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Toys & Products

  • Best Outdoor Toys For 11 And 12 Year Olds

    #6 Outdoor Toys For 11 and 12 Year Olds

    As I plough on with this month’s series of posts dedicated to finding age appropriate outdoor toys, I’ve now hit the impossible-to-buy-for pre-teen years.

    There’s no denying it - creating this list isn’t going to be easy, but here goes.

    Something To Aim For After a stressful day at school your child ,may be seeking some solitude. Many jump straight onto the video games to flood their brains with something fun. The problem with this is that their brains have already spent the day being flooded with information and emotion, and what it really needed in the late afternoon was the opportunity to process and store what it has already taken in. This continued flooding will postpone processing time until the next time your child is busy doing nothing, which will most likely be bedtime. And trying to process a whole day’s worth of data in bed does not lead to a good night’s sleep

    An activity like shooting hoops will help your child unwind at the end of the day without over stimulating their tired mind.

    Netball or basketball hoops, or goals with targets on are great for providing a degree of challenge and something to aim for.

    Something To Share Have you ever noticed how when you go for a walk with someone you can often enjoy a deeper conversation than if you sit face to face. Enjoying an activity side-by-side takes the pressure of the participants, defuses conflict and makes conversational pauses more bearable.

    Make opportunities in your garden for these side-by-side interactions to take place. Working on the same flowerbed, sitting on neighbouring swings, or a large swinging hammock all work well, require little investment, and don’t take up too much space.

    These have the added bonus of being in your own back garden. If you have younger children it can be difficult to get time away from them to be able to connect with your eldest. Sharing an activity in your own garden means you are still at home for younger children, but your older child can benefit from your attention.

    Somewhere To Relax Nobody ever grows out of a swing. Well, we may one day become physically too wide for a swing, but in our hearts we still love to swing.

    But at the age of 11 and 12, swinging is about relaxation rather than thrill seeking. Now is a good time to swap that old plastic swing seat for something a little bigger and more comfortable, like a tyre.

    You should also check the maximum weight limit of the swing frame, and double check it is well anchored to the ground.

    We’re nearly at the finish line now. There’s just one last age category to look at - the teenagers.

  • 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.

  • Happy Birthday George: First Birthday Presents Fit For Royalty

    Today Prince George, our future King, hits the ripe old age of one year.

    It's hard to imagine that a full 12 months has passed since the press crowded outside St Mary's Hospital, London, eagerly anticipating news, any news at all, on the arrival of the heir to the throne.

    Now as the first pictures emerge of the royal toddler taking his first tentative steps, we have pulled together this list of truly awesome presents fit for a King.

    #1 A Climbing Frame

    One day baby George can enjoy playing in one of our enormous wooden forts. Until then, he needs a climbing frame suitable for his age and developmental stage. As he is taking his first steps at 12 months, we can assume it won't be long before His Smallness is able to mount a few steps.

    Height

    In just a few months time George will be able to clamber up the TP Explorer 2 Frame, hide in the enclosed den and whizz down the wavy side. Most of our climbing frames are for ages 3 years and up. However, thanks to the Explorer's adjustable deck height, when placed on the lowest setting, it can be used for children as young as 18 months.

    #2 Swing Set

    Plum

    The royal garden wouldn't be complete without a swing set, and swinging back and forth helps develop a baby's awareness of where they are in space. Little George won't have the strength in the trunk of his body to sit in a regular swing seat yet. Instead he needs a bucket style seat that will support his back, and hold him securely in place. This model from Plum can be attached to any of their swing sets as a replacement for a standard flat seat, and is suitable for children aged 6 months and up. TP toys make a similar seat for their products called the Quad Pod.

    #3 First Trampoline

    TP

    Jumping on a trampoline is a great way to develop those all important gross motor skills. Younger children benefit from having a handle to hang onto as they master the art of lifting both feet up at the same time. The TP Bubble Bouncer encourages little ones to get jumping by releasing bubbles every time the mat is pushed down and release. When the bouncing stops so do the bubbles.

    #4 Sand And Picnic Table

    Plum

    With this sand play and picnic table from Plum, Prince George can invite his little friends over for afternoon tea, before sliding back the table top and revealing the sand tray beneath. The table is suitable from 18 months, and children need to be well balanced and able to sit up unaided to use it safely.

    Congratulations Prince George from all of us here at Wicken Toys. We hope you have a marvellous birthday and wish you a happy, healthy future.

  • 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.

    All

  • 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 Tips For Buying A Toy Kitchen

    We aren't just about outdoor play here at Wicken Toys. When we spotted these gorgeous wooden kitchens from Plum, we just had to stock them. Plum are renowned for the quality of their wooden outdoor toys, and we were excited to see that expertise applied to smaller indoor playsets.

    If you are looking to buy a new toy kitchen for your little one, here's a few points to consider.

     

    Gender Neutral Or Pink Perfection

    For a long time manufacturers fell into the trap of thinking that homemaking games were just for girls. Of course this is wrong, and boys enjoy playing with toy kitchens just as much as girls do. Happily now the selection of gender neutral or boy-friendly toy kitchens is on the increase. If you have a a daughter, you might be tempted to buy a very feminine looking kitchen. Before you do so, consider the life of the product. Wooden kitchens are designed to last years, and if you might have a son in the near future, you will get better play value from a more neutral colour scheme.

     

    Wooden Or Plastic

    Toy kitchens are always either wooden or plastic.

    Noise levels are about the same, but in different ways.

    Plastic kitchens are quieter when they are being played with, as wooden doors and draws can make a loud noise when being closed.

    On the other hand almost all plastic models take batteries and will deliver lights and sounds for interactive entertainment. This may be fun and engaging for the first ten minutes, but it won't be long before you are confiscating the batteries, and pretending the sound effects are broken so you can enjoy a few minutes peace and quiet.

    Wooden kitchens tend to be heavier, and therefore more sturdy when you play with them. Plastic kitchens have a tendency to scoot across the floor while they are being used, and they are quite tempting to turn upside down and use as a make shift slide.

    Plenty of use and love over the years tends to show more on a plastic model as the stickers used to decorate it will peel and scuff.

     

    Quality Over Quantity

    Wooden kitchens tend to be more expensive. When choosing how to spend your budget your options will be between an attrative, quality wooden toy kitchen, or a larger plastic model with dozens, possible even hundreds of accessories. Although a six foot long, multi-station kitchen-themed play centre, with 100 pieces of cutlery and 50 pieces of cooking equipment will certainly have the 'wow' factor, think about how that will practically fit into your home and family. How many of those accessories will get used? How quickly will they get lost under the sofa or mistakenly put away in the wrong boxes? It's not about how much you get for your money, it's about how much play value you get for your money.

     

    Additional Expenses

    If you're on a budget, don't forget to account for additional costs like play cooking equipment and pretend food. Often the accessories that come included are not particularly good quality, so save some money back (or ask relatives) to buy some beautiful extras to accompany the kitchen.

     

    You can see our selection of beautiful wooden kitchens here.

  • Trampoline funtimes to put a spring in their step

    The trampoline is a surprisingly modern device that has its origins in the circus. Bouncing apparatus was used in 19th century French circuses and a in the early 1900s circus performers performed acrobatics on a bouncing bed, which was a trampoline covered with bed clothes. However, it was not until 1936 that the first modern trampoline was designed and built by two America gymnasts George Nissen and Larry Griswold.

    Now, of course, trampolining is an Olympic sport. In the London 2012 Olympics Canadian Rosie MacLennan won gold and Briton Kat Driscoll captured everyone’s imagination; missing out on the final by a tenth of a mark!  At this level it is not uncommon for a skilled athlete to bounce to a height of 10 metres (33 ft) as they perform multiple somersaults and twists.  They are also used as cross-trainers for other sports including in diving, skating, gymnastics, and freestyle skiing.

    For parents of older children the purchase of a trampoline is also an opportunity to engage them in the basic laws of Physics, including the conversion of potential energy into kinetic and Isaac Newton laws of motion. Trampolines are in essence simple machines; it is well known that they have formed an integral part of the American and Soviet space programmes to prepare astronauts for the experience of zero gravity.

    However, one of the main reasons people buy a trampoline is the fantastic health benefits it offers. In particular trampolining improves co-ordination including balance, agility, rhythm, and timing; the fine motor skills that are so receptive to development in children and teenagers.  Regular trampolining sessions have been seen to improve the spatial awareness of young people, boosting confidence and self-esteem: enhancing performance not just on the sports field but in the classroom too.

     

     

    In addition to specific gains in terms of co-ordination and agility, like any cardio work-out use of a trampoline has fantastic long-term health benefits. In a recent study conducted by the Colorado State University it was shown that short bursts of exercise have the same health benefits at prolonged exercise routines; improving fitness and burning calories. Likewise, an ongoing study by Professor Jamie Timmons a leading expert on exercise has shown that short-burst exercise of as little as three minutes a week can deliver the same health benefits as hours at the gym by boosting the stamina and fitness of the heart, lungs and blood vessels. This is good news in an age when we are increasingly concerned about childhood obesity. A trampoline can ensure that your children are getting short bursts of exercise without as much as a thought about their exertion. And all this is without mentioning the benefits of outdoor play that we at Wicken Toys are so found of telling you about!

    So, even without considering the obvious health benefits of trampolining for youngsters, what better way to get them away from sedentary activities like watching TV and playing video games and playing outside in the spring sunshine than a trampoline?  We have a large choice of trampolines in stock here at Wicken Toys, ranging from little ones with support bars for infants such as the TP Junior, through to TP SurroundSafe tramps, which are enclosed and very safe, for older and perhaps more boisterous children.

  • Outdoor toys leads to more creative play...

    The toys your children play and interact with can really impact on their maturity, development and even growth. In fact, the right kind of outdoor toys can really help to inspire them and teach them so many of life’s great lessons early on.

    That’s why here at Wicken Toys we are so passionate about all of the outdoor toys (and some indoor) that we offer. We know the true benefit to them for children and what they can bring to a child’s life.

    There is something very important in outdoor play too – as even pretending can help to inspire a child’s ability to imagine things, which in adulthood could impact on their potential to gain the top jobs and perhaps even help them achieve a first class degree. After all, only the top 5% of the UK who attend university get a top level degree. What this can mean is that these people represent the most individual thinkers – or to put it another way, these are the people that actually shape the world that we live in with new ideas and ways of thinking.

    Continue reading
  • Slide into spring

    Now that things are getting a bit warmer it’s time to encourage your little ones to break away from the TV or games console and get out in the fresh air. At this time of year the first signs of spring are starting to show. A few early spring flowers are beginning to pop up and many garden birds have started to sing their lovely spring songs!

     

    So in today’s blog we  thought we’d talk about an outdoor toy, which is bound to get your kids racing out into the garden, filled with the joys of  spring. A free standing slide is not only a staple of children’s playgrounds everywhere but also a great vantage point from which your little ones can spot the signs of spring such as rousing insects, emerging flowers and nesting birds.

     

    A slide is one of those outdoor playthings that are totally addictive. Like swings, kids beg to go to the park to play on them. There’s something extremely satisfying about climbing up high to shoot straight back down to the ground. Moreover children never tire of this simple activity. It would seem there’s much joy in repetition!

     

    Much like garden swings and climbing frames, these kinds of outdoor playthings are an immense source of pride for children. Up until the point that they have relied on you to take them to the park or recreation ground, and now, suddenly, they are independent and can play as much as they like. Moreover, they don’t have to wait for other children, to take their turn!

     

    So let’s take a look at some of the options available here at Wicken Toys.

     

    To begin with there’s the tp Kingfisher Slide Rainbow. This is a great starter slide, which is made from injection moulded polyethylene, with ultra violet stabilisers to stop it degrading. It also has three heavy duty steps with a grip pattern to help stop your little ones from slipping.

     

    Next up in the range we have tp Green Crazywavy Slide Body and Step Set, which has a very sturdy construction and wave form slope for a rollercoaster ride of gentle yet super fun bumps.

     

     

     

    For older and more confident children there’s the tp Rapide Slide Body and Stepset, which is an extra wide 3 metre straight slope slide with four steps. It is built on a highly rigid steel chassis for greater strength.

     

    So if you would like to encourage your youngsters to use the garden more at this wonderful time of year, then consider getting them a free standing slide or maybe even a climbing frame with a built-in slide for double the fun.

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