Toys of Wood Oxford Multifunctional Advanced Beads Puzzle & Threading Board
Most people buy back to school clothes, gym kits and stationary. We buy back to school toys. Of course do a lot more than just play, but play is an important part of our curriculum. I believe children retain what they learn better when they are having fun, but something like allows children to use several styles of learning. The manufacturer claims this is suitable for ages 3 -10. I originally scoffed at this idea, feeling 10 would be far too old for this toy, but seeing how much my 8 1/2 year old enjoys it, I've changed my mind.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX:
Wooden tray with a peg board lid. There are two grooves cut into the inside of the tray which can be used to hold the pegboard upright like an easel if desired.
360 wooden mushroom shaped pegs , various colours, small medium and large tops. the bottom of the peg is just under 1/2 centimetre in diameter. The pegs are nearly 1 centimetre tall. The height is the same for all of them , it is just the width of the mushroom part.
6 coloured laces.
5 wooden shapes for threading: cow, teddy bear, butterfly, fish
And instruction booklet showing several designs to make.
OVERALL QUALITY AND MANUFACTURING INFORMATION:
This toy is made in China. The Amazon ad states that it does conform to EC toy safety rules has a ISO 9002 Certificate and conforms to EN71. this doesn't mean much to me so I looked it up. EC toy safety is obvious, but the ISO 9002 certificate is a British standards certificate but now obsolete. EN71 refers to "European and International toy safety standards EN71"*
The overall quality of the toy can only be described as exceptional. The wood has a lovely smooth surface and the lid fits on top perfectly. The lacing figures are simple, they are all one colour, but also have a nice texture and appear very well made. I do suffer from tremors at times in my hands, and unfortunately this box really went flying shortly after purchase. I was delighted that it came out unscathed. The paint is thick and robust and appears unlikely to chip and thank goodness the whole box was put together well enough o withstand some impact, although obviously this is not recommended. My favourite part however, is the pegs. We do have plastic pegs as well, but these are so much nicer. I just the love the feel of real wood and so do the boys.
The instruction booklet is written in both Chines and English , and I'm afraid the translation is not very good. In one instance it reads "Don't keep the toy in the mouth to prevent children devour small parts of the toy". The English is not perfect, or even good, but it does get the point across, and in all honesty it is common sense anyway, You really shouldn't need an instruction book to advise you not to throw this toy at each other or to allow small children to eat the little pieces. The "Warning choking hazard - Small Parts. Not for children under 3 years" is clearly stamps as are a few other references to 3+. The majority of the instructions are illustrations so no text is needed but what I really like about the booklet is that it has the English word under most pictures accompanied by the Chinese symbol. I really like this as my children have had some interest in Chinese writing and I think it is wonderful for them to be exposed to this little taste of another culture.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH THIS?
I could write a book on what you can do with this toy. It is great fun simply to make pictures and allow for artistic expression. It is also wonderful to make geometric shapes and explore patterns. You can have fun creating half of a picture and allowing a child to create the other half. You can make pictures only from pegs, or by lacing the wooden shapes onto the board. Or you can use this as a threading board with strings alone, crisscrossing them back and forth to make designs or stitching out letters. The wooden shapes can also be used for tracing, or you can just stitch the threads in and out of the holes. You can play X's and o's with this , or even a simplified version of Go one of Albert Einstein's favourite games.
Fine motor skills: The small mushroom pegs are perfect for encouraging children to develop a pincer grip. The threading and lacing activities help children develop the ability to use the hands asymmetric bilateral integration or the ability to use both hands at once in a different task. Both lacing and using the pegs improves hand / eye coordination.
Literacy: The ability to recognise patterns is a key skill required in emergent literacy. You can start with something as simple as a two colour pattern and allow the child to guess which colour comes next. If your child makes a picture, you can use pegs to spell out the word underneath. The main reason I bought this though is letter recognition. First I make the letter with pegs, then encourage my child to feel the shape of the letter. As he does I say the letter name and sound, and we think of words which begin with it. Next he makes the letter himself. He ends up using all of his senses in this activity, sight, touch, sound and even critical thought as he thinks about where to place the next peg.
Maths: You can discuss small, medium and large as you pick out mushroom pegs. The manufacturer suggests doing simple sums on this, but we didn't find that very interesting. But a child can learn multiplication easily using blocks of pegs. An example would be to find the total for three rows of eight. This is excellent for discovering factors as well as a child discovers how many different patterns he or she can make with a set number of pegs. You can practice simple division with remainder as well, or use pegs to represent number values such as blue for ones, red for tens etc... - or you could just use the pegs to count.
Geometry: This does not make a perfect circle, but it is nice for more angular shapes, and allows children to learn the shapes through touch just as we did with the letters. You can also show how some shapes can combine to make others. You can make wonderful geometric patterns as well.
Multicultural: Try making some of the Chinese characters along with the picture. You might also read a book about Chinese writing. I would recommend Jin Jin The Dragon by Grace Chang and The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann.
Art and colour recognition are fairly obvious so I won't go into these.
I only have two problems with this set. First I wish you would buy more pegs as with only 360 pegs and 550 holes you can not fill the whole board. The second issue is that while the lid fits perfectly, it does not attach, so this can spill easily, and believe me, you do not want 360 pegs rolling about the floor. To solve this, either make sure the pegs are kept in the plastic baggies, or get a pencil case to keep them as I did. A soft pencil cases fits easily in this, along with all the other bits, and I even had room for an extra set of wooden shapes which I bought separately. There are two notches at the top and bottom of this set. I place a rubber band over the whole box, fitting into the notches to hold everything together and it works perfectly.
PRICE AND RECOMMENDED EXTRAS:
This set sells for £13.99 new and delivered from Amazon, fulfilled by Toys of Wood Oxford.
As mentioned, you can not buy additional wooden pegs for this set. However, you can buy plastic ones. They aren't as nice, but they are fairly cheap. Amazon charges £18.49 for five plastic pegboards and 1,000 pegs but I bought the 1,000 pegs alone for roughly £5 on ebay. I have also added a beautiful set of wooden lacing seaside animals from ELC, and as luck would have it, they even fir in the box. Finally I bought of Miniland plastic letters for sewing. These letters can be stitched directly onto the board with the threads, as can the ELC animals. The possibilities are absolutely endless as Amazon has quite a few lacing and threading toys that could easily be added to this.
My sons are ages 5 and 8. Both really enjoy this toy, and I have to admit, I do as well. There are just so many things you can do with this. I think we could have this for years and still find new and different uses for it. Because this toy does have such massive amount of different uses, it never grows boring, you can always find a new game or activity. I love this because it keeps learning fun and really is helping my son with pre reading skills and fine motor coordination. My sons love it simply because it is fun. If dooyoo allowed 1/2 star ratings, I would drop this to 4 1/2 stars because you can not buy replacement parts. We are very careful with small parts, but if you can't be sure these will always be put away properly, this mightn't be a good choice as you will not be able to replace them. I can't bring myself to drop this to 4 stars though as the boys both love it, it has had hours of play already, and it is educational as well.
# How to play a children's version of Go or Goe:
Go is an ancient Chinese games, dating back at least 2,500 years. It is meant to be played on black line, but in this case, we can play it with holes. The idea is simple. Each player gets a colour. You take turns placing pegs. The idea is to surround your opponents pegs. Whenever a group of pegs is surrounded by another colour, with no open space in which to move, they are captured and must be removed. This is actually a highly complicated game using maths and logic, and we do not attempt the correct scoring. For a children's game, we simply count up the number of pegs on the board after a set time and whoever has the most wins. If you wish to play the game in it's true form, you Google "How to Play Go"
This review also appears on dooyoo