Decorate your own cardboard house
A traditional toy with a twist, this is perfect for kids with a penchant for scribbling on walls. We loved the idea and in practice, our little monsters went wild and wacky with stickers, pens and cut-out shapes for an entire afternoon – an achievement in itself. But considering it’s a jazzed-up cardboard box, the price is steep, and the thick outer packaging with additional cut-out shapes is a bit of a swizz, because little fingers with safety scissors can’t cut them out, so it falls to mum and dad. The proof of the pudding is in the playing, though, and despite our house being bulldozed by a determined 13-month-old who literally walked through one of its walls (we mended it with sellotape), it’s still standing firm and being played with a month later.
QR249, ELC (4483 9782).
Wooden spoon fairies
Crafts are great learning tools, and this one is no exception. First lesson? Never announce a crafty session before reading the instructions. After an hour of prep by mum (cutting out fiddly templates, making wings and sorting through paraphernalia that fairies apparently require), we were ready to let the kids loose on the fairy assembly. Decorating dresses and wings with sequins and doilies is fun but finicky, and assembling the whole thing requires dexterity not usually possessed by three to six-year-olds (lesson number two: never believe manufacturer’s recommended age ranges). We persevered long after bedtime to create this ‘masterpiece’. To be honest, ‘night fairy’ looks how we feel after making it – flustered, bedraggled and in need of a bigger wand. But there’s tremendous play value when all four fairy friends finally get together, and should one rip her frock, you have the templates and ideas – if not the patience – to make another.
Eitech Construction C62
Having grown up with Meccano, we gleefully volunteered to road-test this buggy, despite the box sounding ominously full of small pieces (all 98 of them). We swiftly discarded the plan of carrying out the fiddly construction task with our ‘almost five’ car-mad tester as this kit is, in any case, aimed at ages eight and above. The task was trickier than we imagined, although strangely therapeutic. Thoroughly absorbed, we were amazed to discover it had taken us over an hour to bolt the wee car together. Once all the nuts were tightened, the wheels spun round merrily and it felt wonderfully robust in the hand. So far, it’s surviving the rough play of small fingers. A delightful end result all round.