Fun Junction does that 'blogging' thing

keeping you up to date with what we're up to

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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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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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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The Art of Toy making

Arty Toys Ze Castle CompEvery now and then a toy company surprises us. The best surprises come when a company makes something simple, that works as a kind of pretend-play ‘key’ that opens up the imagination and allows it to pop into a higher gear. Arty toys did this for us, their figures are amazing, they’re far from realistic but there’s something really alive about them. We got really caught up in making up wee character descriptions of each individual figure on our web site which we thought we’d share. Here are some of our favourite home-grown product descriptions:

djeco arty toys knight darko black knightDarko looks like one of the most menacing fiends you could ever meet, but the truth is his visor is a sneeze guard (he’s always got a cold) and he’s so lazy (and a bit of a scaredy cat) that he sometimes takes off his armour and leaves it stood up at his post to pretend he’s on guard duty while he goes to hide in a cupboard for a nap. Darko’s favourite possession is his pillow and his favourite activity is sleeping. Darko is not the best night guard in the world. For Ages: 4 years and up

large_rosalia_djeco_arty_toys_princessIn the land of Djeco few people possess the ability to do magic, even fewer master it. Rosalia is a master, she can fairy-god-mother with the best of them but she’s also been known to turn the odd annoying prince into a frog (if he looks like he deserves it). She’s not a bad princess, just a bit… quick-tempered and she normally helps them back to normal after a little while…normally. Suitable for children aged 4 years and up

large_Arty_Toys_Darius_and_the_Attack_Tower_with_border2Out of the blue Darius will sometimes tell the other knights of Ze Castle that he “smells purple” or “tastes thunder”, the other knights know that Darius is a bit…confused. So what duty did they allocate to this slightly unhinged but very friendly little guy? They put him in charge of a war machine of course! Another fantastically unusual creation from Arty toys. Suitable for Ages: 4 years and up

large_captain_red_pirate_figure_toy_djeco_arty_toys_preschool_poseable_pose-able_posableCaptain Red is a lovely chap, really!…Well OK sometimes he goes a bit crazy and throws people off the ship, but people love swimming right? Captain Red is an Arty toys pirate, distinctively designed by the folks at Djeco. We originally got these figures in to appeal to children that were a little too young for the likes of Papo figures but to be honest we were wrong, children of all ages love these little characters, with pose-able arms and heads and very distinct designs and personalities, what’s not to like? These figures are all suitable for children aged 4 years and up.

Arty Toys are just one example of the kind of creativity that the folks at Djeco have to offer. If you click on this link you’ll be taken to the ‘Djeco‘ section on our web site. On top of their amazing play figures they also offer a superb range of craft sets and games, it really is worth a look, we hope you enjoy Djeco’s range as much as we do. Thanks for popping by, have fun, The Fun Junction Team

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Does it HAVE to be wood?

large_DKL_make_and_create_construction_Wonderworld_Trix_Track_two_2_Way_Flipper_wooden_marble_run_block_kit_set__W_Occasionally a customer comes into the shop and wants to see nothing but wooden toys. It happened again a few days ago and sparked up a wee behind the scenes debate between the staff: Is there really something inherently wrong with plastic toys? Well yes and no; the funny thing is that wooden and plastic toys are simply different from one another; neither is better as such. However, it can still help to understand the pros and cons of each type of toy. For starters lets be positive and go for the pro lists:

What’s good about wood? There’s something timeless about a wooden toy. If it’s designed with care we can picture it being handed down through generations. Not only is wood a sturdy material from which to construct a toy, it’s also wonderfully resilient, even after rough treatment (a bit of wood glue can leave the toy looking none the worse for wear). The tactile quality of wood can’t be underestimated either and it’s hard to imagine simple building blocks made out of anything else (though we recently got some stone blocks in store, very different tactile experience and fun to build with). What’s more, left untreated, wood can be a material that will satisfy even the most adamantly safety-conscious parent. Wood is natural, traditional, timeless, and repairable. Here are a selection of our favourite wooden toys (click on the images to be taken to the product page on our website):

djeco filabellule nature themed lacing toy fine motor skills developmentlarge_DKL_make_and_create_construction_Wonderworld_Trix_Track_Throw_and_Roll_wooden_marble_run_block_kit_set__W_large_Arty_Toys_Ze_Castle_Complarge_MBL_B_Little_Forest_Train_Set

Can plastic be perfect? Of course it can! You can dunk it in water, leave it outside (OK colours can fade a little in the sun), and depending on the type of plastic used it’ll bounce back from heavy treatment. Overall, plastic is a superb material from which to construct a toy. What plastic might lack in timelessness it makes up for in a dynamism in form and function; plastic is lightweight and the average plastic toy can easily house any motor or electronics you might like without getting unrealistically heavy (or making components overheat). Plastic can provide a degree of detail that few other mass-production materials can, a child’s favourite character can be produced in miniature and still look instantly recognisable. Plastic is bold, bright, dynamic, versatile, and can be bursting with personality. Some of our boldest and most beautiful plastic toys can be found by clicking the images below.

large_MBL_Pooh_Ganglarge_DJ06705_djeco_king_draklarge_JCR_B_Okideoke_Gerrylarge_battat_plastic_toy_fishing_rods_magnetic_fishing_with_working_reel

The fall of wood: Wood is expensive to produce, it’s heavy, and it can be difficult to manipulate with precision on a factory scale. However, the most problematic issue is wood’s relative inability to deal with water in all of it’s forms; it has a tough time dealing with atmospheric conditions that plastic can take in it’s stride.  There are few wooden toys that could survive as a bath toy without swelling up into a distorted mess, plus dampness is also an issue for outside play meaning that something made from wood will typically solely work as an indoor toy. On top of this the colours that plastic boasts can only be achieved in a wooden counterpart with the aid of paint or other wood treatments, some of these treatments are superb and could weather the very chompiest of babies and toddlers, but you do have to be careful of what you buy, check for CE marks to ensure that what you’re buying will be OK for your child. The final issue with wood is obviously deforestation. However, unlike plastic which is drawn from a finite resource like oil, new trees can be planted. We take care to make sure we stock a range of minimally impactful wooden toys. Here is a selection:

hape toys go fish go fine motor toy manetic wand with metal balls perspec covert700_632b3e1b4ce9d80a4432c7ea5b5535c4goki cement mixerIMAG1644_BURST001_1

There’s plastic and then there’s plastic: Just like wood, plastic has it’s downsides. Sure you can use it to create bright, durable, toys for all weather, but when play gets a little too much for a plastic toy it’s got nothing on wood when it comes to recovery. Even if you’re a dab-hand with a tube of super-glue you can only work with what you’ve got. Plastic toys, when broken, are rarely an easy thing to fix.

Also worth thinking about is that on an aesthetic level some parents have a fixed aversion to plastic, with its garish colours and more flimsy feel (at least when compared to wooden equivalents). In themselves, these features have basically no bearing on how the child themselves will react to the toy (in fact most younger children respond best to bright, high-contrast colours) but if you’re buying a gift it’s always worth considering the tastes of the parent as well. Despite some truly beautiful plastic toys, there will always be some people who simply want nothing to do with it.

You can’t have a winner when it isn’t a competition: There simply isn’t a competition here. From the outside it may look like the same toy could be made in both materials but in practice you’ll find marked differences in the way toy manufacturers utilise the strengths of the respective materials. Wood is solid, dependable, natural, and traditional. Manufacturers using wood don’t typically try to make it look like a plastic toy, instead they play to these strengths, hoping that wooden toy owners take the necessary care to ensure that their toys stay away from water and other things that might damage their toy.

The same goes for plastics manufacturers; they acknowledge the limitations of their chosen material and then do as much as they can with the most dynamic, lightweight, and versatile manufacturing material available to the toy trade. There is no winner between the two, the simple fact is some toys will always work best made from plastic and others will work best when made from wood.

A quick ‘also ran’: It seems a shame not to mention die-cast metal. There are countless superb toys made from die-cast. In many ways it’s a material that bridges the gap between plastic and wood. It’s versatile, strong, it can be weatherproofed, it’s traditional and sturdy, not to mention the fact that the detail that can be achieved can be equal to (if not better than) what you could see on a plastic toy. However, it has it’s own downsides too, most notably its weight, take a die-cast tractor to the head and you’ll maybe be inclined to consider plastic alternatives. However, as above it isn’t a competition, die-cast is simply better-suited to some kinds of toy than wood and plastic, and vice versa.

wpid-imag1643_burst005.jpgOh and here’s a picture of the stone building blocks were talking about, very unusual to use but amazingly tactile blocks, and they balance brilliantly.

Hope this has been helpful, all the best, the Fun Junction Team

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Giddy for Games and Potty for Puzzles

Here’s a wee selection of some fantastic games and puzzles that are newly added to our website today, we’ve been having a bit of an Orchard Toys day today:

orchard toys can you guess performance game for 4 four years preschool and up‘Can you Guess?’: This is an action based game that’s almost charades with sounds. These kinds of games can be a fantastic way to build a child’s confidence. Add to this the bonus of a bit of family time away from screens and you’re on a winner. The game has been designed in a way that allows children as young as four to join in so it really opens it up as a game for the whole family to enjoy. You can get yours by following this link.

orchard toys big-number-jigsaw quantity and number up to 20 twenty twenty piece puzzle for 3 three and up preschool‘Big Number Jigsaw’: Numeracy can be a tricky one for some young children, a big part of the problem can be relating the strange new symbols with things that they can actually count. A talk-about puzzle like this one can be a fantastic way to help a child to relate the number symbol to the real-world quantity. It’s a twenty-piece puzzle with pretty large pieces so even children as young as three years old can use it. Follow this link to find it on our website.

 

orchard toys what do i do people that help us professions jigsaw puzzles for 2 two and up toddler preschool‘What Do I Do?’: This puzzle fits into a wee category that we call ‘people who help us’. It’s basically a way of saying that a toy or puzzle is themed around familiarising kids with different professions. ‘What do I do?’ is a great one because it not only highlights the emergency service workers that you normally would see in this kind of puzzle but it also features a baker and a builder, making this a little more connected to the kinds of jobs children might see on a more regular basis. A superb puzzle and to top it off it’s suitable for children aged two and up so it’s also a fun first puzzle.

There’s plenty more over on the website so have a wee browse around, we’ve even got a whole section dedicated to Orchard Toys that you can find if you click this link.

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