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outdoor activities

  • Play Ideas For Science and Engineering Week

    In celebration of National Science and Engineering Week, we've come up with this list of games and activities that combine scientific learning with outdoor play.

    1) Homemade Volcanoes When vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are combined the reaction generates carbon dioxide, creating frothing, fizzy, hissing fun. Children never get bored of watching this. Set up little pots of bicarbonate of soda and bottles of vinegar with equipment like medicine syringes, pipettes, or even volcano shaped cones, and allow the children to experiment with what delivers the best reaction.

    2) Cola Geyser This works best with mint flavoured mentoes and diet coke. When the carbon dioxide in the soda bubbles come into contact with the gelatin and gum arabic ingredients in the sweet, a reaction generating more gas occurs. Set up experiments with different flavoured sodas, diet and full sugar versions, and sparkling water to see what creates the most gas. You can also add rock salt which will make the explosion more impressive.

    3) Pendulum Play IF you have a climbing frame, monkey bars or swing set, use the frame to create a homemade pendulum. You will need to tie a cup to a piece of string, then tie the other end to the top of the frame. There are two ways to play with this. Firstly you can add stack empty boxes, almost like vertical skittles, and swing the pendulum to knock them down. You can experiment by adding weights, or altering the length of the string, and noting the affect this has on the path of the pendulum.

    A second way to explore the action of the pendulum is by adding paint to it. Poke a small hole in the bottom of the cup, and fill with paint which has been thickened slightly with flour. Add large sheets of paper, you could use newspaper or unwanted wall paper. Swing the pendulum, and the paint will make a pattern on the paper corresponding with its journey. Again you can experiment with this by adding weight to the cup (squish some playdough onto the outside), or changing the length of the string.

    4) Colour Wheel For this experiment you will need full fat milk, some washing up liquid and some food colouring. Pour enough milk onto a plate to cover the bottom of it, then add a drop of each colour, spaced around the plate. Take a small piece of cotton wool and dip it into the washing up liquid, then touch it to the plate of milk and see what happens. As the soap declares all out war on the fats within the milk, the colours will swirl around the plate.

    5) Sound Bingo Make up bingo cards of some of the different sounds you might hear outside. For younger children you may need to use photographs, or cartoons instead of written words. Then go for a walk, or find a quiet spot for a picnic and listen out for the sounds on your cards.

    These are just a few ideas to get your started, and hopefully they will inspire you to create your own back garden science experiments.

    For more outdoor play ideas, check out the Wicken Toys blog.

  • Winter Activities When There's No Snow

    Every year as the nights draw in and the air grows colder, I conjure romantic images of the children playing outside in the snow before coming inside for snuggles and hot chocolate. I have no need to think of entertainment ideas as good old Jack Frost will take care of that by supplying a healthy covering of snow, in which my children will toboggan and play all day.

    And this does happen, but only for two or three days over the whole Winter. The rest of the time the garden is a muddy bog of goo, and I am desperately racking my brains for play inspiration.

    So to celebrate and embrace the winter season, but without the need for snow, here's a run down of my favourite play ideas.

    #1 Cardboard Snow Men Save the cardboard boxes from your Christmas presents, and decorate them with white paper. Then stack smaller boxes on top of a big box to create your own cardboard snowman. You can seal the boxes together with thick tape, or leave them unstuck and play skittles with him.

    #2. Ice Marbles You can make these on those infuriating days when it is freezing cold but the snow just will not fall from the sky. Fill some balloons up with coloured water, and before you tie the ends up, add a drop or two of food colouring. Then leave in the garden to freeze overnight. In the morning, cut the balloons off, and you will be left with giant, coloured ice marbles.

    #3. Make Your Own Snow Put your water play table or redundant splash pool to good use, and create a homemade snow sensory bin. There are a number of different recipes you can use to make your own snow, but my favourite uses just shaving foam and bicarbonate of soda. Start with a couple of tablespoons of powder, then add in the foam and keep adding and mixing until you get the desired quantity and consistency. The 'snow' will be light and powdery, and thanks to an endothermic reaction, it will also feel cold. For added fun, mix in some glitter. If you keep the 'snow' covered it should last for a couple of days. Then when it's dried out, or it no longer interests your children, you can use it for another activity. Add some vinegar and the powder will foam up. If you add some paint or food colouring, you can hold paper over the foam to create bubble pictures.

    #4. Ice Preserved Toys Take a handful of small plastic toys, like dinosaurs or action figures and freeze them in ice blocks. You can do this by squeezing them into a balloon and making ice marbles as explained earlier, or freezing them in food bags in the freezer or outside. Then ask your children to set their friends free. Watch and admire their resourcefulness as they try to liberate their toys.

    #5. Make Bird Feeders Even without the snow, the hard ground can make it very difficult for birds to get a good meal. You can make simple bird feeders by threading hooped cereal onto a piece of string, or smothering an empty cardboard tube in peanut butter and rolling in seeds. Put some clean drinking water out too.

  • The heat is on? Some advice about protecting your children in the sun

    Wicken Toys are back with a helping of advice for how to keep your little ones safe on even the sunniest of days.  It’s fun to play outside in the sun, but that doesn’t mean safety should be overlooked! It's not been the summer we were all hoping for but expectations are high for an Indian Summer come August and September.


    The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are divided into three broad categories: UVA, UVB and UVC.  Although UVC rays are the most potentially dangerous, they are stopped by the ozone layer of the atmosphere, so we needn’t worry about those for the time being.  UVA and UVB rays, however, can both cause lasting damage – UVA has been linked to skin aging and wrinkling, while UVB is associated with sunburns, cataracts and damage to the immune system, although both are suggested to contribute to the likelihood of skin cancer.  It’s not all doom and gloom though, in moderation and with sufficient preparation these rays will only contribute to a pleasant summer and allow your kids to play outdoors happily.



    Not all sunlight is of the same strength – close to the equator and at higher altitudes the sun’s rays are stronger, so take particular care if you’re planning a holiday abroad this year.  These rays are at a concentrated strength at certain times of the day too, usually between 10am and 4pm in the northern hemisphere.  At these times it’s generally best to avoid the sun altogether if possible, but if it’s a necessity there are precautions you can take to make sure your youngsters are as safe as they can be.


    Sunscreen is a good precaution, but it should be used as a second line of defence, not a primary one.  The first line should be your child’s clothing – the best way to stay safe in the sun’s rays is to cover up.  Hats with large brims should be provided, and a shaded area such as an umbrella is an essential addition to any outdoor play area.  When applying sunscreen, remember to choose a bottle with as high an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) as possible to provide your children with the best protection they can get, and ensure that the often missed areas such as the back of the neck are liberally covered with lotion.



    Dehydration is also a danger in the sun.  Everyone needs to take in water to keep functioning properly – this is even more important when so much of your body’s water is being lost in sweat during active play or evaporated due to heat.  It’s essential, therefore, to make sure your kids have a bottle of water handy at all times too.


    Remember to set a good example to your kids – take care of yourself as well as them.  In the meantime, make the most of your summer, have a good time, and play safely!


    Next week we will address the issue of what to do with the kids during the alternative summer weather - all this cursed rain!

  • Olympic Fun for Kids!


    It might be the middle of winter, but what better time to plan ahead for the coming spring and summer?  The whole country is doing it, after all...  That’s right, we’re talking about London 2012! With Olympic spirits on the rise, it may be that your children will want to become more active – it’s a good idea to let them feel they can join in.  If they’re reluctant, try encouraging them to leave the TV and the videogames alone for a little while; with a little imagination you can make outdoor playtime even more appealing.


    Many of our climbing frames can be customised with the addition of various accessories which are also available from us, many of which are currently discounted to make things easier on the post-Christmas purse strings.  Here are some ideas we’ve found...

    Let your little monkeys act like proper little monkeys with the tp Monkey Bridge – sound effects and jungle noises are not included, but we’re sure your kids will provide their own!  At £81 it’s a lot more affordable than a trip to the Amazon, but with a healthy dose of imagination your children will be away with the chimpanzees.  Don’t leave them hanging; consider a tp Scrambling Net for £44 to accompany your purchase, giving a new depth and density to that jungle.  Think about adding a tp 6 Rung Rope Ladder or 2.5m Climbing Rope to your den too – you’ll appreciate the smiles on the faces of your young Tarzans and Janes, and at £26.95 and £31.50 that’s value you can appreciate too.


    Try adding a Creative Playthings Play Telescope or Ship’s Wheel) to turn their climbing frame into a pirate ship!  At £15 and £19 respectively, that’s bargain buccaneering – with a total saving of £14.  They’ll be sailing the seven seas in search of plunder in no time at all.  Let your little landlubbers on board with the addition of a Plum 1.2m High Ramp Clearance and they’ll want to go out and swab the decks at every opportunity.  If you have a few more pieces of eight to spare, why not let them climb the rigging with the Creative Playthings 1.5m Cargo Climber (£119)?

    Perhaps your existing outdoor toys need an injection of adrenalin and excitement?  Link two different frames together with a Creative Playthings Crawl Tube or add a quick escape route with a 7ft Enclosed Turbo Slide for £349 and £549 – a collective saving of £370!  Add another dimension to the fun by attaching some tp Kingswood Horizontal Hoops or a Challenger Den to give that extra portion of adventure for £54 or £67.50.  Maybe your kids would like to sample the thrill of rock climbing in the safety of their own garden?  Take a look at the Creative Playthings 2.72m Pinnicle Rock Wall for a discounted £259!



    It’s a good idea to plan through how you can entertain your children later on in the year to save them getting bored if you’re trying to think on-the-fly.  With all this outside play, they’ll be ready to take part in the Olympics before you know it! ;-)

  • I conquered the castle - climbing frames for children


    Every child has a moment that defines their young life and where they decide what it is they want to be later on in life. Their dreams begin to take shape. Some want to be pop stars or writers, others want to be doctors or sportsmen, some even decide they want to be explorers! All these dreams begin from an early age where children spend their time playing and using their imagination.


    Wicken Toys is a big believer in this idea of imaginative play informing children’s dreams and aspirations, which is why this week we’re looking to the most adventurous of all outdoor toys – climbing frames.


    Climbing frames for gardens and outdoors don’t have to be stock standard metal bars and plain features. We can prove that climbing frames can be the most exciting, dynamic and aesthetically designed outdoor toys on the market!


    Don’t believe us? We’ll prove it to you:


    This fun little Captain plum play centre has a fun nautical theme and will be great in role play games. Children can climb, slide and use the look out to look out for pirates; that is if they are not the pirates looking for a treasure island.  Best of all completely "packaged" and ready to assemble.  Designed for Residential use only.  Adult assembly required.

    Playing pirates has never been more fun or more real for them. It’s a great thing to get your kids if they are big fans of Jack Sparrow!



    This Castlewood Tower has a hexagonal design which will fit into most gardens.  The platform can be fitted at two diffrent heights depending on the age of your child.  It is important to note that this particular tower is not supplied with a slide. You can purchase a slide separately though.



    The Plum Endeavour Playcentre is an adventurous fort that has a fun nautical theme with 2.4m (8ft) slide , 2 swings, cargo net and rockwall. A play den below opens-out into a fun hull shaped play area.  The swing arm has a 2 seat glider and single swing.  The 2 metre high rock wall with hand and foot grips can be ascended via the high cargo net the other side.



    The tp Kingswood Top Deck Climbing Frame and Swing Set 2 is a set that includes two swing positions and plenty of possibilities to keep on growing with the children. His wooden climbing frame set features the ever-popular 2 seater Skyride. Other possible add ons for this wood playset set include an alternative swing seat when the youngest family member has grown and a Climbing Bridge if space allows.



    These are just A FEW of the climbing frames that we stock.

    It’s pretty much a climbing frame paradise over here at Wicken Toys.

  • This summer play parks need to invest in quality outdoor play equipment


    For every child there is nothing that really beats exploring the outdoor environments of a play park with their friends. At that age everything is a new discovery and imagination is king on the playgrounds. But every play park needs an outdoor play equipment supplier in order to kit it out with safe, durable and fun toys. This is where we at Wicken Toys step in.


    In our experience, play parks should have plenty for kids to play with and in this blog we create the ideal environment with everything you could possibly need to make a play park a success with children. The essential elements that make up an outdoor play area are garden swings and slides. Without these two toy sets, it’s not a park! Or at least, it’s certainly not a traditional one!


    Let’s swing into action shall we? Swings are the heart and soul of a play park, and for us the swings from Plum products are the safest bet to make that heart beat.


    The Plum Uakari swing set offers 2 compact swing positions with the addition of two very popular climbing apparatus; a large climbing net and tall rock wall. It’s a wooden swing set with soft rope for climbing. It’s a multi-purpose, multi-use garden swing set ideal for play park use. Moreover, it’s safe!



    Let’s not slide around the issue too much! Slides are quite simply the bees knees when it comes to play parks. Kids love them. So you need to make sure you have one that is smooth and safe. For us, this Green Spiral Slide is ideal for children aged 3-12 that consists of 8 gliding parts mounted around a central pole.

    Nobody likes a social climber, unless they are under the age of 12! CP Gable Fan and Dormer and climbing frame is a play park ready outdoor toy with roof, climbing apparatus and a tower. It’s big, bold and brilliant!



    What’s a play park without a sandpit too? The tp Sherwood Sandpit is a large play area suitable for 2 or more children to get messy and have a muck around in. It’s simple and safe.



    Alternatively, you could just get an all-in-one beast of a climbing frame that has a bit of everything.

    There’s the Spider Monkey from Plum products that is a compact climbing frame with climbing net, slide and optional swings.



    One of our favourites is the Playtime Lincoln wooden climbing frame with free accessories including a two child back to back glider, rock wall, cargo climber, lunch counter, clubhouse window panal and access ladder. It’s the king of play park climbing frames, that’s for certain!



    Wicken Toys has the largest outdoor display in the UK for outdoor toys, so if you would like to see some of these products up close and personal, don’t hesitate to come and visit or Contact Us for more information.

  • Spring turns in to Easter at Wicken Toys

    As we seem to have whizzed through 2012 already, it’s hard to believe that we’re not that far off Easter – in fact it’s just under four weeks away!

    Easter is a traditional time of year (weather permitting) for egg hunts, barbeques and of course gardening.  So, it’s a good time to think a little bit ahead and consider what you might do for the children this time around.

    Continue reading
  • Winter Fun & Games


    Of course Winter is not just a time to fear for your children’s safety, it’s a time like no other that can offer a huge variety of fun. No other season offers this one material that kids love to play with, a material that allows a versatile amount of games to be played; snow. When it snows, and if it snows hard enough, it can cause the whole country to shut down. Roads are closed. Public transport stops. Offices stay closed. At Wicken Toys we see this period as one to enjoy and relish. Continue reading

  • Playing safe in winter – tips for parents and children Part 2


    In the last blog Wicken Toys introduced a selection of winter safe playing tips for children and how parents can keep their kids protected from the harshness of a British winter while they play outdoors or with outdoor toys. Getting into the specifics of why winter can be an appealing time for children and outdoor playtime it is clear that the allure of winter sports and games are at the core of it all. Winter sports can be a great way for children to stay active, but each sport presents its own unique hazards. Continue reading

  • Playing safe in winter – tips for parents and children Part 1


    Now that we are beginning to suffer the full wrath of winter’s bone, it’s time to make a choice on how you are going to protect your children while they play. New dangers for children appear during winter which can be hazardous if not met with awareness. Continue reading

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