We have been lucky enough to be chosen as one of Bigjigs Play Patrol reviewers this year, so watch this page for our reviews.
Bigjigs Pirate Train Set
Land and sea meet in this super train set which is perfect for all young pirate fans. The fantastic Pirate Island wooden train set from the is full of exciting features and rthere's plenty of scope for imaginative play with the 41 wooden pieces. The stand-out feature that makes this really different is the bridge supported on waves the waves and which doubles as a tunnel. The set also includes a pirate train with 2 carriages that connect with magnets carrying a pirate chest and a cannon. These are, of course, compatible with all the other Bigjigs railway sets (and other makes too) and that's what makes these wooden railway sets so special. Every time I buy a new piece, even something as simple as some points or a tunnel, it immediately gives the whole train set a new lease of life. My young testers now have two large storage boxes of wooden train track along with a multitude of accessories; they have so much track that it can start in the dining room, go through into the living room, out into the hall and completes the circle back to the dining room. It takes quite a while to set up, as you can imagine, but that's all part of the play value. With the 4 pirates, a pirate ship, an island with a palm tree, 2 sharks and octopus that come with this super set, my young testers will have lots of scope for imaginative play and there's plenty to play together or indepemndently. There are 22 pieces of track, including curves, straights and two sets of points so there are lots of ways to set out the track. Everything youngsters need to create an exciting pirate adventure of their very own! You can buy the Bigjigs Rail Pirate Train Setfrom Amazon.
We are big fans of wooden toys - they are satisfying to play with, far more durable than plastic and have a nice traditional feel. They don't date, so collections can be passed down through generations, and everyone will appreciate the good quality and sustainability of wooden touys.
Bigjigs July 16 Petit Collage Story Time Tin Canister Puzzle (64-Piece)
As soon as he opened the package, my young tester spotted the fact that the tin canister had a slot in the lid – but rather than using it for coins, he decided that it would be fun to tip out all the jigsaw pieces and post them back into the box. The intention is that the tin can be used as a money-box – but then what do you do with the puzzle? It would be such a shame to separate the two. The brightly coloured puzzle has 64 pieces of varying shapes; we did find that it was possible to put pieces together incorrectly if we weren’t very careful. The picture is very clear and the production quality good. My 5 year old found the puzzle quite challenging – but he wanted to do it his own way, rather than find the edges first, which would have made it a whole lot easier! It’s a very sweet picture but possibly rather better for a girl than a boy. It gives lots of opportunity to talk about books and reading, which is really useful. Once completed, it’s lovely to be able to store the puzzle in such a pretty canister, which really looks decorative on the shelf. Buy from Bigjigs or from Amazon Petit Collage PZT-STORY TIME "Story Time Tin Canister" Puzzle (64-Piece)
Petit Collage Animals and Babies Memory Game
Our second toy in this review pack was for my younger tester. Another Petit Collage product, Animals and Babies Memory Game is a pretty take on traditional matching games. There are 24 die-cut cards which make 12 matches. It’s very simple to play - just lay the cards face down and take turns flipping over two at a time. When you find a match, you get to keep the cards. If not, turn them facedown again, but the trick is to try to remember where they are. The pieces are stored in a sturdy cardboard box to keep them tidy. The game also offers the opportunity for lots of conversation around animals and their young; we used the cards to reinforce learning of names of babies. My three year old tester enjoyed the game, but she did find a couple of the babies difficult to pair up with their mums, as the pictures of the babies did not have quite the same features. This became a process of elimination with a couple so it wasn’t really a problem - in fact, it gave more opportunity for conversation. The circular cards are really pretty and this is a nice variation of a classic game. Buy from Bigjigs at or from Amazon at Animals & Babies Memory Game
Green Toys Boats
Our Latest Play Patrol toys went down much better than the two previous ones. We were sent a set of three plastic boats – launch boat, racer boat and speed boat in three different colours. Each one has a removable figure inside – we felt it would have been better if the figures had all been different, rather than identical. First up – fill the paddling pool and, as you can see, it was a co-operative effort.
Once there was plenty of water, the children enjoyed playing with the boats and, in the older one’s case, experimenting with sinking and floating – a good opportunity for a simple science lesson. These will also make great bath toys – in fact, they are now residing in the bathroom. The quality is excellent; they are strongly made with no rough edges. Recommended for children of 2+, I think they would be fine for younger children too. The tops detach so that the boats are easy to clean – they are even dishwasher safe. I really like this feature, as otherwise the tiniest amount of water left in boats and they go a nasty green. It also adds to the play value – we tried putting marbles in the bases to see whether they would sink. The duck figures are also good for added play value. We were asked to try the toys out with adults sharing in the fun – so here are the testers racing the boats with their Dad.
It’s great to know that “Green Toys manufacture classic toys constructed from recycled plastic and other environmentally friendly materials. This helps to reduce fossil fuel use and each product's box is 100% recyclable too, improving the overall health and happiness of the planet.” The toys were really easy to unpack, showing that no excess fastenings were used – the children were able to unpack them without any assistance; in fact, they were out of the boxes so quickly, I didn’t even have time to photograph them being unpacked!
GIGI bloks allow children to build whatever their imagination allows – the box contains 96 pre-cut cardboard shapes which can be made up into bloks measuring 13cm x 6.5cm x 6.4cm. Our first impression was not favourable, as making the blocks is very tedious and obviously the children weren’t keen on the wait. If you buy these blocks for your child, I suggest you make up at least 20 or so before giving them to the children, so they can make a start on building. The generous size of the bloks means that building can be life-size – my young tester initially created himself an armchair.
He also made a row of bloks to stop things falling off my cupboard top. It took a whole for the children to really express an interest but after a few weeks, their Dad started to build the Bloks with them. He helped them to create a castle and once it was started, both children happily sat in their castle, happily decorating the Bloks with felt pens and stickers.
So, here is my suggestion – build the start of a structure with them, and then let them decorate it while you build the rest. It’s taken them – and me – a while to see the possibilities in these but they did have great fun today. I have seen some superb creations made with these bloks – forts, castles, roadways and ships to name but a few - children can basically build anything. You need to explain the principle of building as you do with bricks, with overlaps for stability – you can put the bloks together so they form corners and this definitely adds to the stability. This is a good learning curve, as children discover what works and what falls apart! As you can see from the pictures, the bloks are shaped so they slot together. My young testers had great fun drawing on the bloks and this is a real plus of the toy; it’s a brilliant way to let children express themselves and create their own fantasy world. The slight drawback of this is that, once a design has been drawn, as in the picture below, you can’t change it, so the value of the ability to draw on the blocks is lost – but with 96 bloks and two sides, it will be a while before this becomes an issue.
Bloks are not moisture or fire resistant - they are strong enough to be played with but not for sitting or standing on. You could use them in the garden on a dry day – we haven’t tried this yet, but it would be good to make structures to drive ride-ons around. My two major reservations are the time it takes to build the blocks and the problems of storage – there are a lot of bloks! Yes, you can fold them flat again, but then you have the tedious job of re-making them. We just don’t know where to keep them – and we still haven’t built them all! We think they would be brilliant in a pre-school setting where there is space for setting up and for storage; bloks are really good for group play too. They certainly do encourage imagination and give children free rein to create whatever they like.
Petit Collage Pop-Out Safari
Our latest toy to test was the Pop-Out Safari from the Petit Collage range – thank you, BigJigs. This comprised four sturdy card pieces with printed shapes for six animals all ready to press out. The pieces came out cleanly and very easily – my five year old tester was perfectly able to do this without any input from me. The three year old needed a little help to slot the animals together, but she pressed them out of the sheets without any trouble.
There was an initial blip because the animals are spread across the sheets so that the lion, for instance was on two sheets; this led to an initial minor controversy until a little renegotiation took place! My advice is, if you are asking your children to share this toy, that you explain this up front then there won’t be a problem. The pieces are labelled eg E1, E2 and E3, to show where they should be slotted together but I found my testers didn’t need this. Once put together, the animals – elephant, crocodile, bird, zebra, giraffe and lion – stand up well; the three year old needed a little help to get the slots lined up and fully engaged.
They are well made, in heavy duty card. The animals are very stylised and extremely attractive – ours are now lined up on the bedroom windowsill. In a clever twist, the bird has a slot which allows it to be perched on any of the other animals, adding to the play value. The five year old suggested drawing a jungle scene, and it was great to see that the models stimulated his imagination in this way; the younger one soon followed suit.
We have just received our first Bigjigs Play Patrol pack – it’s all very exciting! There’s t-shirt for each of my young testers, a lovely jute bag (to avoid arguments, I think I will hang on to this one!), a big jigsaw piece and two superb toys.
The Cutting Fruit Chef’s Set is suitable for age 18 months+ - this is excellent because it can be really frustrating trying to find toys for 18 months to 3 year old as so much is marketed for 3+. The set includes a half watermelon, with 6 pieces, an apple with 4 pieces, a pear with 3 pieces and an orange with 2 pieces – these are a great way to start teaching children about fractions. Maybe not at 18 months, but it’s a concept that can be introduced quite early through play. There’s a knife which easily ‘cuts’ through the Velcro and a stripy chef’s apron to set the scene. The pieces are beautifully made, brightly coloured and very tactile. For realism, the inside of the fruits are painted and the segmented orange is especially attractive. It offers a good opportunity to learn about fruit and to talk together about healthy eating. Children will love to serve up platters of fruit and it’s an excellent way to extend their imaginative play, especially when coupled with other food sets in the Bigjigs range. Buy the Cutting Fruit Chef’s Set from Bigjigs.
We were also sent the Cheese Board. This is recommended for children of 3+ and I love the fact that this is an unusual set of foods. There is a cheeseboard, a cutting knife, 5 different cheeses, a half apple in two parts and two biscuits. It’s well thought out with lots of play value I am so pleased both sets include knives, so the children can play happily together. Having the two sets together is ideal with two children (my young testers are 3 and 4), as there is enough for both. Both of them had endless fun during the day serving up various assortments of cheeses and fruits – the sets work really well together. The Cheese Board is very well packaged too, with the items wrapped in tissue paper so the toy will reach the child in immaculate condition. Buy the Cheese Board from Bigjigs.
Both these sets are highly durable and will remain pristine through many hours of happy play – and will definitely be among those toys that will be handed down to future generations. When I store toys like this, I like to include a photo of the children playing with them, so the next user can share those happy memories. Not that these will be going anywhere for a long while yet! It’s amazing how much children can learn from well-designed toys, and these sets are a perfect example of this. The food sets are a great way to encourage children to use their imagination, and enjoy role play games with other children, thereby increasing their social skills – and learning to share and take turns. Cutting the food (and putting it together again) helps fine motor skills and dexterity. The play food sets offer lots of opportunity for discussion too. The attention to detail in both sets is excellent and the play value is huge as they will go well with either other food sets from the Bigjigs range, or existing kitchen sets.