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summer

  • Commonwealth Games In Your Own Back Garden

    This year the start of the Summer holidays coincides nicely with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

    Tempting though it may be to flop out on the sofa while your children are immersed in vidoe games, there's a whole lot of fun to be had when you play together outside.

    Kick-off your Summer break with these fun ideas for bringing the Games to your back garden.

    Fitness Training

    To excel at any form of sport, children must first develop the basic sporting skills of running, jumping, throwing and catching, balance and cooridnation.

    Elite runners don't hone there skill by running alone. They develop a range of skills to support their chosen sport through an extensive training programme.

    In the same way, for your child to attack a sport, they need first to be equipped with these skills.

    Set up an obstacle course in the garden incorporating your slide or climbing frame, and practice running the course and improving the time taken to complete it. This is a fun way of testing stamina and exercising all the main muscle groups.

    Improve coordination skills by playing in pairs. Throw a ball to each other, taking a step back after every successful catch, to increase the level of challenge. Or play a tennis rally, seeing how many times you can successfully hit the ball between each other.

    Younger children, or the young at heart, can chase and catch bubbles, either clapping them between their hands, or balancing them on the bubble wand.

    You should also develop a warm-up routine with basic stretches. Your children might already use one at the start of their PE lessons so this is their chance to teach you something.

    Commonwealth Back Garden Games

    If you have access to a park or beach, those are great places to re-enact the Commonwealth Games, as there is plenty of space to run, jump and throw things. If you don't mind the children having a later bedtime, head out around tea time when there will be less people around, and you can enjoy the space to yourselves.

    If you don't have a wide open space nearby, you can host Commonwealth Games style activities in your back garden, with these events especially adapted for smaller spaces.

    1. 20m Narrow Track Sprint You know runners have to stay between the lines right? Doesn't that look just a little too easy? Liven things up by making the lines really close together. In order to stay in lane your athletes will need to concentrate hard. Space the athletes a few feet apart, but make each track lane no wider then 4 inches. They will need to put one foot in front of the other, as if balancing on a tightrope. This will test speed, balance, coordination and patience.

    2. Super Safe Discus Hold a discus / shot put style throwing event, using a bean bag instead. You don't need as much space and it won't hurt if someone gets in the way of the flight path. You can measure each throw if you like, or mark out score zones and total up points. Either way this is a great way of incorporating some maths into your sporting afternoon.

    3. Long Jump Use cushions, pillows, blankets, whatever you can find to soften the landing. Use coloured tape to mark out distance lines, with each zone scoring a certain number of points.

    Hopefully these ideas have inspired you to create your own sporting events for the back garden.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Playing house - opening the doors to playhouses this spring

     

    As the weather improves and we see more sunny days ahead (the recent snowfall notwithstanding!) it’s a good opportunity to start thinking playhouses for the kids. At Wicken Toys we have some ideas about the best playhouses currently available and what we think will give your children the most fun during spring time.

     

    Playing at home for kids can be turned into a much more exciting experience. Playhouses are a greta way to encourage imaginative play for pre-schoolers. They can cater to children playing by themselves and with their siblings or friends.

     

    The key attraction for children is that they can role play and the educational merits of playhouses are that children (knowingly or unknowingly) can practice social skills while enjoying their playtime. Think about it – playhouses are basically platforms for children to pretend to be their parents by “owning” and “living” in their own house. They adopt etiquette very quickly.

     

    With a playhouse kids can play inside or outside in them. They are designed as outdoor toys but work just as well inside the house on those cold or rainy days. With spring weather and signs of summer spreading across the UK there has never been a better time to encourage children to play outdoors!

     

    Playhouses come in different shapes and sizes that can suit individual gardens and homes respectively according to their specifications.

     

    The Forest Wooden Cabin Playhouse is a compact lodge with window frames and fabric door perfect for children aged between 1-10 years.

     

     

    Go from small cabin house to fortress castle and tower set (which boys tend to go crazier for!) Children will instinctively recognise that the Castle can be a fairy palace, a Wild West fort, or a stage for medieval chivalry and pageantry.   Then they can run accross the bridge into the tower and act out some other imaginary tale.

     

     

    Or for something a little more scaled back and not quite so epic, you can find the All Out Play Jungle Hut more appealing. It has a wooden floor as its base and looks great in gardens.

     

     

    Choose from a standard playhouse or a hybrid playhouse / Climbing frame by All Out Play. All Out Play playhouses look great in any garden, solidly built and strikingly unusual.

     

    Playhouses blend well into any environment. Each design includes an enclosed space that is great in all sorts of weather, but also allows your children to play securely in their own private fantasy world.

  • Classic outdoor toys for spring

     

    This winter has been incredibly mild compared to last. We’ve had no major snowfall, barely any icy conditions and no torrential rain to speak of. December and January (so far) have both been warm and it looks like spring is on its way to us now. We can look forward to the days getting longer and the weather starting to warm up nicely in a month or so, so our little Wicken Toys team has been thinking about outdoor toys for springtime. Continue reading

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