YesterdayHow to beat boredom on rainy days.
The summer holidays are a glorious time for children - after all, don't some of your favourite memories date back to those halcyon days when the weeks stretched out ahead of you with no school in sight?
Unfortunately though, summer holidays don't always mean sunshine, as the recent storms and torrential rain we've been getting in Britain prove. And rainy days can herald the comment every parent or grandparent dreads: "I'm bored!"
Rather than tearing your hair out, try coming up with some easy games and activities that can be enjoyed indoors and that will leave kids feeling like they've had a great day even if they never set foot in the garden.
In case you're having trouble, we've put a few ideas together below to help you out.
1. Make a movie
Children will love the idea of emulating their favourite stars of the silver screen by starring in their own movie or TV programme. All you need is a camcorder or even a camera phone and you can play director and get that camera rolling. If they want to go into detail, try writing a short script and gathering some props first. When you've finished, they can even have fun editing themselves on the computer. Don't worry if you haven't got a camera or PC with the right software though - kids will enjoy putting on a play in a cardboard theatre just as much.
2. Start a scrapbook
We've all got photos we never look at, so why not create a keepsake and ensure youngsters are occupied at the same time by laying them out on pretty papers in a display book? Supplies are available from craft stores, or you can make your own using coloured paper from junk mail, crayons and accessories like scraps of fabric and buttons (take care with small pieces though).
3. Do crafts in general
It's a well-known fact that little ones love cutting and sticking of any sort, so set up a craft table and really go to town. There's fingerpainting if you want to get messy - the results can make surprisingly good artwork for your walls too; we know someone whose child created something that looked so much like abstract rhubarb, it was revered for ever after. Printing also serves as a reminder of tiny hands in years to come. If you don't fancy it, there's also macaroni pictures, making your own play dough and creating a time capsule to consider, none of which will break the bank.
4. Share a book
The simple pleasures are often the best, so don't rule out just sitting down and reading together as the rain pours outside...
5. Write a story
...Or if you've got a budding author, fold some paper and get them to come up with their very own story. Prompts such as a selection of objects might help, or writing aids like Rory's Story Cubes. This is not only fun, but it helps them to practise their National Curriculum activities without them even realising.
6. Pen a letter to a celebrity
Forget Twitter - get youngsters to pick their favourite celebrity and then write them a letter on real paper. They're likely to have a fan club you can send it to later - and their jubilation if they get a reply will be priceless.
7. Dig out your old board games
There's nothing like playing a real game like Operation or Hungry Hippos, so look in your cupboards and see what you can find. Children will love the novelty after swiping away at apps on screens and you'll enjoy some quality time together while boosting their communication skills.
8. Do some baking
This is a classic, as little ones just adore getting messy in the kitchen. Cakes are always a good option, but you can try making healthy treats too - Sainsbury's has some good recipes at the moment for making apple crisps and fruity yoghurt buttons, for example.
9. Dance like nobody's watching
Get them to burn off some steam during long periods cooped up inside by putting on your favourite songs and dancing together. You can even make up routines if you're so inclined - but you might want to close the blinds if you're on the shy side!
10. Bring the outdoors in
Don't feel as though you can't use 'outdoor' toys when it's raining - okay, it might not be plausible to bring in the entire jungle gym, but a junior trampoline or seesaw won't take up much room and can keep them active in the living room.
Hopefully some of these tips will prove useful when you're in charge of children's entertainment this summer - and if all else fails, you can always give them a duster and get them to help with the cleaning!
20th August 2014Easy ways to get your toddlers more active
If you're the parent of a toddler, you might assume that getting him or her to sit still is more of an issue than encouraging them to be more active. After all, what mum or dad hasn't sat down exhausted at the end of a long day, having been run ragged by a little one with boundless energy?
However, even if you think your toddler is achieving plenty of exercise, it's vital to get them moving even more regularly if they're to reap the benefits and stave off health problems later in life.
Research has shown that active kids not only tend to maintain healthier weights, but also sleep better and feel happier than their couch potato peers. Furthermore, a recent US-based study found that youngsters who were always on the go were consistently brighter than obese children.
Experts recommend that children who can walk unaided should be physically active for at least three hours throughout the day, and that they shouldn't be sedentary for longer than an hour at a time. Broken down further, at least 30 minutes' worth of adult-led, structured physical activities is recommended for tots aged between 12 and 36 months each day, on top of another minimum of 60 minutes of free play.
Fortunately, that doesn't mean shipping them off to the gym to pound a treadmill; there are lots of fun ways of ensuring toddlers don't spend too long sitting down.
Fit exercise into everyday activities
Get into the habit of walking with your child whenever possible, for example, on a trip to the shops instead of taking the car. You can enjoy pointing out objects on the way and help him or her practise their language, balance and coordination skills. If you go into a department store, take toddlers up the stairs rather than jumping straight onto the escalator too.
At home, you can dance to the radio together, get involved with some simple gardening and play games in which you they have to retrieve particular objects after you name them.
Play together imaginatively
Simply running around the park or garden is always an option for upping physical activity levels, but playing specific games will hold their attention for longer, not to mention being more fun for you.
Why not spend some time leaping around with a bat and ball, or hold races with them on ride-on toys and you running alongside?
Installing a climbing frame is another really easy way of getting toddlers out into the garden, because they will be itching to clamber around it and test their newly acquired skills - you'll simply have to help them up and down.
Don't forget the allure of a slide either, as youngsters will happily spend hours going up and down, exerting their bodies without even realising.
Up the stakes with rewards
Of course, playing is hugely rewarding for toddlers in itself, as they'll be learning new skills, having fun and spending time with you.
But if you want to ensure they stick at their activities and aren't even tempted to wander off to do something else, you could always offer them rewards for completing tasks.
On a summer's day, it would be really exciting for children to see a mini assault course set up in their garden, which they had to complete as though they were little Olympians. It's not difficult to do either; simply establish a circuit and specify tasks at each stage.
For example, you could start with a slide, then move on to a tunnel that tots have to wriggle through. The next stage might be a mat on which you instruct them to do 15 star jumps, stand on one leg or bounce a ball for ten seconds, followed by a hopscotch course marked out with chalk (or colourful markers on grass).
A final lap around the garden on a scooter before arriving back at the slide is all it takes for children to feel a real sense of achievement. The reward doesn't have to be too complicated either - a bedtime 15 minutes later than usual, a packet of crayons, a comic or the chance to do some baking of biscuits will suffice for the 'winner'.
Keeping toddlers active will help them develop healthy habits as older kids and into adulthood - and parents will benefit from sleepy offspring when bedtime rolls around!
6th August 2014Choosing a Trampoline?
Trampolines have been booming in popularity lately and, as toys that are both hugely fun and can go some way towards fending off sedentary lifestyles among youngsters, this is something parents and caregivers are only going to want to encourage.
However, if you're keen to purchase a trampoline, knowing which style to go for in a crowded marketplace can be tough. Not all designs are created equal and opting for one that is low-quality by mistake will be a false economy at best and potentially dangerous at worst.
Don't worry though - we've got lots of information here at TP Toys and we'll put together our top tips below to help you make your decision.
Seek out quality features
There are lots of things that set good trampolines out from the rest. Look for trampoline pads that provide a comfortable seating area around the bouncing part and also cushion users against landing on the springs.
Quality products will also have a high number of long springs for maximum bounce, so don't be tempted to purchase those that look bare around the edges or you may be disappointed.
There are lots of other optional features for added enjoyment too. Have a look at zip-free door entry, which is offered on some of our trampolines at TP Toys and allows children to crawl through a tunnel rather than simply opening a flap to get to the bouncing platform.
You can also choose between octagonal and round frames when it comes to our larger models; this is mostly just personal preference, but the octagonal variety tends to provide a more predictable vertical bounce.
Our designs are patent protected and constructed using galvanised steel frames, so you can be sure that you'll receive a quality product, whichever one you go for.
Accident prevention is key when considering buying a trampoline, as little ones could hurt themselves if they are bouncing around freely on a raised platform.
That's why good retailers will provide a trampoline enclosure around the bouncing platform that's made from fine yet sturdy netting and will support children when they fall against it. All steel poles within the enclosure should also be padded with thick foam so they don't hurt bouncers if a collision occurs.
Some of our trampolines come with intelligent feet for extra stability when the ground beneath isn't quite level - and a ladder up to the enclosure might be useful if you're concerned about the big drop down after a bouncing session.
At TP Toys, all of our trampolines are tested to the new EN71 14 draft standard for domestic models, giving you peace of mind that our products have been rigorously tested before going on sale.
How old is your child?
Age is another factor that's worth considering before you take the plunge and make a purchase, as you want your little one to get as much use out of their new trampoline as possible. Very young children may feel daunted by the larger varieties, while older ones are likely to grow out of smaller types if they are purchased too late. We can break this sector down further to cover different product types as follows:
1. Toddler trampolines
Suitable for children from just one year old, these feature small frames that are nice and low to the ground for easy access. Many have built-in handles so the child can hold on as they bounce for added stability - and let go whenever they feel confident enough.
Toddler trampolines are ideal for using indoors or outside and will help your little one improve his or her balance and lower body strength.
If you know you'll mostly be using your trampoline inside, then you might be interested in taking a look at TP Toys' Little Bouncer, which folds down to an amazingly small size and can be stored down the side of a cupboard or under the bed. Bouncing wherever, whenever will be quick, fun and easy with this product!
2. Bigger kids
Once children get to three years old they'll want to test their bouncing skills more, so you can upgrade to one of our Big Bouncers. These look just like their larger counterparts only scaled down, so kids will feel really grown-up but can also benefit from features that have been specifically tailored to them.
For instance, the platforms are closer to the ground for easy access and the bouncing area only measures 6ft, meaning they won't feel daunted when they climb aboard.
3. Expert bouncers
At age six and above, children will be experts at trampoline bouncing and so you can feel free to choose any of our larger products. They still have the safety features we mentioned earlier though, so there's no compromise on protection.
The Genius Octagonal SurroundSafe Trampoline offers a ladder and intelligent feet, while our Trampeazee models are available in a variety of sizes for all garden types, plus they're really padded so there will be no contact with springs.
Hopefully this has given you some useful information to use when you're browsing the trampolines at TP Toys.
6th August 2014Playscapes - what are they and how can they be beneficial?
Playgrounds are a regular feature in both rural and urban environments, but you'd be forgiven for assuming that they're all pretty much the same, with swings, climbing frames and other equipment slotted in more or less at random.
However, you might be interested to learn that this often isn't the case. We can't speak for them all (and everyone has been in a playground that has no discernible design features whatsoever and seems somehow all wrong aesthetically), but some recreational spaces are now being carefully laid out to ensure maximum benefits for the children that use them.
What are Playscapes?
Researchers at the US's University of Cincinnati recently took a look at these 'playscapes', which have strategically placed equipment, are dynamic in terms of the way children move through them and have plenty of specially planted vegetation.
They drew some interesting conclusions. Youngsters within such environments were found to be learning about scientific inquiry, maths and also environmental stewardship, as well as benefiting from sharpened attention skills, lower rates of depression and - in children already displaying them - reduced symptoms of attention deficit disorders.
Study authors Victoria Carr and Eleanor Luken said: "The advantages of building playscapes over traditional playgrounds are considerable. They provide a sense of play that also addresses parental concerns about safety, creates pleasant play environments, supports child development and nurtures nature exploration. It appeals to a child's sense of being in a special place, promotes curiosity and demonstrates sustainable practices."
This isn't the only study published lately to look into playground design either. A team at RMIT University in Australia examined recreational areas that included everyday items as well as traditional play equipment.
These were things that might not necessarily be associated with playgrounds, including buckets, pipes and swimming pool floats (or 'noodles'). It was found that youngsters in playgrounds that included these items cut their sedentary behaviour by half, demonstrated improved creativity and problem-solving skills and also played more creatively than before.
Placing unusual objects within reach seemed to allow them to branch out with their imagination and play games they might not have thought of before.
Applying the ideas yourself...
Of course, you can't change the layout of your local public playground, nor will you probably want to cart objects like buckets with you when you head there with your little ones.
However, you can take these clever design principles and implement them in your own playground - your garden.
The key features mentioned by the playscape researchers included open lawns on which to run, a sensory garden for nature appreciation and a fort where children can "play, hide and look out over the landscape".
It's easy to incorporate these aspects into your outdoor space with a few packets of flower and grass seeds - and TP Toys can help you out with the fort part too. Check out our Forest Cottage, for instance, which is the ultimate adventure base for boys or girls.
You can then mix in some traditional playground features (a Seesaw is always a winner, we find) and finally more random items that will help to spark off their imagination as per the Australian research.
Use your own imagination for this too, taking a look around the house to see what you could put outside as unusual playthings. Could your old yoga mat become a raft across seas full of tropical fish? Perhaps that cardboard box you've been meaning to put in the recycling might morph into a robot or a sports car in the hands of your offspring.
It never ceases to amaze us what kids can come up with using just a few household items that look like junk at first glance, so try anything as long as it's safe for them to use - and get the camera ready for the results!
We'd love to hear about any unusual playscapes you've seen (anywhere in the world), as well as what you've designed for your garden, so do feel free to get in touch with us on this topic.
3rd September 2012Is it over already?
As the kids are heading back to school after the summer holidays, here at TP we think it’s important to give them something to look forward to at the weekend! With lots of outdoor toys available for all size gardens, why not browse the website to see what you little ones may like!
How about a Football goal, like this Super Goal with Trainer?
Or a Trampoline like this 7ft Zoomee?
Or perhaps this Kingfisher Slide?