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guide

  • 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.

    All

    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.

  • Wicken Guide To Buying A Slide

    What’s not to love about a slide?

    Not only do they provide a great prompt for imaginative play, they encourage physical activity and give young minds a full sensory workout at the same time.

    Here we take a look at the benefits of incorporating a slide into your back garden playscape and how to go about choosing the best slide for your children.

    The Humble Slide: More Than Just A Fun Ride

    Sure a slide is fun, but it offers much more than that. In their eagerness to experience the thrill of the slide ride, your children will expend plenty of energy running around to the ladder and climbing back to the top. This raises their heart rate, which is good for overall health and well-being and works the big muscle groups in their arms and legs. Young children especially need to push and pull with these muscles everyday before their bodies are ready experience the stillness needed to achieve focus and concentration.

    The ride down itself also contributes to childhood development. In the few seconds it takes to ride to the bottom, your child is bombarded with sensory experiences - the feel of air rushing past, the sensation of their body moving over the surface of the slide, the sights of their surroundings zipping past them. Their brain works hard to process all these experiences and make sense of them. The more practice their brain gets in this type of processing, then more able it is to apply this processing skill to unfamiliar situations.

    So by now you should be well convinced that a slide will make a fun and useful addition to your garden. Now it’s time to decide which slide.

    One

    Space Considerations

    Not only do you need space for the slide, but you also need adequate room for children to access the ladder, and an exclusion zone around the slide, free from obstacles, that can be covered with safety matting to provide protection in the event of a fall.

    When planning the position of the slide you should also be wary of the temptation to reach for things from the top of the ladder. Make sure your slide is far enough away from playhouses and other play equipment, so your children won’t be tempted to hop from one item to the other.

    Finally, consider the route your children will take from the bottom of the slide back around to the ladder. Make sure they won’t be running directly in the path of the swings, or need to navigate around any obstacles likely to trip them up.

    Stand Alone vs Climbing Frame

    At Wicken Toys we sell stand alone slides and climbing frames with slides attached. For smaller gardens a climbing frame may be the best way to fit a variety of play features into the space available.

    Slides attached to climbing frames tend to feel more sturdy, although stand alone slides can be staked to the ground.

    Finally, if your child wants an unusual slide such as a tube or a wave, there are a greater number of options to choose from if you opt for a slide attached to a climbing frame.

    Whatever size your garden, Wicken Toys will have play equipment suitable. Browse through our selection of slides and climbing frames online, visit our huge outdoor demonstration area, or call us to discuss your requirements.

  • How To Choose Your New Climbing Frame

    A new climbing frame can represent a substantial investment, so it's worth taking the time to consider your purchase carefully. As experts in outdoor play, we are well practiced in helping parents decide which model is best suited to the needs of their family and garden. If you need any assistance, please feel free to contact us.

    We have a large selection of metal and wooden climbing frames available to buy online, for delivery to your home. To help you narrow down the field and create a shortlist, here are some key questions and features to consider.

    How old are your children? As a general rule, the full sized climbing frames are suitable for use from 3 years.

    If you have younger children you might like to consider buying a smaller, temporary climbing frame, before upgrading to a full-sized model later. Installing a climbing frame that is not age appropriate will lead to frustration for your child, and stress for you as you constantly need to keep an eye on them.

    TP

    The TP Explorer frame is ideal if you have young children. It can be set with a toddler friendly platform height of just 64cm, then reconstructed at a later date with the platform reset to 114cm high.

    Buy it all now or add on later? You don't need to buy the complete set in one go. Many of the climbing frames we stock can be enhanced with swings, or den areas. Adding these at a later date will help give your climbing frame a new lease of life, and recapture your children's interest in it.

    Metal or wood? Generally metal frames tend to be cheaper, and can be more easily taken down and reassembled elsewhere, which is useful if you may be moving home. Wood lasts longer, looks nicer, and since the material is more versatile, there is a larger selection of wood frames than metal. More information can be found on our Metal vs Wooden Climbing Frame Guide.

    Space Considerations When planning out where the climbing frame will be positioned in your garden, don't forget to make allowance for room in front and behind swings, and behind any climbing areas.

    If you have an awkwardly shaped garden that doesn't lend itself to one large climbing frame, consider buying individual pieces of play equipment, like swings and slides, separately, to allow for more layout options.

    Adequate Challenge Make sure the climbing frame offers an appropriate level of physical challenge for your child, now and as they get older. Look for interesting climbing features like cargo nets, and rock walls, and for equipment that offers a chance to progress as they get older, like monkey bars.

    Making your Budget Stretch Further You can make your budget stretch further by taking a look at our selection of ex-display and clearance items. When a manufacturer releases new models and discontinues the older version, we move the remaining stock into the clearance section, creating bargains for customers who are happy to take an older model.

    Versatile

  • Metal vs Wooden Climbing Frames Buyer's Guide

    When buying a climbing frame, the very first factor you need to decide upon is which material would you prefer your new play equipment to be constructed from: metal or wood.

    Here at Wicken we aim to stock quality outdoor play equipment to cater for differing needs of individual families. We have a range of both metal and wood climbing frames listed online, and have developed this buyer's guide to help you choose which type is most suitable for your children.

    Plum

    Appearance If your new climbing frame is going to be right in the middle of the back garden in full view of the house, or when you are sitting on the patio, you are naturally going to be concerned about the appearance. It's pretty much impossible to make a large piece of equipment blend in, but at least wood is a more sympathetic look, that weathers and tones down over time. Typically wooden climbing frames use natural coloured plastics on accessories which helps the overall appearance remain in keeping with the garden.

    While metal climbing frames may start off as a neutral grey, or gentle green, their appearance does not improve over time like wood does.

    Strength And Durability Climbing frames constructed from wood tend to be stronger and more durable than their metal counterparts. Wood does not lose any of its structural integrity as it weathers, whereas metal can corrode. The durability of the frames is reflected in the warranties that come with each product. Typically a metal frame will come with just a five year warranty, whereas wooden frames tend to come with ten years.

    Environment Since wood can be sustainably harvested, wooden climbing frames are the more environmentally-friendly choice. Look for manufacturers who are registered with the Forest Stewardship Council, such as Plum, as FSC membership indicates and ethical approach in creating their products.

    Price This is where metal wins out, as metal climbing frames tend to be cheaper.

    TP

    Which Is Better Wood or Metal? After reading all the reasons why wood is a better material for climbing frame construction than metal, you may be wondering why we bother to stock metal climbing frames at all. Metal climbing frames are bet suited when they won't be needed for a long time. You can expect to get at least five years use from a metal play frame. In that time your child may have outgrown their play equipment, or you will have moved house. Actually metal frames tend to fair better when taken down and reconstructed during a house move, so that's another point you might like to consider.

    Metal frames work really well for climbing frames for little children. They make a great starting point for back garden play equipment, and if in a couple of years your child is ready for a more substantial climbing challenge, you can upgrade to a larger wooden frame.

    If you are looking to make a one off purchase of a climbing frame to last throughout childhood, then wood is a good option. Metal is the best option for a smaller frame for a young child, if you have a limited budget, or you are planning a house move in the near to medium term.

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