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Wicken Toys Blog

  • Buyer's Guide To Choosing A Sand Pit

    There's no need to trek all the way to the beach to enjoy sandcastles. Bring the seaside to your own back garden with a new sand pit.

    Why Play With Sand?

    Playing in a sandpit offers a multi-sensory experience for your children.

    The sensation of the grains gliding over the skin is stimulating yet relaxing, providing a great way to relax through play.

    And as multiple senses are stimulated at the same time little brains learn to process information from diverse sources quickly and simultaneously in order to be able to make sense of the world around them.

    What To Look For

    Don't just grab the first sand pit you see on sale. Take a moment to plan what features will work out for you and your family.

    Sand Table Here are a few reasons why a sand play table might work better for your children: + Easier to keep pesky critters out and keep the sand clean. + Better if you would prefer your children not to get covered in sand. + Great for older children who can stand up and play at the table. + Portable so you can bring the sand pit indoors to stay out of the Sun or provide entertainment on a rainy day. + Often multi-purpose so you can use water or other play substances instead of sand, offering great value for money. + Can be stored, ideal if you have a small garden and need to free up space for play.

    Sand Pit + Great if your children would like to sit amongst the sand. + If you think your child might climb onto a table, and sand pit would be safer. + More permanent fixture so less setting up and preparation required each time the children want to play. + Blends in with surrounding garden better than a table.

    Other Considerations - You will need a good lid to keep creatures and critters out of the sand, and keep the sand dry. - If your children are likely to grow out of sand play anytime soon, a cheaper table will serve your family for a Summer. If however you are anticpating many years of sand play, a wooden sand pit would be a wiser investment.

    Convertible Picnic Tables

    A picnic table that converts to a sand pit makes a great alternative to a sand table. It's dual purpose justifies the space in the garden it takes up, and will provide many hours of play, making it great value for money.


    Little ones can sit up at the table to enjoy an outdoor arts and crafts activity, or their lunch, then open out the top to reveal the sand underneath.

    Check out our full range of sand and water play equipment here.

  • Top Tips When Choosing A Water Play Table

    A water play table is a versatile piece of play equipment that can provide your children with hours of entertainment. If you are the adventurous sort, you can even move it indoors for sensory play over the winter, to egt use out of it all year round. You can use it simply for water and sand, or add other sensory materials to enhance the fun. Put old toys to good use by adding them to the table, or conduct science experiments, predicting which items will float and which will sink.


    What To Consider As with all purchasing decisions, you need to start out with a clear idea of what you want. Have a browse at the water tables available,. then answer these questions: - How much do you want to spend? - Where will you store the table when it's not in use? - How much space do you have for the table when it is up? Remember to allow for ample room to walk around the table? - Do you want to use it for sand and water?

    Useful Features

    All water tables were not created equal. Here are some genius features you may want to look out for: - Removable legs. These help reduce the size of the able for storage, and enable you to bring the table down to floor level for younger children. - A plug to drain the water out. Lifting a table filled with water is no easy task, and you should avoid tipping it on two legs as they might snap. A removable plug in the bottom of the table makes drainage easy. - A cover is ideal for keeping creepy crawlies out when the table isn't being used. Some covers are textured to provide an additional play surface. Sand Lovers If your child loves playng with sand, there are tables available with two separate compartments: one for water and one for sand. These are best suited to neat and tidy kids who will keep the two substances separate, to super-laid back children who won't get upset if it all gets mized toegtehr and turns to mush (this also requires a laid back mum). If neither of these types represent your child, you may be better off buyin ga separate snad pit.

    Climbers If you have a child that loves to climb, consider getting a splash pool or sand pit instead. Young children love to be surrpnded by sand and water, and may not be tempted to climb into the play table. Make sure they are supervised at all times.

    Multi Purpose You don't have to be restricted to just water or sand in your play table. Shaving foam plus a little glitter delivers a fantastic multi-sensory play experience, as do natural substances like dry lentils or even oats. Just be sure to clean out the tray before any mush dries out and sticks to the sides.

    Check out our selection of sand and water play tables available now.

  • Swing Set Safety Tips

    A swing set can bring hours of pleasure, without occupying too much space in the garden, making them a great investment for parents. Follow these top tips top keep your little ones safe while they play.



    Position You should locate your swing set on level ground. Any slope can make the structure unstable once the swing is in motion. A shaded, sheltered area of the garden will help prevent plastic or metal components getting heated by the Sun and will help keep your children cool while they are playing. Beware any overhanging branches or structures that could be knocked by a child's head as they swing, or could drop onto the swing.

    Seats Ensure the swing is fitted with a seat appropriate for the age of the child using it. We stock bucket swing seats suitable for babies and toddlers, giving them a more secure ride. We also sell tire swings, balls, trapeze bars and more. Check the age range for the product before you attach it to your swing set. Older children should not be permitted to use swing seats designed for toddlers. Their weight is likely to exceed the product's upper limit causing damage to the seat, and risking injury to the child, and they may topple out of the bucket style seat if they are too tall for it to remain upright and stable.

    Safety Mats Covering the area under the swing set with safety mats will provide a softer landing for your child if they fall. In the Spring and Autumn lush grass and moist mud make the ground soft and springy, but in the Summer heat it can bake to an almost concrete consistency.

    Clearance Area Each swing set comes with its own recommendations regarding clearance space around the play structure and the swing area, which must be adhered to. When you decide the location of the swing set in your garden, consider any other play equipment you have, and how your children currently use the space. Will they be running directly in front of the path of the swing, or can the other equipment be accessed without risk.

    Maintenance Keep your swing set in safe working order by carrying out regular maintenance inspections. Nuts and bolts may work themselves loose over time, ropes may fray, or children may have caused damage to some parts. Adult Supervision When using play equipment, children need to be supervised by an adult, who can help out when a child gets stuck exploring, prevent the equipment being mis-used, and conduct back garden rescue operations if needed.

    Whether your swing set is a stand alone piece of play equipment or an integral part of a large play structure, these safety tips will help keep your children safe while they are having fun.

  • Uses For An Unwanted England Flag

    Thousands of football fans splashed out on jumbo England flags or smaller car-mounted St George's crosses, only to find the team crashed out of the World Cup faster than you can say 'economy class ticket home'.

    At Wicken Toys we feel your pain, and we don't want your money, or flag, to go to waste. So here are some top tips for recycling, reusing and re-purposing your country's pennant.

    1. Picnic Rug / Play Blanket Spread jumbo flag on grass / sand, then sit on it.

    2. Handheld Hammock This will only work for small children and heavy duty flags. Lay flag out on floor, lay child on top, and place an adult at each end of the flag. The adults pick up the two corners nearest to them, and gently swing the child just off the ground, like a hammock.

    3. Summertime Sledge There may not been any snow, but that doesn't mean you can't go sledging. Sit your child on the flag, grab one end, and gently pull them around the garden. This works even better on a beach as the sand provides little resistance.

    4. Air Conditioning This is the cheapest air conditioning solution around. Soak the flag in cold water, hang up indoors, and place a fan behind it so the air blown through by the fan gets cooled down as it passes through the flag, before entering the rest of the room. 5. Fabric Playhouse Drape your jumbo flag over a climbing frame or even the washing line to create a quick and easy playhouse / den. 6. Sand Castle Markers The smaller flags on plastic sticks that can be attached to cars make excellent sand castle toppings. You will need to build extra large (and therefore awesome) castles to accommodate the size of the flags.

    7. Climbing Frame Kingdom Use flags big and small to transform your climbing frame or playhouse into a King's castle.

    8. Cool Down Wrap Soak the flag in cool water then use it to wrap up hot, sweaty children, and help them to cool down.

    9. Keep It Flying Lewis Hamilton is going strong in the F1 championship and the Silverstone GP is less than two weeks away, the English cricket team would welcome the extra support, and the Commonwealth Games are right around the corner. As you've gone to all the trouble of putting the flag up, you may as well leave it flying there a little longer.

    10. Recycle It If you can't face looking at your flag any more, don't just chuck it in the rubbish. Take it to your nearest textile recycling bin, usually at your local waste management facility. The flag will be shredded (which is probably for the best as it's clearly brought the team bad luck), and the fabric will be used to create something else, instead of just being added to the landfill.

    Congratulations, you have now completed our ten step programme to giving your England flag a new lease of life.

  • Teaching Tennis To Kids Part Two | Wimbeldon Edition

    Earlier this year, during the excitement of the Australian Open, we brought you some top tips for teaching kids how to play tennis. Now with Wimbledon well underway, we have even more tennis based activities to get the children outside and get you all active.

    Side Stepping Being able to run backwards and forwards along the baseline, without taking your eyes off the ball is an essential skill for any tennis player. Practice this lateral movement with a game of catch. Mark out two white lines, approximately 20 feet apart (you may want them closer together if you are playing with a young child). Each player must stay behind their white line and keep their eyes on the ball. Now play catch, but keep moving. Add an element of competition by keeping count of your longest rallies of successful catches to see if you can beat your own scores. Keep the pace slow for younger children.

    Mastering The Ball Have you noticed how the professional players bounce the balls over and over on the grass, then examine them before choosing which balls to serve with. They aren't doing this to show off (much), it enables them to get a good feel for the properties of the ball, and predict how it will behave in reaction to their serve. How embarrassing would it be if they bounced the ball on the grass then failed to catch it, or pinged it off their shoe? Tennis players must be masters of the balls, not at the mercy of their furry green unpredictable nature. Teach your children to calmly be the boss of the ball by bouncing it on the floor and catching it with one hand, and by gently bouncing it up and down on their racket.

    Varying Hitting Strength To be able to play a variety of shots, a tennis player must have great control over how hard they hit the ball. During the match they are thinking ahead to which shot they would like to play next, and must hit the ball with the corresponding amount of strength. Children can learn to hit with different levels of strength by playing this easy game, ideally within a fenced tennis court so you don't need to keep retrieving the balls. Devise a labeling system for three levels of hitting power, for example 'mouse', 'cat' and 'lion' or 'bike', 'car' and 'rocket'. As you through the ball to them, call out the level of strength they need to hit it back with.

    Volleying Secure a bucket to the top of the climbing frame and teach your children to volley the ball skywards, but in a controlled fashion, so the ball lands in the bucket.

    The easiest way to practice tennis in the back garden is with a swing ball set. There's no hassle setting up a net, and no need to run around retrieving balls from the neighbours gardens.


  • Top Tips For Staying Cool This Summer

    As the temperature rises, your family needs fun ways to cool off.

    The most obvious is to have an all out water fight, but many parents (myself included) find this a little too boisterous and a lot too messy.

    Here are some top tips for keeping cool, in a calm, and more orderly fashion.

    1. Water Beads In A Bucket Grow some water beads in a bucket of cold water, then let little ones enjoy some sensory play, or older children (and adults) can just sit back, and rest their bare feet in the cool, squishiness.

    2. Parasol Positioning Get a parasol with a bent, moveable arm which allows you to change the location of the shade, without having to move the heavy parasol base. Try and keep younger children entertained within the shaded area by putting their favourite toys or crafts out on a rug.

    3. Reading Den Create a beautifully cool reading den underneath your climbing frame or swing set, by draping some old bed sheets over the structure, and adding pillows and cushions inside.

    4. Homemade Slushies To do this you will need water-tight, freezer-safe food bags, which are usually used for soups or sauces. Make up a water-based or fruit juice drink of your choice, then half fill each bag. Seal the bags, and place them in the freezer. Depending on your freezer temperature, the bags should be ready after around 90 minutes to 3 hours. When the mixture is partially frozen, gently squeeze and massage the bag by hand, until you've turned the ice to mush. Then pour into a glass and enjoy.

    5. Magic Sponge Keep a magic sponge on stand-by at all times, for self-administered child cool-offs. Fill a plastic bucket with cool water, and add a few ice cubes to keep the temperature down. Then keep one sponge for each child in the bucket, a different colour per person is a good idea. For younger children you may need to demonstrate how they can squeeze the water out the sponge, then apply it to their foreheads, back of the neck and even tummy to help cool down.


    6. Water Play Tables Just having their hands in cool water can really help children feel more comfortable on a hot day. Add some ice cubes, and ask your children what they think will happen, for a quick and easy science lesson in changing states. And you can position a parasol or sheet to keep the Sun at bay.

    7. Swap Around Play Times During the school holidays consider changing around your daily timetable. Let kids stay up later in the evening to enjoy playing in the cooler air, and catch up on lost sleep by lying in the next day, or taking a midday nap.

    8. Splash Pool It may sound obvious but sitting in a splash pool is very cooling. Our large metal framed pools provide plenty of space to splash and play in, while the smaller inflatable pools are ideal to sit younger children in while they play with waterproof toys.

  • Choosing A Paddling Pool

    As the weather warms up, you may be considering buying a paddling pool, or even larger above ground swimming pool for your garden.

    At Wicken Toys we sell a range of pools, in a variety of sizes, and have the expertise needed to help you choose the right model for your family.

    What Do You Need?

    Before you begin to browse our selection, ask yourself a few questions to help scope out your requirements.

    1. What will your pool be used for? This question isn't as daft as it sounds. Deeper pools are suitable for climbing into, and enjoying being immersed in the water. Shallower pools can be used for paddling in, or as a container for water play while the child is positioned outside of the pool. Also consider who will be using the pool. Does it need to be big enough to accommodate multiple children and / or adults?

    2. Do you want a semi-permanent structure? Our large above ground pools are designed to be left up for a number of weeks. Once erected they require minimal maintenance, and do not need continuous refilling, provided the correct cleaning process have been put in place. On the other hand, if you have a small garden, then a temporary pool, which can be emptied and put away at the end of use, then refilled the next time you wish to use it, would be more appropriate.

    3. Budget Vs Convenience A cheaper inflatable paddling pool can be a false economy. Emptying it, deflaiting it, then getting it back out on the next sunny day, gets old fast. There will also be times when, for example after school, you could grab 20 minutes or so in the pool, but it's just too much effort getting it out to make it worth while. With an above ground pool the fun is set up and ready to go as soon as you want to play.

    Types Of Pool Explained

    We stock a range of pools, constructed in different ways.

    Plastic Hard Sided These are fixed shape pools made from injection molded plastic. They are usually small and easy to fill, and light weight so they can be moved around. They can often be used as sand pits too. AS the shape is fixed they do not reduce in size for storage.


    Designed to be stored flat, then inflated as needed. We sell hand pumps and electric pumps to make inflation a lot easier.

    PVC Sided

    Intex 10ft x 30 Easy Set Swimming Pool


    These have an inflatable ring at the top to hold the shape of the wall, then filling it with water is what makes it expand to full size.

    Metal Frame Used for larger above ground pools, metal tubes slot together, to support a large soft sided pool liner.


    Pool Alternative For a fun, affordable way to cool off, consider getting a slip and slide. These are best suited to older children and young-hearted adults.


  • World Cup Fever In Your Back Garden

    The World Cup kicked-off last night, the land is awash with England flags, and children and adults alike are buzzing with football fever.

    The tournament is a great excuse to get outside and play with the children.

    Here are some ideas for hosting your own World Cup at home.

    1. Get Crafty If your children tend to shy away from arts and crafts, using a football theme can really help get their buy-in. Not everyone is going to grow up to be a Van Gogh, but craft activities are important across all ages for developing fine motor skills, creativity and imagination. Ask each child to invent a country name for themselves, and a fill an A4 piece of paper with a flag to represent their nation.


    2. Warm Up All athletes need to prepare their body thoroughly before exercising. Watch some clips of players stretching and jogging before a match and explain what they are doing, then head outside to complete a warm up drill.

    3. Draw Up Your League For each of the activities listed below, decide on a points allocation for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places. Your World Cup will be a league rather than a knock-out tournament. At the end of the games, whoever has the most points wins.

    4. Balloon Keepy Uppy Test hand eye co-ordination by setting out a small course for players to walk around, while playing keepy-uppy with a balloon. They can use their hands, feet, head, shoulders and knees to keep the balloon off the ground, while walking the course in the shortest possible time. If the balloon touches the floor, they need to go back to the beginning.

    5. Perfect Placement This game works best if you have a slide attached to a generously sized climbing frame platform. The aim of the game is to kick the ball up the slide, hard enough for it to reach the top, but gently so it stops on the platform rather than shooting down the other side. The winner is the person who takes the fewest attempts to balance the ball.

    6. Penalty Shootout For this you will need a football goal, or create goal posts using jumps, flags, or whatever else you have to hand. Start just a few feet from the goal and shoot. Everyone who scores is still in the penalty shoot out. Now mark out a new penalty spot a few feet further back, and everyone has a turn shooting from here. Again, everyone who scores is still in the competition, and can take another shot from a goal even further back. This continues until there is only one person left, or you can't get any further away from the goal.

    You can make up as many activities for your league as you like, and for an additional element of maths learning, have the children add up their own totals (with your supervision of course).

    While the current sunshine and high temperatures make a welcome break from the storms experienced in the water, it can make playing outside an uncomfortable affair. Get in the garden before 11am, or after 4pm, to avoid the worst of the heat, and get the most enjoyment from your planned activities.

  • Swing Set Maintenance Tips

    Adding a swing set to your garden can provide your children with hours of fun and relaxation. Whether they want to gently rick back and forth watching the world go by, or energetically reach for the clouds, a swing is a great investment for outdoor fun.

    Keep your swing set safe, and help extend its useful life with these top tips for play equipment maintenance.


    1. Coping With Cold Snaps During a harsh cold snap, outside temperatures may drop below freezing. Check the temperature tolerance level in the manufacturing handbook. Although all the plastic component on our swing sets are suitable for use outdoors, their integrity may be compromised during extremely cold weather. If possible detach the plastic swing set and store indoors until the temperature improves. Also be aware that in cold temperatures the ground will be very hard. If you don't have safety matting underneath the swing set, a fall onto this harder ground can cause injury. 2. Metal Maintenance Whenever two metal components are in contact with each other, a small amount of oil will help keep them moving smoothly. Your manufacturer's information booklet should provide details of which parts require oiling, and when. Our metal swing sets constructed from galvanized steel or aluminium do not need any additional corrosion protection, and as a result and almost maintenance-free. 3. Wooden Components Our wooden swing sets are constructed from pre-treated timbers, which means they are ready to use immediately after assembly. Help keep the wood in good condition by ensuring it is not exposed to a continuous flow of water, for example from an overhead leaking gutter, and that any debris such as moss or soil is removed, as this could trap water against the wood, encouraging rot.

    4. Safety Area If you have used safety mats beneath the swing set, carry out a periodic inspection to ensure they haven't crept away from their intended location.

    5. Nuts and Bolts Over time, nuts and bolts may wiggle themselves use. This can damage the swing set as component parts are given the freedom to rub against each other. Check them over regularly, for example once a month, to check they are tight enough. Also look out for signs of rust. If a bolt rusts through it is no longer structurally secure, and can be very difficult to remove, so it's better to replace it at the first sign of trouble.

    6. Smooth And Safe Whether the swing set is made from wood or metal, all the surfaces should be smooth to the touch. Look out for any sharp edges that could snag clothes or scratch skin.

    7. Seat and Chain Inspection When inspecting the seat and chain, pay particular attention to the point at which the chain attaches to the frame, and where the chain links to the seat. Also look for any cracks in the plastic of the seat, as it will need to be replaced immediately. 8. Do It Yourself Our swing set frames are designed for use with the swing seats supplied, any any other manufacturer supplied attachment. Please do not modify the set with your own additions such as car tyres, or by looping chains over the cross-bar, as this will impact on the safety of the play equipment.

    All of our swing sets come with a manufacturer's guarantee and are designed to be as maintenance-free as possible. If you have any questions or would like further information about caring for play equipment from Wicken Toys, please contact us.

  • Slowing Down The Pace

    Being outside is not only good for little bodies, it’s great for young minds too. Connecting with nature can be an energising and relaxing experience, bringing about a sense of calm and stillness.

    Charging around playing energetic games are great fun, but kids also need an opportunity to slow right down and savor the moment.

    Here some garden games you can play to slow the tempo right down.

    1. Collaborative Eye Spy In a twist to the traditional version of eye spy, in collaborative eye spy the players take any letter of the alphabet and see how many items they can spot that begin with the letter. If you start at ‘a’ and work your way through, you can play this game 26 times before it gets old.

    To help collect more items, change your viewing angle. Get up on the climbing frame for an aerial view and you might spot some new things, or lie on your tummy looking across the lawn. This is a great way to show children that by looking at things from a different perspective you might notice things that were there all along, but you have previously missed.

    Younger children who are not yet able to handle letter sounds, can play the game with colours instead.

    2. Nature’s Orchestra Lie on a picnic blanket in the garden with your eyes closed. Listen carefully to the sounds of nature and the world around you. How many different sounds can you hear, and can you name them all?

    3. Cloud Monsters Stay on the picnic blanket, or lie on top of the climbing frame, open your eyes and stare up at the passing clouds. What shapes, animals, or images can you see up there. Notice cloud monsters in the sky, then make up a story about them.

    4. Storyteller Spend a little time noticing the creatures moving all around, then ask your child to choose one to be the central character in a story. You can then take turns creating a story about the animal’s day so far, the adventure they are on now, and what will be happening to it later.

    5. I Am The Wind Lie face down, take a big deep breath, then exhale slowly, blowing gently on the grass so as to make the blades rustle gently. Ask your child to do the same. Slowly breathing in and out this way is very calming, as is watching the grass dance about.

    Take Advantage Of Stillness After one or two of these games, you and your child should be feeling calm and relaxed. It is at this moment you will both be more able to tap into your background emotions and thoughts. Talk, in a playful way, about what emotions you can feel, and explain it in terms that are age appropriate for your child, like giving it a colour, or a name, or even a comic appearance. Hopefully your child will join in with this game, fostering their emotional intelligence and understanding of their own body.

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