Friday, 26 July 2013

The Game of Ladybirds from Orchard Toys

Here at Cuthberts we're big fans of games which combine fun with learning, and Orchard Toys are experts at this.

The Game of Ladybirds is aimed at an age range of 3 - 7 years and can be played with 2 - 4 players. The aim is simple - to collect more ladybirds than the other players.

You start by placing all 24 ladybird cards on the table so that you can only see the dice spots. Each player in turn then rolls the dice and picks a card with the same number of spots on it. They then turn the card over and see how many ladybirds are on the leaf. At the end of the game the player with the most ladybirds wins.

What I particularly like about this game is just how many skills development and learning opportunities there are for children. The game is also ideal as a first introduction to playing with a dice. Aged three children just have the right dexterity levels to shake the dice in the cup and roll it onto the table and the game provides them with a great opportunity to practise. Once the dice had been rolled you can count the spots on it and then look to find a card with the same number on - yet more counting practise. When the card is turned over there are also ladybirds to count - or not if you're unlucky with your card choice.

At the end of the game, adding up the number of ladybirds that you have in total may be beyond some of the younger children playing the game, but it's a good use of maths for the older children. The game also provides an example of comparing how many of something one person has to how many others have.

When we first played this with my three year old I was amazed at just how quickly she caught on to how to play and that's all thanks to it being very simple. The fact that the cards showing the dice spots were the same colour as the dice itself was also a nice touch to help with understanding that they should look the same. As the game doesn't have any written down numbers or words in it, it doesn't limit it to children who can already read, making it more accessible to younger children.

If you want your children to have fun whilst learning maths then The Game of Ladybirds is an ideal starting point.

The Game of Ladybirds is available in Cuthberts stores and also on our website here.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Say hello to our Lego Yoda!

If you've visited the Cuthberts stores in St Albans or the Hatfield Galleria over the last few months you can't have failed to see the giant Lego Yoda that we've been helping to look after. He's certainly been attracting a lot of attention.

Yoda wasn't the result of a group of keen Lego fans being let loose in store though. Featuring a whopping 63,379 bricks (and no we didn't count them to check!) he was originally built by Lego themselves and then brought to site on an articulated truck in sub-section pieces, before the Lego building experts put him together again. My sources also tell me that there might be a bit of glue involved too - just to make sure he always looks his best for his fans.

Yoda is currently residing outside Cuthberts in the Galleria where he will be until the end of July. Make sure you come and say hello before he moves on elsewhere.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Play-Doh Candy Cyclone

When I was a child Play-Doh was just as the name suggested, dough that you played with. The really lucky children maybe had a rolling pin or something to cut it with. The rest of us just had our hands and our imaginations. Things are very different now though.

The Play-Doh Candy Cyclone allows your children to make sweets (or candy) with their play-doh. The main component is a machine where children feed Play-Doh in at the top and then turn the handle so that the spirals turning inside turn it into evenly sized gumballs, which then roll down the spiral chute and collect at the bottom.

At first it can be a bit fiddly to work out how thick to make the Play-Doh to feed it in - the instructions seem to suggest that it can be thicker than the hole you need to feed it through - but once you've mastered that it is really simple to use. It's not difficult for small hands to turn the handle and if things do get stuck inside there is a large door on the back which you can open to free things up. So that there's no chance of any accidents, it's been designed so that the handle will not turn when the door is open, so it's not possible for children to get their fingers caught in the workings.

Once the balls have been formed children can either play with these as they are, or can turn them into shaped "sweets". With the balls places in the spaces on the circular trays you can then place this tray under the press, and when the child presses down on each gumball they are turned into small shaped sweets.

The gumballs are also the perfect diameter to then go into the syringe, which then allows you to make long snakes of Play-Doh. These can be wound into spirals to go on the lolly sticks. The gumballs themselves can also be fed on to the sticks to create other lollies.

With a recommended age of 3 years+ the Candy Cyclone worked really well for a three year old and she was able to work all of it herself, with only adult intervention when the mechanism got stuck as it had too much Play-Doh in it. With the opening back it was really easy to un-jam and the magical texture of Play-Doh meant that it didn't stick inside at all. The Candy Cyclone makes a great gift for any child that already enjoys playing with Play-Doh.

And if you're looking for more inspiration as to what to make with Play-Doh then check out the Hasbro website where there is a whole section of Fresh Ideas for things to make and also some seasonal activities.

The Play-Doh Candy Cyclone is available in store, or via the Cuthberts online shop
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