Slide, Rattle & Roll

One of the comments that I hear most at the shows and markets that we sell at is "Oh, I love your rattles! My son/daughter is too old for them though," and, upon inquiring as to what age the little one is, I get answers ranging from 8 months to 2 years, with the most common answer being "He/She is over a year old." This always amazes me a bit, because the developmental usefulness of rattles certainly doesn't expire at the age of 1!

While I wouldn't necessarily recommend buying a new rattle for a 2 year old (not to say that a few haven't plucked them off our tables and coerced their parents into buying them), our rattles have all been designed to grow with children, and to provide ongoing developmental stimulation with time. Just because 'rattle' is commonly associated with 'baby' doesn't mean that it can't be fun and educational for your toddler (or even preschooler)! Read on to discover all of the developmental stages that a thoughtfully-designed rattle can be used for in play.

559 Saucer Trio

Grasp

For the wee little ones, the crocheted 559 Saucer Trio (with a Rattle, a Jingle and a Crinkle!) features loops that allow the set to be hung above infants, in order to encourage the ever-so-sought-after reaching and grasping milestone. This soft set is easily graspable by those tiny (but so strong!) fingers, and the sounds are easily coaxed by even small movements. The Saucer Trio is available in attractive warm (red, orange, yellow) or cool (green, blue, purple) colour sets, or in a black, ivory and grey set that is perfect for newborns to gaze at (or to be used by hip modern babies).

559 Circus Rattle

Rattle

What good is a rattle unless it makes a fun sound? We're happy to say that all of our rattles make pleasing noises for baby to first learn the cause and effect of moving objects and gaining a reward (an auditory one in this case). The gentle clacking of our wooden rattles (the Discus, Orbit and Circus) even tempts adults into picking up and playing with them, and, as mentioned above, the 559 Saucer Trio includes a soft jingle and rattle in each set.

Roll

Once little bodies start crawling (and then walking, and soon after, running), all of the 559 wooden rattles can roll on smooth floors, creating fun chasing games and motivation to keep on moving. You may even notice that the balance of the beads on the Discus Rattle creates a uneven rotation that catches little one's eyes and spreads grins across their faces.

559 Orbit Rattle

Slide

In addition to all of the gross motor development that happens with the shaking and rolling of our rattles, there's ample opportunity for some fine motor learning to take place, as well! Whether it's the sliding of the beads and rings on the Discus and Circus rattles, or the careful manipulation of the ring over the bead on the 559 Orbit Rattle, each of our wooden rattles becomes a toy where fingers and pincer-grasps, and not just whole hands, can come to play.

559 Discus Rattle

And Beyond...

We once had a 3.5 year old who really wanted to buy a Discus Rattle for his 8 month old sibling. As touching as the act was, we later found out that he had spent the afternoon playing with it instead! How did he use it? In addition to the rolling mentioned above, this preschooler used it as a percussion instrument, and practiced his counting on the stacks of 1, 2 and 3 beads. All of our rattles can be used as percussion instruments, and I look forward to using the Jingle, Rattle and Crinkle of the Saucer Trio to play games involving sound discrimination with my own son, by using them to make sounds behind our backs, and guess which colour the other person is using.

* * * * *

And so, as you can see, the usefulness and fun of rattles does not stop at any magical age! A well-designed rattle (and any toy) can easily grow with your child, and see them through many stages. Does your child seem 'bored' of some of the toys that he or she has had for awhile? Rotate them out, and, if it's a well-designed toy, when you bring it back into play, it will garner brand new explorations and play.

The 559 of our Rattles, as mentioned above:

Types of Play: Physical, Social, Games with Rules

Areas of Development Stimulated: Physical, Cognitive, Language, Social

Different Intelligences Stimulated: Logical, Musical, Spatial, Kinesthetic, Linguistic, Intrapersonal

Product Spotlight: Shape & Unshape Autos

While each of us at 559 have a soft-spot for a different product, our fans all tend to agree upon our Shape & Unshape Autos as one of their favourites. Truly a family effort, they are handcrafted, and designed to be simple, yet beautiful. Today, we thought we'd take a closer look at these popular little cars.

Designed by Jennifer, each auto starts it's journey with Susan, just as Jennifer did (Susan is Jennifer's mother, and also the less publicized half of 559). Susan carefully cuts out each auto body, drills the holes for the windows and axles, and does the initial sand on the entirety of the vehicle. After that, each batch makes it's way to Jennifer and Tyler, where...

Tyler (Jennifer's husband and the completely non-publicized auto-sander at 559) hand-sands the edges of every auto and their tiny windows. We'll be honest, he's picky about his sandpaper and is a little obsessive about ensuring that every auto has edges that are not only smooth and safe, but are clean and uniform, allowing the ridiculous good looks of the auto to shine. It's not glamourous work, but we're forever grateful to him for it.

After all of the cutting and sanding, the auto bodies end up on Jennifer's work table. Jennifer has the responsibility to hand-paint every wheel with at least two coats of our 100% non-toxic, super-safe milk paint. Each batch of milk paint has to be mixed from it's powdery beginnings, and while it can be a little bit finicky to work with, we sleep easier at night knowing that milk paint is the safest colour finish out there for baby and children's toys.

Following the painting of the wheels comes the oiling: the wheels, hub caps and auto bodies are all hand-oiled using hemp oil, which is not just safe for toys, but is actually food safe. It's during this step that the beautiful wood grains appear, which always makes Jennifer a little bit giddy, and creates the look that makes each auto a tiny, unique, playable, wood sculpture. And finally, every auto is assembled using a small (of course!) mallet and our toy-safe wood glue. Not only is wood glue strong (usually stronger than wood itself), but the brand that we use is non-toxic and is actually approved for "indirect food contact" (think cutting boards and salad bowls). It's also water-resistant, which matters a lot more on our rattles that find their way into the drooling mouths of little teethers!

And from there... they're each lovingly packed into our storage boxes, carefully arranged in display at the markets we show at... and then taken home by you, to be banged around, driven off of coffee tables, and used in innumerable toy crash-ups, just as they should be!

Qualities of a Good Toy: Open-Ended Play

In our Company Bio, we mention 5 things that we believe are present in the best toys. We believe that the best toys are beautiful (or aesthetically pleasing), interesting (stimulating in some way), well-crafted, open-ended, and developmentally nurturing. The last two of those ideals even pop up in our company name: open-endedness as it relates to the 5 Types of Play, and developmental nurturing of the 5 Areas of Early Development and 9 Types of Intelligence. This post (and may it not run too long), will wrap up our 5 Types of Play series and look at what it means for a toy to be useful for Open-Ended Play.

For a toy to meet the description of "Open-Ended," it simply has to be able to be used in more than one way. This doesn't mean that some close-ended toys aren't awesome (marble runs, anyone?), and it doesn't mean that some close-ended toys can't be useful in a child's development (the cause-and-effect of push-the-button-and-a-song-plays of some infant toys do, in fact, teach cause and effect). But the best toys, the toys that will be used the longest, and the most, and will give you the best value, are toys that aren't limited in what they can do. Building off of our posts last week, these are toys that can even be used in multiple types of play.

An example from my past work with young children: Several years ago, I worked with a young boy who loved firetrucks (as a lot of kids do), and had a number of firetruck toys, some of which were super fancy and battery powered, with sirens and lights and accessories. Some of this young one's firetrucks weren't specifically firetrucks, however, but were rectangular blocks that he had called into firetruck service, because, as is understandable, the more firetrucks the better. One day, I noticed that he wasn't using a couple of his fancy firetrucks in his play, and the reason? "They're broken." They weren't physically broken at all, but the batteries had died, and while he was happy to make the siren noises and extend belief for his rectangle-blocks-turned-firetrucks, he was no longer interested in the "broken" ones. And another nice thing about those block 'firetrucks' - they could later be a spaceship, part of a bridge, or a critical element in an experiment of "how high of a tower can we make?" One block, multiple ways to play. Physical play, fantasy play, constructive play, social play, and games with rules.

While blocks are one of those incredible, unstoppable, super toys, what other toys are versatile in a similar nature? Well, a lot of them. Perhaps even most of them, if they're approached with creativity (you can make art, music or sculptures out of most anything, and simple games are easy to create with found objects). Looking at the 559 products, let's explore just one - the Discus Rattle:

Physical Play: reaching, grasping, shaking and rolling (and chasing); manipulating the smaller beads back and forth on the rods

Constructive/Creative Play: shaking to create a fun sound; using as a percussion tool; can be a fun (and interactive) addition to any block creation

Social Play: exploring the rattle together, pushing and watching it roll, creating games with the rattle

Games with Rules: rolling the rattle back and forth; taking turns counting the 1-2-3 of the beads

My personal non-559 favourite open-ended toy (that isn't blocks)? The humble cardboard box. Big ones, small ones, and a collection of them is even better! Leave your favourite in the comments!

5 Types of Play - Games with Rules

After covering Physical Play, Constructive Play, Fantasy Play and Social Play, we've made it to the fifth and final type of the 5 Types of Play! (Come back next week for a post that touches on open-ended toys, and their ability to be used in more than one type of play). And finally...

Games with Rules

Building off of Fantasy and Social Play, Games with Rules is another big one for social development, and can incorporate the other types of play as well. It's easy to think of board games, soccer or Simon Says in this category, but word games (Going On A Picnic), call-and-repeat songs (The Other Day, I Met A Bear), and simple things like passing a ball or Peek-A-Boo all fall under the type of play known as Games with Rules.

The importance of Games with Rules? That there is structure and order to a lot of things in life (luckily, it starts with tag, and not with standing-in-the-line-at-the-grocery-store) that, when followed, allow things to go smoothly, and be fair (and fun) for everyone. My son (10 months) has known for some time that when he sees his father or I make "the claw," and it inches towards him, he's going to get tickled. If we suddenly stopped tickling him after making it, or started giving him a baby massage instead, it would be confusing for him - and not fun for anyone. The Game with Rules that's the most fun in our house right now? Whichever one he starts, whether it's stick-out-his-tummy-to-get tickled, or pull-the-blanket-on-and-off-his-face-to-make-us-laugh. He's wee little, and years away from Monopoly, or even Candy Land, but he gets it: we take turns, we follow the rules, and everyone has fun.

Break out a pack of cards, play Eye-Spy, create a silly rhyming game. It's not about being competitive or winning, it's just about modeling having fun with games!

Some 559 Toys that can be used for Games with Rules...

Baby Blocks

Sphere Trio

Saucer Trio

Tabby Square

5 Types of Play - Social Play

Welcome to Number 4 of our 5 Types of Play series! If you missed them, we already covered Physical Play, Constructive Play and Fantasy Play, which leads us to...

Social Play

Social Play is a little bit more difficult to nail down than the previous three, as it happens among all of the other types of play. You can engage in social play while using your motor skills (play pat-a-cake or explore the woods with someone), while creating (take turns telling a story, or build a blanket fort together), while engaging in fantasy play (sharing a dollhouse, or having another 'settler' join you in the garden), or (as you'll see with #5) when playing a game that has rules.

Baby's first play partners will likely be parents or other caregivers that understand the gentle and quietly stimulating play that they need. Later, children play alongside and then with each other. (You can look up "Stages of Play" on your preferred search engine to learn more about interaction and the social aspect of play, if you're interested). Like Fantasy Play, Social Play is one of the big building blocks of social and emotional development. Taking turns, cooperation and the full range of social rules are developed here, and though it typically occurs along with another type of play, it's vital to the healthy development of every infant or child.

Life can easily get in the way, but be sure to engage in some intentional social play with your little ones throughout the day: Read a book! Bang on pots! Stack some blocks! Explore a park! And, though it may be easy to assume their social play needs are being met by their friends and siblings once they start to grow, never underestimate the impact that playing with you can have on your child.

One tip: let them take the lead. Kids are directed pretty much through the rest of their day, so allow them to guide the play, even if you don't think they're doing it "right." If playing in the dollhouse means putting the tiny toilet on top of the wee bed and then making the dolls slide off the roof, that's okay! My three rules for intentional social play with kids are:

1) They can't hurt themselves on purpose. This includes things like jumping off of surfaces that are way too high. A good opportunity to model decision making and to find other risks to take instead.

2) They can't hurt someone else on purpose. A recent example in my mind would be a little one throwing balls at me as hard as they can. We found something else to throw at though, because it feels good to throw as hard as you can.

3) They can't hurt the toys on purpose. This does NOT include building towers just to knock them down, hahaha!

Other than maintaining these three simple rules, the pressure is totally off of you to direct the play: you can just enjoy playing socially, through the eyes of a child!

Some 559 Products that can be used for Social Play...

Sphere Trio

Discus Rattle

Shape and Unshape Autos

GoPlay Mats

GoPlay Furniture