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buying guide

  • Best Outdoor Toys For 11 And 12 Year Olds

    #6 Outdoor Toys For 11 and 12 Year Olds

    As I plough on with this month’s series of posts dedicated to finding age appropriate outdoor toys, I’ve now hit the impossible-to-buy-for pre-teen years.

    There’s no denying it - creating this list isn’t going to be easy, but here goes.

    Something To Aim For After a stressful day at school your child ,may be seeking some solitude. Many jump straight onto the video games to flood their brains with something fun. The problem with this is that their brains have already spent the day being flooded with information and emotion, and what it really needed in the late afternoon was the opportunity to process and store what it has already taken in. This continued flooding will postpone processing time until the next time your child is busy doing nothing, which will most likely be bedtime. And trying to process a whole day’s worth of data in bed does not lead to a good night’s sleep

    An activity like shooting hoops will help your child unwind at the end of the day without over stimulating their tired mind.

    Netball or basketball hoops, or goals with targets on are great for providing a degree of challenge and something to aim for.

    Something To Share Have you ever noticed how when you go for a walk with someone you can often enjoy a deeper conversation than if you sit face to face. Enjoying an activity side-by-side takes the pressure of the participants, defuses conflict and makes conversational pauses more bearable.

    Make opportunities in your garden for these side-by-side interactions to take place. Working on the same flowerbed, sitting on neighbouring swings, or a large swinging hammock all work well, require little investment, and don’t take up too much space.

    These have the added bonus of being in your own back garden. If you have younger children it can be difficult to get time away from them to be able to connect with your eldest. Sharing an activity in your own garden means you are still at home for younger children, but your older child can benefit from your attention.

    Somewhere To Relax Nobody ever grows out of a swing. Well, we may one day become physically too wide for a swing, but in our hearts we still love to swing.

    But at the age of 11 and 12, swinging is about relaxation rather than thrill seeking. Now is a good time to swap that old plastic swing seat for something a little bigger and more comfortable, like a tyre.

    You should also check the maximum weight limit of the swing frame, and double check it is well anchored to the ground.

    We’re nearly at the finish line now. There’s just one last age category to look at - the teenagers.

  • Best Outdoor Toys For Nine And Ten Year Olds

    Around this age, the amount of space you have available really becomes an issue. They can run faster for longer, kick and throw further, and crave independence.

    In this fifth instalment into our outdoor toys for all ages series, we look at toys to encourage outdoor fun for 9 and 10 year olds.


    Liven Up A Walk With Weaponry

    If your children have reached the age where a family stroll brings on a barrage of moaning and feet dragging, it might be time to liven things up a bit.

    Take your family somewhere quiet, with an arsenal of toy guns and turn your gentle meander into a high energy shootout. You’re outdoors. You’re all moving about. And best of all, everyone’s happy.

    For added impact, cap guns really get the excitement levels up.

    If you take guns (like Nerf) that fire foam bullets, set some rules about bullet retrieval. Leaving bullets outside is littering, and they could be a danger to local wildlife. Count them all out, then count them back in again before you go home. Can’t find all the bullets? Then retrace your steps. No-one's getting a hot chocolate until every last bullet is accounted for.


    Upgrade Your Existing Climbing Frame

    If you’ve already got a swing set or climbing frame, you can upgrade the accessories to add a new level of challenge relatively easily. Many of the main manufacturers like Plum and TP Toys sell accessories that can be used instead of a swing. Older children will enjoy twirling on a spinning wheel, or challenging their upper body strength on a trapeze.

    A word of caution first though. Check the weight guidelines for your play equipment against your child’s weight. Ten year olds come in all shapes and sizes. Just because the swing is usually suitable for a 10 year old, doesn’t mean it is suitable for your ten year old.


    Keep Them Close With A Go Kart

    Remember when your child was little and you could let them ride their bike while you walked at a gentle pace alongside.

    And then that triumphant day came when they could ride without stabilisers.

    And for about 60 seconds you were so happy for them. Then you realised how fast they could ride, and that you would never be able keep up, and you slumped to floor muttering ‘what have I done? What have I done?’ (just me?).

    You can get back those laid-back four wheel days with a go-kart. They’ll can put plenty of effort into pedal power, racing round the block like Fernando Alonso, and you can march behind, because no matter how hard they try, they will never get that go-kart to go as fast as a bike.

    Parenting win!

  • Best Outdoor Toys For Seven And Eight Year Olds

    They’re bigger, stronger, filled with energy, and yet suddenly they seem a whole lot more interested in TV and video games than in running around outside with their friends.

    But with our help you can still lure your seven or eight year old back out into the garden.

    Climbing Frame

    Don’t have a climbing frame yet. still not sure. Procrastinate any longer and you will lose valuable play opportunities. Every day you spend thinking about it is another day your child could have been climbing it.

    Look for a climbing frame that offers challenging climb and scope to be played with in a variety of ways. For example the Plum Pyramid features a rock wall, climbing net and a camouflage den, making it a more attractive plaything for older children.

    Goal, Net, Hoop, Any Kind Of Target

    By this age children have grown in confidence when it comes to ball skills and will be playing games like football and netball in school. Installing a goal, net, basket or hoop at home provides the opportunity to practise shooting skills either with friends or even with mum or dad. There aren't many outdoor games parents will enjoy playing, not least because they would break the equipment (have you ever seen a grown man snap a swing in two? It’s not a pretty sight). But a ball and something to aim at is all that’s needed to pass a pleasant afternoon.

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    Swings

    By this age a child should be willing and able to swing themselves. You will still need to supervise from a safe distance. For tips on teaching your child how to swing solo check this blog post from the archives: Teaching your child how to pump the swing. Make sure you position your swing away from any structures that your child could hit while swinging back and forth, and out of the line of play. For example if your children usually run a certain way from the bottom of the slide to the back of the climbing frame, keep the swing clear of this route so they don’t run right into the feet of someone on the swing.

    Plum Gibbon Swing set

    Plum

    Messy Play

    You may imagine a water play table to be suitable for younger children, but older kids will get good use from it too. Children this age love to explore nature, collecting bugs and leaves. Use a water table to create a home from home habitat for their new best friends, before repatriating them back to their original hiding place at the end of the day.

    For more ideas on matching your outdoor play equipment to your child’s age and stage of development, check out the rest of January’s blog series.

  • Best Outdoor Toys For Five And Six Year Olds: What School Aged Child Wants In Their Garden

    This is the third post in January’s series about which outdoors toys are best suited for each age and stage.

    In this post we’re looking at the play equipment 5 and 6 year olds will enjoy playing on.

    A Mention For Milestones

    Around this age children are able to climb and use a slide comfortably, keen to play together and some may be able to use a swing without an adult’s help.

    Choosing the right toys for this age is a careful balancing act. The play equipment needs to be enjoyable to play with, yet at the same time offer scope for learning and an appropriate level of challenge.

    Invest In A Climbing Frame

    This is a great age to invest in a climbing frame. Choose a high quality wooden climbing frame and you will get many years of use from it, and hundreds of hours of play.

    Look for a frame that offers opportunities to swap accessories in and out. These small, inexpensive changes will help keep your child interested in the climbing frame, and enable you to update the features to match your child's developmental ability.

    For example, for a five year old you might start out with a frame that as a simple step ladder. as your child gets older this will become easier and easier for them to use. By about the age of seven, you could swap the ladder for metal rungs or a rock wall. Then a year or two later update it again with a climbing net. If you have a climbing frame in mind and want to discuss the accessory option, please contact us and we can talk you through what’s available.

    Funtime

    Some climbing frames with swing arms also allow you to swap the swings out for other hanging toys like a trapeze or rings. This is great for updating the climbing frame as your child gets older, but also enables you to adapt the frame if you have children of wide variety of ages.

    Being Sociable

    As previously mentioned, at this age children become more interested in playing together and enjoying each other's company.

    Some climbing frames can have gliders or boats attached to them so that two children can swing together. The benefit of these types of swing is that parents have the opportunity to listen in on conversation the children are having while they gently push the glider, which will no doubt include some priceless gems.

    As their hand-to-eye coordination develops they may also enjoy a swingball set. Gently batting a ball back and forth provides the opportunity to play with a friend or a parent and enjoy a conversation at the same time, something that five and six years olds are very keen on.

    Although they may need to duck to get through the door, at this age many children still enjoy playing in a playhouse. You can update the look as your child gets older to keep them interested. For example, the playhouse may start out as a cosy miniature home but with the addition of some camouflage netting, green paint and Nerf guns it can become an army barracks for older children.

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    For more outdoor toy ideas check out the rest of January's series on matching play equipment to your child's age.

  • How To Grab Rock Solid Play Equipment At Rock Bottom Prices

    No sooner is the turkey eaten, the packaging disposed of, and the tree de-tinselled (untinselled, dis-tinselled, de-tinselfied, you know what I mean) than it’s time to start hunting out those clearance bargains.

    The week between Christmas and New Year is a time when many retailers slash prices in an attempt to shift their leftover Christmas stock.

    If you’re looking for a bargainous piece of outdoor play equipment. Not only are our products great value all year round, we also offer occasional clearance prices too.

    Here I’ll talk you through the why, when and how much when it comes to play equipment at knocked-down prices.

    Why The Clearance Prices? Are you naturally suspicious of clearance prices. You should be. When rummaging through the clothing rales, or surveying the shelves at the toy store it becomes quickly apparent why some items are sold on at massively reduced prices. They are rubbish. That’s not the case here at Wicken Toys because we only every stock toys we trust from suppliers we have long term relationships with.

    We slash prices for a different reason. End of line clearances.

    Every couple of years the equipment manufacturers like to update their models. Sometimes they discontinue models completely, other times they make small tweaks and adjustments based on retailer and customer feedback (sign of an awesome manufacturer, their willingness to respond to their customers). These changes may leave us with a few end of line unopened, still boxed-up, perfectly good items. We need to move these on quickly to make way for the newer models so we reduce the prices. Often there is very little difference between the new design and the older version, so you can buy an extremely similar product at a greatly reduced price. Take the Plum Pyramid Climbing Frame for example. Plum changed the slatted wooden ladder for metal rungs, so earlier this year we sold off a number of the wooden slat models at a much lower price than the recommended retail price.

    These still-in-the-box, new but no longer current climbing frames, slides and other toys can be found in our clearance section.

    Sometimes these model changes mean that the climbing frame we have on display in our jumbo outdoor showroom is no longer representative of the product available, so we need to move it on to a new home. These items are available in our ex-display section. Each item will contain details on how long it has been assembled for and what its current condition is like. When Is The Best Time To Buy? We don’t really have set schedule for slashing prices. We move in response to our suppliers and manufacturers. Right at the end of Winter, just before Spring, is a common time for models to be updated, in anticipation of Easter holiday sales. But we usually have clearance items available all year round.

    How Much? How much we knock off the price depends on the condition of the item, the number of similar items we have available and how quickly we need to make room. For new items you can save around 40%, while ex-display items are often priced at around 60% off.

    Come take a look around our online clearance section, or feel free to pay us a visit in Milton Keynes and try out the toys yourself.

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