy to see the difference. Children will often pick up toys in the shop only for their parents/carers to spot the ‘not suitable for children under 3’ tag and tell them that the toy is ‘for babies’ (I’m guessing they mean three year olds or I’ll have to admit to being even more confused).

I occasionally try to jump in to the toy’s defence and explain that the label is only there for health and safety reasons, to which I can occasionally be faced with a stony stare followed by the parent/carer encouraging their child to find something ‘for older boys/girls’.

Before you assume that I’m just trying to sell them a more expensive toy I should add that the vast majority of the time the toy the child picks first is cheaper than the ‘older toys’ their parents are trying to usher them towards. I think the main issue is that parents are scared of their child getting stuck on ‘baby toys’. I get it, I have two boys myself and it’s not nice to think of them being teased by their friends because it’s not ‘cool’ to like Thomas the Tank Engine’ any more, or because they haven’t moved on to a franchise that’s aimed at kids older than themselves like Harry Potter or Star Wars.

Honestly, I understand why someone might be reluctant to buy what might look like a ‘baby toy’ but at the same time just because the box says ‘3+’ this doesn’t mean that it’s a toy aimed at preschoolers; it simply means that it’s been safety tested to standards that allow children aged three years and over to play with it. The themes of the toy could well be aimed at much older children than that.

This is where the main difference lies, the circle with the crossed out baby that says ‘not for 0-3’ simply means it’s safe for children over three. Toys sometimes have a second label that might say something like ‘Ages 8+’; this is a sign that the manufacturer thinks that this toy is appropriate for children over eight. Sometimes (in fact quite often) this second advisory label simply isn’t there but that just means that the decision about appropriateness has been left up to the buyer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that only preschoolers will like the toy, it simply means that the toy has passed safety testing and conforms to certain regulations that mark it as safe for use by children over the age of three.

In many ways this is linked to the ‘CE’ mark that has to be printed on any toy sold within the European Economic Area (CE stands for Conformité Européenne, meaning ‘European Conformity’). In a sense it’s like being told that your car can reach a top speed of 100mph without your engine running into problems; you could safely reach that speed but that doesn’t mean you should. It’s up to the driver to gauge whether that speed might be appropriate. The little label above simply refers to safety, it has nothing at all to do with recommending an appropriate age at which a child might enjoy it.

Do you get frustrated with health and safety testing and labelling? Do you think we should just use our common sense when selecting a toy for our children? Is there anything that toy companies might be able to do to make this difference in labelling clearer?

I don’t know if this post has been helpful or simply patronising, it seems like a confusing issue and that’s why I decided to talk about today but I apologise if I’ve just spent the past few paragraphs telling you something you already know. If however you still have some questions or comments about this sort of labelling please feel free to comment below, or you can comment over on our Facebook or Twitter accounts. Thanks for popping by (and feel free to check out my own toy blog here), cheers, John

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Engineering Engineers

engino eco car demoWe’ve had these kits in for a while now and we’ve been really impressed with the quality and the price. You might have spotted the Eiffel Towers that we’ve had in both out Crieff and Perth windows, they were both Engino and you can even try and build your own (if you’re up for the challenge) for less than £100 (that’s the in store price, unfortunately it’s so big and heavy we’ve had to add £10 to the online price to cover postage).

Engino is a brand new construction system which is set to roll out in classrooms across the country soon (so children will be familiar with it soon enough). The system works from basic engineering principles and encourages children to explore the use of three-dimensional exploded diagram instructions (like real engineers often use). Basically it’s been designed by an engineer who wants to help prepare the next generation of engineers (and children interested in other STEM fields) for the kind of construction techniques and principles they’ll encounter in the real world.

engino pico spinner red construction pocket money plastic engineering spinning topEngino offers a huge range of different types of sets, starting with small £1.50 pocket money kits. These are collectables and if they get all four (red, green, blue, and yellow) they can build three different vehicle models from the parts (instructions are available on the Engino website).

eco wooden 3 in 1 one a box cars and tractors engino plastic engineering construction systemEngino also created a range that incorporates wooden components. It’s a great way to add a more natural feel to their construction toys with the added benifit that wooden components come from a much more sustainable source than plastic (hence the ‘eco’ name). You can find the two kits we stock by clicking this link (for cars, and a tractor) and this one (for bikes).

inventor 90 ninety in 1 one a box engino plastic engineering construction systemProbably most ‘engineery’/’engineerish’ (OK neither of those are real words but you know what we mean) are the motorised sets, the largest of which provides instructions for as many as 90 different projects. There is simply no way you’re going to get bored playing with Engino. Each kit comes with a motor which runs on AAA batteries (though, as seems to be the norm with these kinds of things, they aren’t included in the pack).

These are construction kits that are genuinely a bit different and when compared like-for-like with other construction sets they’re alarmingly cheap, starting at £1.50 for the spinners, the motorised 30 in 1 set is just £24.99, and the Eiffel Tower, the most expensive, and biggest, set we stock (seriously it’s 1.5 meters tall when built) is just £99.99 in store.

We’re very impressed with these sets and we hope you enjoy having a wee browse around on our website to check them out yourself. Let us know what you think either in the comments here, over on our facebook page, or over on our twitter account. Thanks for stopping by, hopefully see you again soon, cheers, the Fun Junction Team

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Some fun you might have missed

filter-fb1We’ve been hidden! Many businesses that use Facebook encounter this problem, basically our posts don’t get seen by every liker on our page. Whether we like it or not only about ten or fifteen percent of our ‘likers’ get to see them. It’s how Facebook does things, filtering business posts is intended to stop you getting a newsfeed full of promotional and sales material from every business you’ve ever liked (unless they buy advertising).

We do try to avoid being too sales-pitch orientated and we have our Facebook manager Jo on hand adding a creative element to hopefully make our posts an entertaining addition to your news feed. Some of her posts are a lot of fun and we just wanted to show off some little gems that you might have missed, so here they are:

squeezy the donkey lamaze toys baby high contrast colour dexterity20:00 16th Aug: Our new favourite toy of the week! Whilst the video is questionable, Squeezy the Donkey is fantastic!

smencils scented pencils colouring in08:00 15th Aug: Everyone knows school is super dull without a jelly doughnut scented smencil!

orangutan puppet large from the puppet company09:05 11th Aug: Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of trimming a loose thread from an orangutan puppets armpit you have to pause and wonder, this is normal, right?

And of course we should also remember to tell you about our sale with this wee picture of our sale bay (yep we know this counts as ‘promotional and sales material 😛 but we also don’t want folk to miss out)

fun junction sale bay12:51pm 14th Aug: Our sale is still going strong in both shops, with lots of fantastic deals!

If you really, simply, absolutely must see everything we post (it’s not that much really, often less than a post a day) you can ensure that you won’t miss out on any more fun by (this only works on a PC) going to our facebook page, hovering over the ‘like’ button and selecting ‘get notifications’. Thanks for popping by, please let us know what you think to our Facebook page either in the comments section here or over on the Facebook page itself (that way we know whether to award Jo a packet of Maltesers for her efforts or not 😉 ). Catch you later, The Fun Junction Team

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The no blog post blog post

savage-chicks impatientYep, every blog has one of these every now and then; we finally hit the point where we’ve been too busy to pop out a weekly blog post. However, we thought we’d share a wee gem from this week:

A wee boy walks into the shop with his mum and his gran for a look around the toys. It’s near the end of the day and you can see that he’s extremely pleased to finally be in the toy shop. He takes his time looking at every section carefully, taking in what we have and stopping for a play at the play table.

His mum realises the time and explains that they’ll need to go but the wee guy is still looking. A few minutes go by and his mum once again points out that they’re going to have to go, unfazed by this the wee boy continues to take in what the shop has to offer. Next it’s granny’s turn to point out that they need to go and the wee boy turns to them both and in deadpan seriousness tells them “You two need to learn to be more patient!”

Sorry we don’t have more advice on toys, or reports on new lines for you this week. We’ve actually started an e-mail newsletter though, so if you’d like to sign up and hear about events and special offers as early as possible then simply click on this link and fill in your e-mail address (we’ll only email you once a month, and we won’t pass your e-mail address on to anyone else). Thanks for popping by, all the best, the Fun Junction team.

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Instantly Arty with Djeco Stencils

10383794_704143089689885_2234159907151625749_oSometimes we get a crafty toy in that produces such a professional result that it doesn’t feel like a ‘toy’ any more. These are Djeco’s stencils, we got them in as a pocket money line, just a nice we activity for children to do on a rainy day. However, when we opened up a couple of packs and tried them for ourselves we realised just how polished our work looked.

Each pack contains two sheets, each with a reusable adhesive coating on one side. The stencil sheets themselves are approximately 108mm (4 1/2″) wide and 85mm (3 5/16″) tall. They are slightly fragile but the plastic they are made from is certainly far more robust and versatile than paper or cardboard would be. Even so, we don’t recommend them for children under 6 years old.

Honestly, they feel like you could use them for home decorating, customising/’up-cycling’ old furniture, or you could even combine them with snazaroo face-paints to create an amazing temporary tattoo. There’s just so much you could do with these little cards.

There are a few different kinds so we’ll try and make sure you can see them all in this post. They’re all themed and they also make economical use of the space on the card. Here’s what we stock:

djeco pocket money plastic reusable adhesive stencils birds 2 djeco pocket money plastic reusable adhesive stencils dragons and oriental imagery2 djeco pocket money plastic reusable adhesive stencils flowers and hearts djeco pocket money plastic reusable adhesive stencils flowers and plants2 djeco pocket money plastic reusable adhesive stencils lions and tigers and bears oh my djeco pocket money plastic reusable adhesive stencils owl wolf

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