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Sand & Water Play

  • Valentine's Day Themed Fun For Kids

    Coming up with fun outdoor activities to keep small people entertained is a lot easier when you work with a theme.

    Thankfully there seems to be some sort of celebration or festival in just about every month of the year and February is no exception.

    Which brings us to Valentine’s Day. It’s probably not advisable to turf the kids outside and tell them to invent their own Valentine's themed games (unless you don’t mind them playing kiss chase all day). We’re here to rescue you, with a selection of V-Day games for all the family.

    1. Heart Hunting Cut some heart shapes out from coloured card and hide them all over the garden. Make the shapes smaller for older children. If you want to add a competitive edge you could leave a different colour out for each child, then have a timed race to see who can find all their hearts the quickest, or who can collect the most hearts within a set amount of time.

    2. You’ve Got Love Mail Set each child up with some pens and coloured paper and ask them to write a love letter, or draw a picture to each member of the family. You could even create a family postbox to put them in. Then when you are together, nominate a postman to empty the box and deliver the letters.

    3. Valentine’s Balloon Games Did you know you can buy heart shaped balloons? Well you can. So for an easy afternoon’s entertainment, buy a pack, blow them up and leave the children to use their imagination.

    4. Cupid’s Arrow Make a jumbo heart, with smaller outlines inside to use as a target. Tape it to the ladder on your slide or climbing frame so it’s held up by something sturdy. Then use foam bullet guns to shoot at it. Alternatively you could cut a heart shaped hole out of an old sheet, secure that in an upright position and try to throw balls through the gap.

    5. Valentine’s Sensory Play You could make a Valentine’s themed sensory play station. Use an old splash pool or a water play table and fill with anything pink, white and red. Water beads, jelly, shaving foam, food colouring, flour, anything that feels icky, is non-toxic and doesn’t stain. Put each ingredient in a separate cup and let the children experiment with different combinations.

    Often to get the party started (even if it’s just you and your kids in attendance) a small amount of structure and a gentle suggestion is all that is needed. You’ll probably find that your children quickly deviate from the activities you had planned. When this happens you should congratulate yourself for inspiring them, and take a moment to admire their fertile imaginations.

  • 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.

    TP

    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.

    TP

    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.

  • 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.

    TP

    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.

    Inflatable

    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

    Intex

    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.

    ntex

    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.

    TP

  • 6 Ways To Reuse Your Splash Pool For Sensory Play

    As the temperature's dropped, you've probably packed away your splash pool or water play table, leaving it to sit idle for the next 8 months or so.

    But they can be used throughout the year if you're prepared to dress your children in their tattiest clothes, and let them get messy.

    Splash pools and water tables make great vessels for sensory play activies as they contain the mess well, and are easy to clean.

    Here's some ideas from Wicken for tactile play. Most aren't designed to fill the splash pool, but make use of its size as a way of containing the mess.

    #1 Oats Great for outdoor use, for younger children. Use a 1kg bag of cheap own brand oats, and combine with some cups, containers, spades and spoons. This makes a great winter alternative to water play as the oats pour and flow like a liquid, but won't make your little one feel cold.

    #2 Cereal Supermarket own brand cereals cost around 6p per 100g. For just £1 you can buy enough crisped rice or cornflakes for a whole afternoon's entertainment. This crunchiness of this play material adds a layer of sound to the sensory experience, and picking up individual flakes or puffs of rice is great for fine motor skills. You can even add water for another dimension in play, and talk about how the water has changed the texture of the cereal, and how it is all clumping together now. Be warned though that wet cereal is much harder to clean up.

    #3 Foam Sand Let your child mix up a bowl of play sand with a can of spray shaving foam. It makes a light textured whippy sand, which holds together much better than regular sand. Great for painting with, burying treasure in, or making models.

    #4 Super Stretchy Dough Mix one cup of cornflour, with 2 teaspoons of cooking oil, and half a cup of washing up liquid. Mix together, then knead the dough until it loses its tackiness. You will be left with a super stretchy play dough. Why the splash pool? Because the most fun thing to do with this play dough is stand up, gently separate a piece off, and let it drop to the floor, creating a super long stretchy piece of dough spaghetti. Repeat enough times and your child will be surrounded by a pool of wiggly worms. For extra fun add some glitter to the dough.

    #5 Sparkly Cup Cakes Make a whole tray (or pool) full of cup cakes. You'll need some washing up sponges, shaving foam and some glitter. Cut the sponges into circles to use as the cake base. Then squirt shaving foam on the top just like cup cake frosting. Finally top with glitter sprinkles.

    #6 Jackson Pollock Paintings Line the bottom of the pool with paper, then set out a tray of water based paints, paintbrushes, spoons, and other utensils. Encourage your child to drop the paints onto the paper using the different instruments, and to wave the utensils about to give different effects.

    Check out the rest of Wicken's blog posts for more play ideas

  • Top Five Summer Water Play Ideas From Wicken Toys

    With the weather heating up, and the school Summer holidays underway, let’s cool things down with these ideas for water play (the poetry was deliberate).

    Each of these games has the potential to help your child discover something new, and requires only basic equipment and a little preparation.

    Ice Cube Pick N Mix

    Create some interesting (non-edible) ice cubes overnight then add them to the splash pool or water play table.

    Create a variety of colours and textures by adding food colouring, glitter, and even rice to your ice cubes.

    Younger children can play a guessing game to figure out what’s inside the cube before it melts.

    For older children, provide a few containers of water at different temperatures so they can explore the rate at which the ice melts.

    This is a great introduction to the concept of one substance transitioning through different states.

    Ice Prisoners

    This is an exercise in problem solving, and is a great way to keep school-aged children occupied on a warm day.

    Freeze some small toys into ice blocks overnight, then provide some tools for liberation, and watch your children turn into super heroes as they make a rescue attempt.

    To get the toys to freeze deep inside the ice, you will need to partially fill a bowl or ice cream tub with water, freeze it, then place the toy inside, fill up with water and return to the freezer.

    Provide a selection of tools that may be useful in removing the ice and freeing the toy, such as: a bottle of warm water; some salt; a spoon; a flannel; and anything else you think is safe, appropriate and helpful.

    This activity can reveal a lot about your child’s temperament. While one child is furiously chipping away at the ice as quickly as possible, another will leave the block in a sunny spot and play something else.

    Laundry Day

    Doll or teddy clothes are perfect for this game.

    Wash them in a bucket of warm soapy water, and then peg the clothes out to dry. Look through the hanging clothes together and talk about the different fabrics and which ones your child thinks will dry first. You can also try hanging some clothes in the sun, and others in the shade to see how long they take to dry.

    Make Your Own Water Feature

    This is a great construction activity for older children.

    You will need:

    • A large bucket or trough of water
    • Some thick tape, like electrical tape
    • Sections of guttering
    • Plastic bottles
    • Something to mount this too, like a peg board, or you could tape it to your climbing frame.

    Set your children a challenge, to make a beautiful fountain, or a way to transport the water without spilling a drop.

    This should encourage team work and some creative thinking.

    Make Your Own Sail Boats

    A paddling pool is a summer essential, but it’s not just for sitting in: it could be a boating lake too.

    Make your own sail boats, and then set them out for a voyage in the pool. If your pool is big enough, your child can climb in and make some waves.

    You will need something small and buoyant, like the plastic lid from a glass jar, to make the body of the boat. Then use a straw (or two) and some paper to make the sail.

    Hopefully, those educational, watery play ideas will keep you busy over the first week of the holidays. Stay tuned to the blog where we will publish more play-inspiration over the summer.

  • Children’s paddling pools: the garden accessory for the summer

     

    Summer is finally starting to appear here in the UK. The arrival of hot weather means that it is time to start planning summer activities ready for the school holidays.

    Aside from a holiday abroad, the ultimate summer accessory for families has got to be inflatable paddling pools. No matter how big or small, these are a brilliant way to make the most of excellent summer weather in a low-cost way.

    In case you have forgotten just how worthwhile splasher and above ground pools are, we thought we better remind you of their many benefits.

    Inexpensive

    A house with a pool is on the ‘If I won the lottery’ list for many of us, but unfortunately we won’t all be lucky enough to win the jackpot so we have to settle for a cheaper option.

    Inflatable pools for gardens are very inexpensive when compared to the cost of an actual swimming pool and you’ll have just as much fun.

    Safe

    Our splasher pools are very shallow; some of these only have enough depth for splashing. Although you won’t have to worry about your child’s swimming ability you must still watch them carefully whilst they play in the water; no matter how shallow.

    Easy to setup

    Inflatable pools can become paddling pools in minutes. All you have to do is pump air inside and then push the air out when your children have finished splashing around.

    Convenient

    Paddling pools like our above ground and splasher pools are very convenient items. This is because they come in a range of different sizes and shapes to suit any garden size.

    They are also easy to store as you can quickly and simply fold them back down to their packaging sizes once the air has been pushed out.

    Portable

    Due to their small and often lightweight storage sizes, paddling pools are very easy to transport. They are even easily portable full of air, as long as there is no water still inside. You can easily move it around the garden wherever you want and carry it to the car.

    Exercise

    Our large above ground pools are very good for exercise. Although they may not be an Olympic-size swimming pool, they are still extremely good for exercises and encouraging interest in sport and physical activity at a young age. Moreover, playing in pools is rather an effortless, but still effective, exercise as the water holds most of your weight. Exercise in water makes physical activity fun for children; this is very important to promote physical development and a healthy lifestyle.

    With the company of an adult (and some armbands) children can play in water and swim from an extremely young age unlike most sports.

  • Get messy with water and sand play

     

    Water and sand tables will often get overshadowed by their paddling pool and sandpit counterparts. We stock a number of children’s paddling pools and sandpits which are always a popular summer purchase, but people will often overlook the entertainment value that these simple toys have to offer.

    Water tables and sand tables can regularly be found tucked away inside of nurseries, playgroups, and young infant classes. This is because they are great pieces of play equipment for both the outdoors and indoors; not forgetting the host of physical and mental development they offer young children.

    Social skills

    Where there are water tables and sand tables, you will often find a number of children gathered around these. They present many opportunities for social interaction with other children of a similar age as they can all work together to build cities made of sand or seaside harbours with multiple waterways. Over time, as they work to build their mini empires they’ll develop leadership skills, teamwork, compromise, and learn to allocate different roles.

    Literacy skills

    Whilst they are developing social skills improved literacy skills are a high probability too. As a child explores the new play materials and interacts with other children, they’ll quickly pick up other words and particularly ones to describe the different ways of playing with sand and water.

    Understanding of materials and textures

    Water tables and sand tables offer many educational benefits like we have already mentioned, but to add to this list is also the understanding of different materials and textures.

    Children’s play involving sand and water helps young kids at an important young stage of development to observe in a fun way the different characteristics of these materials, and how you can control and move them around. Equally just as educational is that the combination of water and sand which creates a whole new world for them to play with. For instance, they’ll quickly be able to predict what happens to the texture of sand when certain volumes of water are added to it.

    See for yourself!

    With all of the different areas of learning development that can be found in sand and water stands, they are a brilliant piece of play equipment to add to a nursery, school, or even just at home in the garden.

    We have a couple of wonderful water tables here at Wicken Toys to accompany our range of sandpits and paddling pools. Take a look at our TP Rockface Sand and Water Table. This is a very durable design which is ideal for lots of use in a playgroup or infant class.

    We also have the TP Cascade Water Table and Stand. This is a large design which has entertaining little features like a canal and water wheel as well as lock gates.

    Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about any product from our vast ranges of outdoor trampolines, climbing frames, Kettler go karts, garden swings, and more.

  • Start planning your next Easter egg hunt now

    We’re certain that there were many outstanding Easter egg hunts last Easter weekend. Although Easter is now finished for another year, why not start planning 2014’s early and make sure it is going to be the best ever eggs-travaganza?

    To begin planning an Easter egg hunt that the Easter bunny would be proud of, you will need to consider certain features that will ensure optimum egg-hiding and maximum fun. Our outdoor play equipment range boasts all of the characteristics which will help you to construct an entertaining Easter egg trail.

    In this blog we’re going to talk through several garden toys and pieces of play equipment that would be suitable for a family pub’s outdoor play area/garden for kids.

    On your marks, get set, go!

    Our Plum My First Wooden Play Centre is an exciting way to get the Easter egg hunt started. It has many places to hide tiny Easter eggs which are always a good way to begin a trail towards a big surprise. You could slot clues into the rock wall, climbing net, and inside of the play den.

    The next part of the hunt could be the TP Explorer 2 Climbing Frame with Den and Jungle Run. This challenging climbing frame with its high up den and monkey bars presents lots of possibilities for an Easter egg hunt. You could try hanging pieces of string with clues on the ends or eggs from the rungs of the monkey bars and the kids will have to jump to get them.

    The halfway mark of the trail can be the TP Castlewood Tower. Complete with a fireman’s pole, this climbing frame tower will be lots of fun and the platform is certainly big enough for some larger surprises and bigger eggs.

    Hide the next clue buried underneath the sand in this TP Sherwood Sand-pit.

    tp sherwood sandpit all out play climbing den and gatehouse set

    Our All Out Play Climbing Den and Gatehouse Set (above) will make a very interesting obstacle with all of its exciting features and slide. The possibilities for Easter egg hiding are endless. For something a little bit smaller, take a look at our All Out Play Jungle Hut.

    Next it is time to take the Easter egg hunt out onto the seven seas with this TP Forest Pirate Galleon.

    Finally step into the land of knights and dragons with the All Out Play Fort. This will make a great finishing line to hide the biggest and best Easter egg. Maybe the Easter bunny will be waiting in there too.

    We also have many other garden toys and outdoor play equipment which can all be used for commercial events or home celebrations like this. Contact us for more advice on which products would suit your event and space best.

     

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