Toy Talk® with Nikki Bush showcases and endorses educational games and toys every child should have during their formative years as well as games for family fun and connection. Nikki Bush, Human Potential and Parenting Expert, has been helping parents to buy with confidence since 2004. This is her running list of weekly recommendations for 2021.
SHARK SHARK by Monzoo
A remote control shark that looks like a shark and moves like a shark. Use the remote control to master the forwards, backwards and circular movements in your swimming pool (a normal-sized bath will be too small). This takes a bit of practice and co-ordination to get the hang of it. Use auto mode and make Shark-Shark come to life on its own.
For added complexity, put obstacles in the shark’s way and navigate your way around. These could be floating objects or other children who will, no doubt, shriek if the shark comes near them such is the legend of the deep. Try and get the shark from one end of the pool to the other without touching the sides of the pool – this is harder than it looks because the segmented sharks tail means that it waves its tail as it swims.
This is a quiet remote control that makes no noise at all. Personally, I found it quite mesmerising and sufficiently challenging to master that I think I will be playing with it on a regular basis this holiday season if just to do something totally different and almost meditative as I sit on the edge of the pool. I think there will be a tussle between the parents and the children master Shark Shark.
The product dimensions are 18cm(L) x 15cm(W) x 38cm(H). It takes three AAA batteries in the remote control and two in the shark itself. Maybe get your rechargeables out for this one! Do remember to switch both the shark and the RC off when you have finished a play session.
Skills: Fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, patience
Approx. price: R999
Stockists: Takealot and The Kid Zone and in store at Toy Zone, Toy Kingdom an Hamleys.
PENCIL NOSE by SolarPop
Can you draw with your nose? In this hilarious party game, players use their sniffers to sketch objects and then hope their teammates can correctly guess what they’re drawing before time runs out! Simply pick a card and then, using the special Pencil Nose glasses with a marker attached, try to draw the object onto the see-through screen using only your nose.
Contains one erasable drawing board, Pencil Nose glasses and headband, 1 marker and adapters, 1 eraser and 45 object cards. Of course, you could decide to change the game up and draw with your hands instead of your nose. Or, use the cards for a game of charades too. I love games that can be repurposed or played in many different ways!
A game takes 20 – 30 minutes and can be played by 4 – 20 people because you have to play in teams.
Skills: fine motor control, imagination, creativity
Ages: 8 to adult
Childhood is the time for stimulating the theatre of the mind before children are bombarded by too many visual images on screens that erode their ability to imagine anything but what they have already seen. To kick-start your child’s imagination you want them to fall in love with audio early on. The Yoto Player gives them this chance and can be used anywhere.
The Yoto Player is designed to safely give children full control over their listening experience, by entertaining and educating them while reducing screen-time. Yoto Player is controlled using physical cards that are inserted into the Player which plays audio content – helping to reduce excessive screen-time and giving children access to entertaining content without removing the joy of using technology for fun, learning and imaginative play. With the Yoto player, kids can listen to stories, free from adverts and are unable to download inappropriate content.
The Yoto Player gives parents peace of mind during an age when privacy concerns are under the spotlight. With no microphone or camera on the device, it allows children to enjoy their favourite podcast or audiobook without the concern of the device recording personal data. It also means children will not be targeted with adverts based on usage history or other recorded data.
Purchase the standalone audio player and gradually build up a rich collection of audio cards that you insert into the player including their favourite audiobooks, stories, music, singalongs, educational activities and more. Access free children’s podcasts and radio too.
Here are some of the amazing benefits of the Yoto:
- Content that grows with your child’s mind. You can keep adding more age-appropriate content to your child’s library as they grow.
- Create your own content by recording personalised audio cards. Record parents, grandparents and other favourite people reading stories in their own voices, singing lullabies and songs or even sending special messages.
- Customisable clock, nightlight and sleep trainer to teach your child how to tell the time and to train them in good bedtime habits. You can select the colour and brightness of the built-in nightlight.
Make storytime the best part of the day with a world of audio at their fingertips. You might even experience the return of the lie-in on the weekend or during the holidays. The Yoto Player lets your kids know when it’s time to get up. If they wake up early, they can stay in bed and listen to a story.
- Internet fee
- Uses Bluetooth
- Yoto’s smartphone app gives parents complete control of settings and content management
- Listen in the car for on the go entertainment by linking speakers to the Yoto
- Simply tap the audio cards on the back of a smartphone to play in the car
- Based on Montessori learning principles
- Linked to trusted household names such as LEGO and Disney as well as licenses with Penguin Random House, Abbey Road Studios, Sony Music, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and more.
- Yoto’s extensive and ever-expanding content library is packed with some of the world’s greatest children’s content including The Magic Far Away Tree (Trilogy), The Gruffalo, The Wishing Chair (Trilogy), with Frozen to name a few
- Yoto has been shortlisted for many awards and was named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2020.
Ages: 2 – 12
Skills: Listening, comprehension, imagination, theatre of the mind, fun without a screen, concentration, reduce distractability
Approx Price: R2 499 for the player and prices vary for the audio cards, some of which come in trilogies
Pop Tubes is both a fascination toy and construction toy that kids and adults will love. As the name suggests, it pops so it is not a quiet fidget toy. Part of the sensory enjoyment is that there is both auditory and tactile stimulation as you stretch them or concertina them. These Pop Tubes are 20cm long when they are concertina’d and 70cm when expanded to their full length. They are made from high-quality plastic and they come in seven bright colours. Your child will use their imagination as they bend, connect, flex and expand their Pop Tubes.
Stretch a Pop Tube and it becomes a sound tube that makes cool noises. Push or pull it to make it shorter or longer. Blow through a Pop Tube to create music and whirl an extended Pop Tube above your head and it will whistle! Stimulate fine motor control and eye-hand co-ordination when your child snaps Pop Tubes together as a construction toy. Pop Tubes provide a versatile play experience with endless opportunities that will fascinate kids and adults.
The tubes come in seven colours and four different pack sizes. Buy them individually or in packs of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. They make great pocket money purchases or Christmas stocking fillers.
Ages: 3 years and up
Skills: fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, proprioception, part-whole relationships, auditory stimulation
R54 for 1
R99 for 2
R129 for 3
R149 for 4
Stockists: P.N.A, Lilliputs and Greenbusters
AIR HOGS GRAVITOR By Spinmaster
A circular drone that flies with the power of your hands – no remote control required to unleash gravity defying moments. The Gravitor senses altitude using wave-control technology so it can hover above and below obstacles. This is a great indoor toy that does amazing stunts at your command. There are more than 12 tricks to master including the shoulder slide, kick flip and the alley-oop.
Gravitor has a trick stick which makes it easy to grab and launch. It comes with two trick sticks and a USB cable for charging. It is durable and will bounce and rebound without damaging walls or furniture. Play alone or go head to head with your friends to see who can pull of the best stunt. The Gravitor will respond to your hands, feet or chest . To switch on hold the Gravitor by the trick stick and press the on button next to it. Allow the propellors to gain speed before you launch it in the air. To switch off, catch the Gravitor by the trick stick, hold it upside down, allow the propellors to stop then swtich off.
Skills: spatial planning, memorising moves, speed and dexterity
Ages: 8 years and up
Approx price: R599.99
DIZZY DONKEY By Orchard Toys
One of those hilarious family charades games that will be enjoyed by adults and children alike. You can act, you can describe or even draw in different versions of the game. Be the player to collect the most pairs of cards before the donkey reaches the carrot in this high energy action and performance game!
Players take turns to pick two cards, one card that shows an action/feeling and another card that shows a character. Once you have your cards it’s time to take to the stage and start performing – will you be a ‘sneezing chicken’, a ‘hungry penguin’ or even a ‘tired penguin’? Other players must try and guess correctly. If they do, you keep the cards. If they give up and can’t guess then return the cards to the table face down.
This game is full of exciting twists that lead to plenty of laughter. If you turn over a ‘spin’ card everyone has to jump up and spin around. Turn over a donkey card and everyone has to shout ‘EEYORE” and the donkey moves one step closer to the carrot!
The winner is the player with the most cards once the donkey reaches the carrots at the end of the playing board. The longer the game continues, the more you will spin and shout EEYORE.
While Dizzy Donkey is jam-packed with fun it’s also a great way to encourage children to talk about different feelings and emotions too.
Timeless Toys stocks the full range of amazing Orchard Toys in South Africa.
Ages: 5 years to adult
Players: 2 – 4
Skills: acting, describing, problem solving, creativity, handling pressure
Approx price: R 249.00
Stockists: timelesstoys.co.za and leading independent toy stores
DRONE HOME By PlayMonster
A family game of luck and skill with a real drone – this is a first! Race to launch your aliens down the ramps and land inside the drone which requires timing and skill! Watch out—there’s a delay to lift of once you make it in, so others can knock you out of your spot in the drone! If you manage to stay in and your alien escapes when the drone lifts off, you’re one step closer to winning! Get all your aliens into space first to win!
- LAUNCH FOR THE STARS – Use the launchers to get your alien in the drone!
- REAL, FLYING DRONE – First game ever with a real, flying drone.
- HEAD-TO-HEAD BATTLE— Launch against other players to secure your alien’s spot in the drone – one alien can knock another out of the drone before it takes off!
- HELP THEM HOME— If your alien is in the drone when it takes off, you’re that much closer to winning!
- FAMILY FUN—The whole family will love this fast-paced game!
DRONE HOME is fun for the whole family. Designed for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, the game comes with Drone, Launch Pad with 4 Launch Ramps, 12 Aliens, and USB cord. This fast paced game is sure to be a hit with everyone. The drone charges in just 10 minutes, requires 4 AAA batteries and includes a rechargeable lithium battery.
Aliens literally fly home in the drone, right before your eyes in this fast moving new game. Players have four aliens each (choose to be orange, purple, red, or green). The first player to launch all of their aliens into space is the winner!
Ages: 8 and up
Players: 2 – 4
Skills: Playing by the rules, winning and losing, strategy, problem solving, spatial planning, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination
Approx price: R 499.99
WATERWORKS – PIPELINE BATH TOY by Tiger Tribe
At last, a bath toy that will grow with your child! Children love exploring and experimenting with the wonders of water which they find totally fascinating due to its fluidity. Waterworks allows them to build their water pipeline much like one would build a marble run, making this product a construction toy, a bath toy and a STEAM toy too (science, engineering, technology, art and maths).
Waterworks sticks your bathroom tiles or glass shower door walls with suction cups. You child will be able to:
- Fill up and empty out – watch the ball rise and fall with the changing water levels
- Experiment with opening and closing valves to stop and start the flow of water
- Change the direction of the water flow
- Swap the 11 key pieces around in the system to change the water flow
- Experiment with cause and effect
Tiger Tribe is an Australian brand that is committed to providing quality products for unplugged play and learning. I’ve been watching their growth for a few years and love the quality of the range and the price point. There are other amazing bath toys for all ages available from this brand.
Ages: 3 – 5 years
Skills: Key STEAM skills include problem-solving, creative thinking, critical analysis, independent thinking, testing, experimentation, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, part-whole relationships and more.
Stockist: Timeless Toys
MINILAND DOLLS by Miniland
The Miniland Doll range has landed. These life-like dolls are designed to develop social skills that help children to understand the concepts of:
- Respect for diversity
In the Miniland 38cm doll range, you will find a wide array of dolls that represent the diversity of the children who will play with them. Joining the African, Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic dolls are dolls wearing glasses or hearing aids, and the latest addition is a gorgeous doll with Down Syndrome, which has just won Gold and Bronze at the Play for Change Awards by the Toys Industries of Europe.
Miniland dolls contribute to a world that is more open, inclusive and tolerant towards diversity. They help children learn about similarities and differences, promoting empathy and acceptance of people of any race, gender or condition. All Miniland dolls come in boy or girl versions, are anatomically correct.
The smaller 21cm dolls do not have hair and are perfect for babies while the larger 38cm dolls have sewn-in hair that can be brushed. They all have movable heads, arms and legs and are made of smooth, durable, phthalate-free vinyl making them soft with defined features. They are completely BPA-free, are delicately vanilla scented and come dressed in gender neutral cotton undies.
Miniland Dolls are packaged in a cardboard gift box made completely from recycled board. They make a superb gift to encourage nurturing and imaginative play. Add to your child’s collection with gorgeous clothes and accessories such as a baby sling carrier and sleeping bag. The “How to dress” and “Dress your baby” collections come with the most common every day outfits and accessories used for babies at bathtime, an afternoon nap, or going for a walk, to help children identify daily situations and promote their autonomy through self-awareness. The clothes have different types of fasteners to stimulate fine motor skills. Click here for the full catalogue of items available in South Africa.
Ages range: 18months+
Skills: fantasy play, role play, nurturing, respect for diversity, differences and similarities, social and emotional development, empathy, fine motor skills
Approx price: R759
MYN PIKKEWYN By Real Revolution
Myn Pikkewyn is a fun family strategy board game for 2-5 players, ages 7 and up with the aim of mining gold, silver and bronze nuggets from a floating iceberg just off the coast of Cape Town. Each player has four very cute penguins with different coloured hard hats who live in igloos and are sent out to work. They either go fishing or mining. When mining, the aim is to build tunnels deeper into the iceberg to find more valuable resources. Your penguins earn fish when they go fishing, which is the currency used to purchase tunnel cards and action cards to help you progress through the game.
This unusually themed game has a kiddies version and an advanced version ensuring fun for the whole family no matter how old or young they are. It comes with a detailed rules booklet and the online videos will teach you how to play both versions quickly and easily. There is no text on the board itself and once you have played a couple of times it will be intuitive.
A game takes about 45 minutes – family fun time to bond, connect and play. The player with the most coins calculated at the end of the game is the winner.
In the advanced version, there are many more action options you can take in each turn to play more strategically, and there are mining contracts to be fulfilled.
Ages: 7 years to adult
Skills: Strategy, playing by the rules, turn-taking, winning and losing, decision-making, problem-solving
Approx Price: R500
Stockists: Toy Kingdom, Takealot, Return Revolution, Spoetnik,Bargain Books and independent toy stores
KINETIC SAND SCENTS By Spinmaster
Kinetic Sand can be squished, squashed, squeezed, moulded, cut and dripped. It works just like playdough. Kinetic Sand provides an amazing sensory experience that will both stimulate and soothe the sensory system (try it yourself!) as well as providing opportunities to exercise and develop fine motor skills and creativity. Kinetic sand never dries out, stays dust and allergen-free, is naturally antimicrobial and gluten-free, leaves no residue and hands stay clean. It is the ultimate fascination toy that I keep on my kitchen counter for anyone to doodle with when they have a moment of downtime.
The new variation, Kinetic Sand Scents, is available in four different ‘flavours’ adding a punch to this already fabulous sensory product. Collect all four scents:
Red (Cherry Fizz), green (Sour Apple), white (Vanilla Cupcake) and brown (Chocolate Swirl) scented sand! Mix to create new colours and scents!
Skills: Fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, pincer grip for handwriting, creativity, tactile stimulation
Stockists: Toys R Us, Toy Kingdom, Hamleys, Toy Zone, Takealot and The Kid Zone
Approx price: R189 per packet
PLUGO LINK by PlayShifu
If your child has an iPad or tablet now you can turn some of their screen time into fun learning time too, with Plugo Link, an augmented reality construction game that enables your child to build creative structures and solve spatial problems with 15 magnetic hexagonal building blocks.
No Bluetooth, no electronics. Unfold the game pad, pop your tablet or iPad into the stand and build on the four magnetic pads. Create 3D shapes and structures by copying what you see on the screen (2D). The front camera reads each block you play.
Play alone or with another child and select levels of difficulty. The gaming up provides feedback all the time. “That’s amazing. You did it!” This toy will grow with your child.
Skills: spatial planning, problem solving, 2D to 3D, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, cause and effect, together and apart, analysis and synthesis.
Plugo by PlayShifu is a STEM gaming system powered by Augmented Reality. It consists of one Gamepad and four interchangeable gaming kits that work with one companion app (Plugo Count and Plugo Link currently available in South Africa). Plugo makes learning fun and engaging for children, whether maths, vocabulary, problem-solving or logical reasoning. This is a hybrid toy that combines real world play experiences with digital ones.
Skills: spatial planning, problem solving, 2D to 3D, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, cause and effect, together and apart, analysis and synthesis
Ages: 4 – 12
Approx price: R899 per set (does not include the iPad/tablet)
Stockists: Takealot, iStore, ToysRUs
SUPER DIMPLE AND SIMPLE DIMPLE
The Super Dimple and the Simple Dimple are fascination toys with a broad appeal. The larger Super Dimple has five brightly coloured dimples of different sizes. It doubles as a teething toy for babies that they also find fascinating to touch when pushing/pressing the brightly coloured silicon dimples with their fingers.
Toddlers will quickly work out cause and effect – that if they hold the Super Dimple frame and press the dimples they pop out the other side making a rewarding popping noise. Why not get creative and fill the dimples with small snacks like raisins, grapes and Fruit Loops for a tasty fine motor activity? Your child will be stimulating the pincer grip for holding a crayon when picking up snacks with their thumb and forefinger.
Older children will use the Super Dimple as a fascination toy that also aids decompression of stress due its tactile nature and the rewarding sound it makes. I play with it while taking phone calls!
The Simple Dimple is a two dimple keyring attachment that is great to play with when you have time to kill when waiting for meetings or in a queue. My entire family has them on their keyrings – even my 20 something-year-old son said, “This is really cool, can I have one?” So this could make a great stocking filler too.
Skills: Fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, proprioception, sensory processing
Stockists: Lilliputs, Greenbusters, PNA, Pick ‘n Pay
Price: Approx R99 for the Super Dimple and R69 for the Simple Dimple
Orboot by Playshifu
Orboot is an augmented reality educational globe that will help children get their bearings on where in the world countries are and help them to discover more about animals, cuisines, cultures, inventions, maps, and monuments related to that country. This is information that is sorely lacking in young people’s general knowledge today. While you can Google anything, to come across as smart and knowledgeable in a conversation, a decent general knowledge is important.
Your child will work the globe with an iPad, iPhone, or Android device (see compatibility specs below) and travel the world virtually. A passport, stamp, and flags of the world stickers are supplied so that your child can keep track of their journeys and discoveries as they go. The Orboot app is available in 8 languages. It’s a product that will grow with your child as they explore more than 400 wonders of the world in 3D, learn over 1 000 facts, and explore 6 categories: animals, cuisines, cultures, inventions, maps, and monuments. There is visual storytelling, music, and voice interactions as well as in-app quizzes and challenges. They will even be challenged to solve some of the environmental problems of the world.
Ages: 6 years and up
Skills: research, listening, associations, general knowledge, patience, problem-solving, critical thinking, geography, environmental science, social science
Device Compatibility: iPad 5th gen and above iPad Air all models iPad Pro all models iPad Mini 2 and above iPhone 6 and above Android Device with minimum 3 GB RAM Amazon Fire Tablets not supported.
Price: from R899
Variations: Earth, Dinos, Mars
Stockists: Takealot, ToysRUs, iStore
Tonka toys are made with real steel and are guaranteed for life. They are replicas of real construction vehicles made to scale. Chunky and substantial, every child will enjoy these for sandpit, backyard, and garden play. They work like the real machines kids see on construction sites – the bulldozer, the front loader, and the mighty dump truck. Tonka toys have been in production since 1947 and in 2001 they were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in New York.
Tonka Toys are built to last and become heirloom toys to be handed down from generation to generation. They are tough, rugged toys the last the distance and are built to do the digging and heavy haulage that kids love to make them do in their fantasy play sandpits.
Use the Tonka Classic Steel Bulldozer to move dirt, sand, and gravel with the workable blade and take control of any job site!
The Tonka Classic Steel Mighty Dump Truck is built for hauling! This sturdy, steel construction vehicle is ready for the toughest loading jobs. Move the bed up and down to trigger its unloading action! It has a freewheeling feature for movement
The Tonka Classic Steel Front End Loader is built to take on the toughest construction jobs! Move the front loader up and down to transport dirt, rocks, or sand from one job site to another.
Ages: 3 +
Skills: Gross motor control, fine motor co-ordination, fantasy play, role play, construction, creativity, sensopathic play
Approx price: Bull Dozer R799.99, Front Loader R1199.99, Mighty Dump Truck R1 299.99
Stockists: Toy Kingdom, Toy Zone, Hamleys, Takealot, and The Kid Zone
SPEAK AND LEARN PUPPY By Leapfrog
An interactive, plush puppy named Bailey encourages language development with its talk-back feature. Bailey moves its head and flaps its ears as it responds to your child. In Babble mode, Bailey talks back playfully with a silly voice. In talk mode, Bailey repeats what your child says and then asks questions to keep the conversation going. Your child will explore animal names, animal sounds, food, feelings, letters, and numbers through four paw buttons and a light-up collar. Multiple songs encourage learning, and three learning levels allow the toy to grow with your child as their language skills develop. Three learning levels encourage listening, comprehension, and language development with real-time responses.
Age: 12 – 24 months
Skills: speech, listening, copying, repetition, comprehension, building vocabulary
Price: Approx R 1099
Stockists: Takealot and other large toy retailers
RUBBABU By Children in Motion
Soft natural rubber toys for babies and toddlers made from molded natural rubber with a flocked velvety coating. They come in many different colourful shapes and sizes – from balls to baby tools to vehicles and are esigned to support a child’s sensory development from 3 months onwards. They stimulate hand-eye coordination, pushing the toys on wheels stimulates gross motor control and imaginative. Throwing and rolling balls contributes to the development of spatial reasoning.
Rubbabu toys are made out of a soft and squishy rubber-based foam which is 100% pure natural rubber tapped from rubber trees. They are solid rubber with no fillers. Get your little one a Rubbabu ball, tool or vehicle. Items come in small, medium or large the balls are great for adult stress too. The velvety finish and the squeezability will fascinate you and your child. Also highly recommended by occupational therapists for special needs children and sensory seeking children. They are anti-microbial, dust mite and mildew resistant, hypo allergenic and flame retardant.
Skills: Eye-hand co-ordination, gross motor control, experimentation, sensory stimulation
Ages: 3 – 18 months (and as stress balls for adults)
Approx price: from R50.00 – R400.00
Stockists: Lilliputs, Greenbusters, Baby City, Takealot and other major toy retailers
Awards: Rubbabu has won of 50 prestigious international toy awards including Dr Toy and Parents’ Choice
Lali Dolls By Toys with Roots
Representation matters. At last, an African fashion doll with big lovely hair that looks like the little girls who will play with it! Lali dolls are fashion dolls with fully jointed legs and arms to allow for an authentic play experience. They can bend, sit and stand. Choose a doll with either afro hair or straight hair ponytails. Lali is available in 3 characters for fantasy and role play;
- Chef Lali (with microwave or blender accessories)
- Sporty Lali (with a bicycle accessory)
- Queen Lali (with wand and crown accessories)
Lali’s clothing range is produced by a local South African designer using bright Seshweshwe print.
Lali dolls are inspirational. Whether your child wants to be a chef, a cyclist or a beauty queen, Lali with brown skin is symbolic than anything is possible for anyone.
Skills: Fantasy play, role play, creativity, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination
Ages: 3 – 8 years
Approx price: R300 per doll and R60 per set of clothing
MR SKETCH MARKERS By Sanford
The Mr. Sketch Markers are the best markers you will ever buy! When Avrille and Monty Gork of The Educational Toy Centre in Highlands North sold me my first and only set over 10 years ago, they told me to write the date on the box because they were going to last me a very long time. I really didn’t believe them but they were right. The Mr. Sketch markers may be more expensive than most but they have just gone on and on and on. Great colours and they are scented too which my children and visiting nieces and nephews always loved. That extra sensory experience is fun.
These are not permanent markers or whiteboard markers, they are proper pens that are brilliant for use on flipcharts and for creative endeavours. They are rich true, vibrant colours and have an angled tip so you can use the thick, medium or thin side of the pen to create fine, medium or broad lines. Their high quality and longevity is why they have been the markers of choice for training rooms in large companies for so many years. This is the best-kept secret, and now you know it too. Make sure to get a set for your family.
Each non-toxic, acid free pen has its own fun fragrance – Black Liquorice, Blue Blueberry, Green Mint, Yellow Lemon, Orange, Brown Cinnamon, Purple Grape & Magenta Raspberry
Skills: Fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, creativity, imagination
Ages: 4 to adult
Price: R199 (usually R250) for a pack of 8 markers
Retail: Educational Toy Centre, Cnr Louis Botha and 8th Ave, Highlands North www.educationaltoycentre.com
OCTOPUS BABY BALL PIT By K’s Kids (also comes as a turtle or hippo)
Ball pits are great for sensory stimulation. Babies sitting or lying in the ball pit experience an environment that is constantly moving and changing, massaging their skin and stimulating the sense of touch. The K’s Kids Baby Ball Pits are beautifully designed. These colourful characters can be zipped up for easy storage of balls – not a common feature with other ball pits. Even when closed, the ball pit will continue to be a jumbo soft toy that little ones can engage with – touch, squeeze, lie or roll on, etc.
Very young babies will mouth the balls, kick and push them. The sitting baby and toddler will enjoy picking up the balls and throwing them out of the ball pit for parents to fetch. Show them how to push the balls through the elasticised holes for extra peek a boo fun. Crawling babies will explore this toy in so many different ways. When your little one is playing with the balls, remember to use colour words like this, “Here is a red ball,” or “Thank you for the blue ball.” Extend play beyond 18 months by playing colour games – put it in and take it out with buckets for different coloured balls.
Each ball pit contains 60 balls tags, mirrors, rattles and teething items attached to it. The legs are different textures and make different sounds when touched or squeezed. Let your little one enjoy their very own ball pit at home. Size: 97cm(W) x 36cm(H) x 82cm(D). Every baby needs one. Makes a great birth gift or first birthday gift.
Skills: Fine and gross motor skills, counting, sorting according to colour, sensory stimulation, object permanence (peek a boo)
Ages: 6 – 18 months
Approx price: R1 150
CRYSTAL VILLAGE by Weplay
A most unusual construction set consisting of 6 tall houses and 6 short houses that will give 2 – 7 year olds so much fun and stimulation. It’s called the Crystal Village because it’s made up of 24 colourful translucent building blocks, with 12 ribbed roof pieces. The concept of angles is introduced through gameplay when your child matches two of the same size and shape building blocks together correctly, enabling them to balance a roof piece on top.
The Crystal Village offers open-ended creative play from 2D to 3D. Children can build flat on the floor or table or build by balancing blocks on top of each other to create towers. They can use the 6 double-sided copy cards for structured activities.
The basic concepts of angles are introduced because the tops of the House Blocks are designed at 30 and 45 degrees (they are not rectangular)while the Roof Blocks are 60 and 90 degrees.
The translucent houses are in three primary colours making the Crystal Village a perfect platform for children to learn about primary colours and colour mixing while having fun. The cut-outs on each block act as windows on the Houses. The roof pieces can also be stacked and balanced in many different ways including an unusual zig-zag pattern.
Due to the see-through nature of the blocks, children will have fun building houses and towers in the sun for beautiful reflections or using a torch to create shadow pictures on walls.
Skills: mathematical concepts such as position, angles, symmetry, size, fractions and sequencing. Also sorting, grouping, matching, colour recognition and colour mixing. 2D – 3D copying, balance, spatial planning, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, pattern making and more.
Age: 2 – 7 years
INFINITE LOOP by WePlay
The Infinite Loop is a fascination toy in a league of its own. It’s a plastic loop in the shape of a figure of eight with built-in tracks very much like a marble run, that will challenge your child’s problem solving ability. It consists of two grip handles on the loop for opening and closing the tracks to change it’s shape in order to keep the ball rolling infinitely. The Infinite Loop is designed for motor skills development to improve hand-eye coordination, gross moto control (whole arm and shoulders), problem solving concentration, planning, and patience.
It will be enjoyed by all ages because it’s both challenging and calming and the same time. It’s also perfect for integrating the brain and the body. Two balls are included – one smooth and one dimpled. The smooth one rolls more quickly making the game more tricky.
- A plastic figure of eight-track
- 2 Balls
Skills: hand-eye coordination, gross-motor control, problem solving, concentration, planning, judgement of speed, space and distance, and patience to achieve mastery
Age: 4 – 12
BUILDZI – by Carma Games
FAST STACKING BUILDZI is one of my top picks for 2021 so far! It’s another fast, easy to learn game, from the makers of the fabulous Tenzi and Slapzi games. Simply flip over the Tower Cards or the Block Cards and be among the first to build your block tower. Select what you need for your tower from 32 geometric-shaped blocks in 8 colours and stack them on top of each other as fast as you can. Develop a fast eye and a steady hand to win at this game. The first player to build their tower correctly shouts Buildzi!
I love the versatility of this game as there are so many different ways to play whether you are playing on your own, in a group of four, or playing a party game with more people.
Race to build your block towers by copying the tower cards which are in full colour or black only (on the reverse side) as your guide. Build your towers according to the individual block cards you turn over. You can even build your block tower in 3D like Tetris, on your own or as a group, seeing how you can make them fit together without the tower falling down. You can use a timer, or not, to increase the pressure to build at speed.
Buildzi is part of the Carma games trio. It can be used for preschoolers for sorting, matching, grouping and sequencing of shapes because there are for complete sets of shapes in the box.
Skills: Matching, spatial planning, problem-solving, fine motor coordination, balance,communication, and collaboration
Ages 6 years to adult
Players: 2 – 4 but can also be played alone or as a multiplayer party game
Approx price R367.50
Stockists: Pegasus online store, Raru and Takealot
PATRICK’S COLOUR TALKING PEN by K’s Kids
A chunky, cute electronic pen that identifies and names colours. Touch a colour spot on the carry bag that opens up as a playing board with this very clever talking pen and it will name the colour correctly and the globe on the back of the pen will change colour too! Everything packs away neatly into the side of the bag which is well-designed to be taken anywhere.
Expand the colour adventure: your child can experiment by touching any object in the house with the talking pen that will identify the colours like magic. Together with a lively colour song, your kids can learn all their colours in no time. Comes with a set of shapes that can be matched to the ‘board’ providing another layer of learning. Great for taking in the car too.
Skills: fine motor, logic, problem solving, matching, colour vocabulary, self-esteem
Age: 1-4 years
RED ROOF COUNTRY HOME by Sylvanian Families
Sylvanian Families is an heirloom product range of collectibles: doll sets in the form of adorable pet animals such as bunny rabbits, hamsters and striped cats and more, dolls houses, vehicles and lots of accessories. The Red Roof Country Home (previously called the City House with lights) is the flagship product in the Sylvanian Families range. It’s a double-story house with little lights that really work! The Red Roof Country Home is where the Chocolate Rabbit Family lives.
The Red Roof Country Home can be opened up for play at 90-degrees, 180-degrees, and any angle in between. Closing up the house creates the appearance of a wonderful home, no matter which angle you look at it from, with light spilling out through the windows making quite the sight to behold. The double-story country home can be transformed into a three-story house because one of the upstairs bedrooms and the roof are removable. Another fabulous thing about this product is that it connects with other items in the range such as the Red Roof Cosy Cottage. Your child will experience years of joy as they add new accessories and new Sylvanian families to their collection from the wide range available.
This range is all about fantasy and imaginary play built around the important theme of nurturing. Nothing could be better for children in a Covid world because Sylvanian Families represent kindness, being loving, and looking after each other. Doll play encourages children to open up, enabling them to play through emotional issues that may be blocking them. These would typically be things like the arrival of a new sibling, the death of a loved one, divorce, or illness. This range has the approval of psychologists, therapists, and me! In addition, the Sylvanian Families themselves come without the physical human differences you would normally find in dolls such as race, hair type, colour of hair, eyes, and skin, body shape, or size. This makes them very easy to play with.
Skills: Fantasy and imaginary play, diversity, emotional intelligence, fine motor coordination, storytelling
Stockists: Toys R Us, Toy Kingdom, ToyZone, Hamleys, Takealot, and independent toy stores
Approx Price: R 1 500.00
Age: 4 – 10 years
Pokémon Battle Academy by Pokémon
From 6-year-olds to adults, Pokemon Battle Academy hits the spot. It’s the ultimate trading card game (TCG) in a two-player board game format. The game comes with three complete Pokémon TCG decks (60 cards each) and each deck includes a powerful special Pokémon: Charizard-GX, Raichu-GX, or Mewtwo-GX. If you don’t know these names, ask your kids!
Players face off to see whose Pokemon is the strongest. The first player to knock out four of their opposition’s Pokemon wins the game.
The first time you play, each player has their own booklet and you play against each other step-by-illustrated-step – no long wordy instructions. After that, you will know exactly what you are doing because the board itself is so well laid out and marked that it simply shows you how to play.
You have everything you need in one box including an advanced guide should you want to level up at any stage and a special QR code. Scan it and you get the very same game online, making this a crossover product, as well as unlocking additional cards. Join the 25 year Pokemon Renaissance.
Skills: Planning, strategy, reasoning, memory, forward and backward thinking, comparison
Stockist: Loot, Raru, Takealot and retail toy stores
HOW TO PLAY:
CLASSIC CHESS MASTERS By RGS Group
It’s cool to play the classic strategy game of chess. The award-winning TV series, The Queen’s Gambit, has given the game fresh appeal. Chess used to be the game for adult nerds and academic children who didn’t play sport, but this is not so today. Many primary schools now offer chess as an extramural activity and a broad cross-section of children attend from as early as Grade R (age 6). Chess is a game that can continue for a lifetime.
Classic Chess Masters is a must for every family. It’s a high quality tournament size chess set at an excellent price. The chunky plastic chess pieces are nicely weighted and have felt-lined bases for smooth movement on the board. The hinged (single fold) board has a linen backing for durability and it comes with excellent, clear, large print instructions that will teach you how to play the game (English and Afrikaans). The tallest piece – the King, measures 9cm in height and all pieces are classical Staunton style e.g. the bishop is distinguished by a mitre and the knight carved as a stallion’s head – all very traditionally Victorian!
Chess is about strategic thinking – both the big picture and each small step to outsmart your competitor. It requires patience, forwards and backwards thinking, defence and attack and being responsive – the board is always changing with each player’s move.
Skills: strategy, visual memory, spatial planning, direction, problem solving, higher order thinking, logic
Stockist: Westpack, Takealot, Makro, Game, PNA, RGS Group
LEARN TO COUNT By Smart Play
Learn to Count is a comprehensive learning tool for school readiness. With all the learning gaps that have appeared during the coronavirus pandemic with young children missing out on interactive foundation phase learning in the classroom, this is also the ideal product to bridge those gaps because it helps children to learn how to count with real objects (concrete learning), pictures of objects (semi-concrete) and dots and numbers (abstract learning). Your child will learn to sort by colour and size using the colour stacking rings and graduated wooden pegs. Essential maths vocabulary will be developed and anchored in memory by playing with concepts such as counting, size, position (eg. above, below) and grouping (of colour and number). Number and quantity can be discovered and understood in a playful way with the double-sided instruction tiles and colour stacking rings.
Learn to Count features a wooden baseboard, 10 graduated wooden pegs, 55 colour stacking rings, 20 double-sided wooden tiles and instructions in both Afrikaans and English.
Skills: Eye-hand coordination, spatial planning, position, number sense, quantity, colour matching, critical thinking, reasoning, matching and visual discrimination (similarities and differences)
Stockist: Westpack, Takealot, Makro, Game, PNA, RGS Group
WATCH THIS FACE By Eeboo
Watch This Face is two products in one which I just love. It’s an emotional literacy game that consists of 24 two-piece puzzles. While your child is recognising and matching facial expressions to the physical and emotional situations, they are also learning the skills that come with puzzle building. Get your child to name the emotion and create the same look on their face to match the puzzle piece. It might trigger a memory of a time they felt the same way which could be a good conversation starter. On the puzzle building side, sorting and matching are important pre-reading and pre-writing skills that your child needs to develop together with the fine motor co-ordination and spatial planning skills to piece them together. This is a multi-purpose product that will be useful for many years.
Age: 3-5 years old
Awards: Oppenheim Gold Award
EMOTIBLOCKS by Miniland
Emotiblocks is a multi-award-winning educational learning toy that can help younger children or children with special needs become familiar with basic emotions such as: sad, angry, surprised, happy, bored and scared. This character building set has chunky interchangeable pieces enabling children to freely create likeable characters representing different emotions. Build characters with six different expressions, two skin tones, three hair colours as well as boy and girl hairstyle options so that children can create characters they can identify with while valuing diversity, tolerance and inclusion.
The blocks come with a set of six double-sided flash cards. On the one side is a picture of a real child expressing an emotion with the accompanying word (in six languages). On the flipside of the card are pictures of three different Emotiblocks. The child must choose the Emotiblock that matches the emotion in the picture. Use this product to encourage your child to choose a character that reflects how they are feeling, how you are feeling or how others are feeling.
In addition to being an emotional intelligence toy, Emotiblocks are also good for sorting, building, mixing and matching and pretend play activities. This multi-purpose set is compatible with entire Miniland Superblocks range. Download the free Play Miniland app and extend your experience with digital resources.
Age: 2 – 7 years
Number of players: 1 or more
Skills: Identifying emotions of self and others, Construction, Fine motor control, Eye-hand coordination, Sorting, Matching, Proprioception, Creativity, Analysis (taking apart), Synthesis (putting together)
Awards: 2015 Best Toy Award of the Spanish Association of Toy Manufacturers in the Games category
Dr. Toy’s 100 Best: selected among the 100 Best Children’s products of 2015
Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Games: selected among the 10 Best Children’s games of 2015
Parent’s Choice Awards 2015: selected among the Best Products of 2015, in the Toys category
Approx price: R389.00
LLAMA by Amigo Games
This is a fast, fun card game filled with strategy and decisions and a unique scoring token system. It follows an UNO-type play pattern with a difference. Try to get rid of all your cards – if you can’t then you get to pick up another card or quit. Cards are numbered 1 – 6 and then there are the Llama cards. Play your cards to match the card in the middle of the table in the discard pile, or in ascending order, eg. a 5 on a 5 or a 6 after a 5. Play your Llama cards only after a six has been played and the game then resets to number 1 again. During a round you can strategically quit if it helps your score. This doesn’t mean you are out of the game, you just freeze your position in the round. As soon as someone plays their last card the round is over and everyone counts up and receives a black token worth 10 penalty points for a Llama card and white tokens worth 1 penalty point for any other card in their hand. Eg. 3 white tokens for the number 3. As soon as one player hits 40 penalty points the game ends. Everyone counts up and the player with the lowest number of points is the winner. A small and well-packaged for travel. Nominated for the 2019 Spiel des Jahres.
- Number sequencing
- Problem solving
- More than
- Less than
- Decision making
Players: 2 – 6 people
Ages: 8 years to adult
Stockists: Loot, Raru and Takealot
TAKE 5 by Amigo Games
Take 5 is an unusual card game for up to 10 players and also comes with two complete game options. The rules are simple and the game is fast and packed with action and chances. The object of the game is to score the fewest penalty points. Each player is dealt 10 cards and then four cards are dealt face up and laid out on the table in a vertical column to create the playing grid. In each round players turn over one of their cards. The player with the lowest value card on the table adds it to the grid and then the rest of the players follow. There are two rules that determine which row you can add your card to: the card must be of a higher value than the card at the end of one of the rows (ascending order) AND closest in value to it too (least difference). For example: if you are playing a 44 it is higher in value than the 12, 37 and 45 on the table, but closest in value to the 43 so that is where it must be played. A row is full when it has five cards. The player who plays a sixth card leaves that card to start a new row and picks up the other five cards creating a Bull Pile and acquiring penalty points printed on each bullhead. Play continues until one player has 66 penalty points. The winner of the game is the player with the lowest number of penalty points. For a shorter or longer game you can set a different number of penalty points as the goal. To get to 66 takes about 20 minutes.
There is a second game in the box with its own deck of cards called Take a Number. It’s more advanced than Take 5, more suitable if you have fewer players and makes this an amazing value for money game that will hit the mark for any family.
More than or less than
Sequencing (ascending and descending)
Number of players: 2 – 10
FRUIT PUNCH by Amigo Games
Fruit Punch is one of the world’s top selling card games with 11-million sold. Be quick, be fast. In this competitive game spot five of the same type of fruit and be the first to bop the banana! Players inspect the cards flipped face up by each player, at the same time, looking for matching fruit and mentally doing the addition to find a total of five of the same fruit. Quick reflexes are required as players compete to bop the banana first leading to much fun and hilarity. The winner of each round collects all the cards that are face up on the table. The winner of the game is the person with the most cards at the end of the game. Don’t accidentally bop the banana or you will lose a card. If a player runs out of cards, they are not out of the game, they can continue to watch for a match and bop the banana, with the possibility of getting back into the game.
Skills: Counting, addition, mental arithmetic, pattern recognition, increase processing speed, eye-hand co-ordination, fine motor control
Age: 5 to adult
REUSABLE COLOUR-IN PLACEMATS by Hey Doodle
When you next visit a restaurant with your kids, be prepared with a great activity to keep them busy while you are waiting for your meal to arrive. Look no further than Hey Doodle’s fabulous illustrated food grade silicone mats that come with 9 non-toxic marker pens in a convenient travel pouch. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and re-use. You can use a sanitiser too! Each activity mat has detailed illustrations, letters or numbers, words for incidental reading and things to seek and find. Choose from four different designs:
Toot Toot Honk – transport from A to Z
Into the Wild – animals from A to Z
Dinoroar – numbers from 1 t0 10
Sugar and Spice – numbers from 1 to 10
Reusable, no mess and quietly engaged kids – it’s a win for everyone! The mats are lightweight, non-slip and easy to fold and store in the travel pouch.
Skills: Eye-hand coordination, fine motor control, letter and number recognition, figure-ground perception, building vocabulary
Age: 4-8 years
Approx price: R399 (one matt, nine colour markers and pouch)
Stockists: Timeless Toys
Pop IT!, the sensory bubble popping, toy has arrived. It’s the latest fidget toy craze to sweep the world. Pop IT! is a softer, safer, silicone version of bubble wrap that does not have to be thrown away after one use…and who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap? In the same way, Pop IT! provides sensory feedback and satisfaction with less noise than bubble wrap so it doesn’t irritate others close by or children who have sensitivity to sound. Pop IT! is a calming toy that will fascinate your child while stimulating fine motor skills and eye-hand co-ordination. Fabulous for keeping kids busy in the car or at restaurants, Pop IT! is non-toxic, reusable and washable. Sanitise as required. I keep one on my desk and destress through play while I’m taking phone calls.
Turn Pop IT! into a game called Last One Loses where children take turns to pop one or multiple bubbles in a row to try and outthink the opposition to leave the last bubble to pop. Easy to learn, a lifetime to master. Check out the Youtube video below. This toy is recommended by occupational therapist and psychologists. Once you pop you can’t stop! Comes in different shapes and colours.
Skills: Eye-hand co-ordination, fine motor control, proprioception, pattern recognition, sensopathic play
Age: 3 – 99 years
Approx price: Standard shapes and colours approx. R149, Rainbow colours R179, special shapes R199
Stockists: Lilliputs in Rosebank, Dooby Scoo and Star Dot Toys in Cape Town and will be in most large toy retailers soon
Enquiries: www.popit.co.za or email@example.com
MAGFORMERS TOWN SETS & MAG BUDDIES RANGE by Magformers
Magformers is a high quality magnetic construction toy range. Now you can collect five brand new town sets (hospital, mart, bank, ice cream shop and city bus) and connect them all to make a multi-faceted town. My recommendation is that the City Bus set is a must and then your child can add the town sets to that – just check out the Youtube video below to see exactly why I say this. The combination will enable your child to enjoy the traditional play patterns of a dolls house combined with a vehicle track – but magnetically! Expand imagination and play possibilities with the addition of characters called Mag Buddies including Max and Maggy, Milo the dog and a Minibot! The Mag Buddies come with Magformers magnetic pieces and figurines, making them the perfect collectible for boys and girls. Fully compatible with all Magformers sets.
Skills: 2D to 3D building, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, spatial planning, imaginative play
Age: 3+ years
Price: Mag Buddies approx. R99.99 each and Town sets approx. R599.99 – R749.99 depending on the set
Stockists: Toy Kingdom
CLACK by Amigo Games
How quickly can you spot and collect yellow stars, red lightning bolts and blue footprints and where are they? This is a magnetic game that clacks when you stack. Throw the shape and colour dice together. Everyone races to spot the match on the magnetic discs spread out on the table. After grabbing the first matching disc, players use its magnetic clack to build the rest of their matching stack. When there are no more matches, throw the dice again and repeat the process until no discs remain. The player with the most discs is the winner. Keeping score is easy—just line up the stacks to see whose tower is tallest. There’s one catch though – players may only use one hand to stack their magnetic discs. A 10 minute game for 2 – 6 players. Few rules. Easy to learn. Competitive, active and social. Play slower for younger players to find their confidence.
Skills: Visual perception skills, matching, visual processing speed, fine motor control, problem solving, competition
Age: 5 years to adult
HAPPY SALMON by North Star Games
Happy Salmon is the simple, fast-paced action card game that comes in a salmon shaped zipped pouch that is easy to take anywhere. Packed to the gills with high-fivin’, fin-flappin’ fun.
Picture cards instruct players to do the Classic “High 5”, the unifying “Pound It” (knuckle to knuckle), the frantic “Switcheroo” (switch places) and the delightful “Happy Salmon” (forearms alongside each other and flap your hand like a salmon tail) which will have everyone in hysterics.
During the game, at the same time, everyone calls out the action shown on their top card. When two players have a match, they celebrate by performing that action together, then discard their top card. Keep doing this. The first player to discard all their cards wins!
Easy to learn, quick to play with up to six players. Packaged in a fun Salmon shaped travel pouch.
Skills: Memory skills, processing speed, eye-hand co-ordination
Age: 8 years +
Price: Approx R299.99
TOWER KIDS by Tower
These educational bundles of creative fun from Tower include foam and metallic mosaics, sequins, scratch art, foil art and sand art. While keeping children entertained making fabulous pictures and greeting cards, these activity packs will also stimulate fine-motor control, eye-hand coordination, spatial planning, matching and problem solving skills. These are all essential foundations for numeracy and literacy. You child will be strengthening their eyes for reading and their grip for writing while having fun learning through play. These bundles are incredible value for money. Keep a stock of them in your surprise cupboard for rainy days or when you need to keep your children occupied while you work from home.
Skills: Development of fine motor skills
Age: 3 years +
Stockists: Takealot from R109.00
Snap Ships by Play Monster
A snap together space-themed construction system. A number of different models and sizes from small to extra-large in the collection including Lance, Scythe, Sabre, Gladius, Locust, Sawfly, Scarab and Scorpion. Each model can be built three ways by following the well-illustrated instruction booklet or download the augmented reality app for additional builds and to transport your Snap Ship into your lounge or bedroom. Models come with decorative wings, fins and engines and working shooters. TOTY award winner in 2021.
Skills: Fine motor co-ordination, spatial planning, problem solving and fantasy play
Ages: 8 years and up
Stockists: Toy Kingdom
Price: Approx R279.99 to just over R1 000 depending on size of model
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza by Blue Orange games
Keep these 5 crazy words in mind and in this particular order – taco, cat, goat, cheese, pizza. As each player turns over a card and places it in the centre everyone shouts the appropriate word. In amongst all the picture cards are pictures of a taco, cat, goat, cheese and a pizza. When any of these cards are played at the same time as the same word is called, players race to slap their hand on the centre pile. The last player to do so takes all the cards. The first player to get rid of all their cards is the winner. You’ve to to pay attention and be fast. This is a quick an addictive family game that takes just 10 minutes or so per round, for 2 – 8 players. Comes with extra cards and rules for more competitive play. Well-packaged in a handy tuck box to take with you wherever you go.
Skills: Increase processing speed and develop visual perception
Age: 10 years – adult
Stockists: Toy Kingdom, C.N.A. and Takealot
Price: Approx R199.99
Imagimags Magnetic Building Tile Set by Imagimags
Imagimags are colourful perspex magnetic building tiles, some of the largest available on the market. This high quality product with embedded safety magnets was designed by a South African teacher turned home-school mom. It includes a well-illustrated 26-page STEAM instruction/ideas booklet and has two vehicle base sets to avoid sibling squabbles. Six figurines and four bases extend the play value of this durable value-for money set. It’s one of those colourful, entertaining and educational products that you will pass on from generation to generation. It has 36 solid squares, 12 square frames, 6 square windows, 12 tall Isosceles triangles, 12 equilateral triangles, 12 Isosceles triangles, 6 small rectangles, 2 vehicles and 6 figurines.
Skills: Fine motor control, spatial planning, problem solving, together and apart, sorting and matching, understanding forces and magnetism
Age: 3 years +
Stockists: Timeless Toys for R1799.00