## Archive for the ‘Outdoor Play’ Category

### How to estimate Value for Money in a Toy

Monday, May 20th, 2013

So here is an interesting thought when considering a big toy purchase.

How to you calculate value for money.

Is it their actual price ie is a 59.99 dollhouse better value than one at 134.95. Is it the relief from the ongoing pestering. Is it the beauty, cuteness or design.

As a parent and toyshop owner I reckon its cost per hour of play.

Let me explain my approach. We have a brood of 4 children. Ages 13 to 5 who have standard toy tastes.
Last week, as the 3 of them were jumping away on our 2 year old 14ft trampoline (yes we are bad parents allowing 3 in at the same time) - I got to wondering how much the trampoline costs per hour of play.

Three of them are in that trampoline at least 20 minutes each per day (now that the weather is drier) and 10 minutes during the winter.

If we call each season 180 days - then hours per season would look like this for Summer
180 X 3 X 20 mins or 180 hours of play
….and for winter
180 X 3 X 10 mins or 90 hours.
Together 270 hours per year.
Lets take in the 2nd year of play. Thats 540 hours of play.
A long lasting tough 14 foot Trampoline costs 490 from http://www.mimitoys.ie/category_20160_Trampolines.html - lets say 500.

So that works out at 92c per hour of play.

Do the same maths on a long lasting Dollhouse that we do eg The Deluxe Townhouse http://www.mimitoys.ie/product_5228_Kidkraft-Deluxe-Townhouse.html at 169.95
Thats a play environment normally for 1 child. Perhaps 15 minutes per day over 2 years. Thats 180 hours in total.
Which is Euro 1.05 per hour - cheapere in price but more expensive in cost per hour of play.

So if you have a few chislers then a toy that grabs everyones interest, makes the most value for money sense.
And a long lasting trampoline is one of the few toys that does grab the undivided attention of children.

### STEP2 Toys - Who are they?

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

STEP 2 Neat and Tidy Cottage Bright

All companies are run by people, and a few companies have people with capability, vision and respect . For me as a toy shop owner, STEP2 are within that small group of companies that have a real story.

STEP2 are the market leading manufacturer of “rotational” plastic toys.  Rotational plastics is the process of manufacturing hollow plastic products such as this Step 2 Neat and Tidy Cottage.

STEP2 was founded by Tom Murdough in 1991. But the real interesting aspect is that Murdough previously founded Little Tikes which he sold to a company that is now owned by MGA Entertainment of Bratz and Moxie Girlz fame.
After 5 years managing Little Tikes, he then left and 2 years later set up STEP 2 with five employees. It has now grown to its present 800-plus full-time employees.

Now if you look at the range of both companies, they are selling the same products to the same people through fairly much the same shops. However this didn’t get in the way of a good party as when Little Tikes held a 40th anniversary party, they had the generosity to invite the founder and former chairman, he had the generosity to accept.
Can you imagine the awkwardness during that party “So tell me Tom what did you do with all that money from selling Little Tikes!!!”.

There are two unique factors when considering a purchase of  STEP 2.

Firstly their plastics use a high content of UV stabilisers allowing the colours to remain clear and bright year after year.

Secondly as a result of manufacturing nearly everything in The US, they can innovate very quickly and test market new lines of toys without considerable expense and without huge time lags.

The feedback we in Mimitoys get from our Parent customers is twofold.  Firstly the excellent attention to detail that stimulates play and secondly the robustness of the toys – they last generations.  A Step2 purchase will be used by your children’s children. Just wipe off the mold and moss and it will still work.

These factors means I believe that it is a value for money toy.

### What is Safe Play

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Can Playgrounds Eliminate This?

The childcare sector is awaiting the deliberations of the Irish Goverment body “Pobal” on a grant scheme called the NCIP Grant. So in advance I got to doing some research on preschool insurance risks for outdoor play.

I spoke with Richard Webb of www.playsafety.ie - he inspects public play parks throughout the country and is also an active member of www.playireland.ie -an Irish charity that promotes outdoor play specifically with children that have various challenges.

Richard kindly pointed me in the direction of an excellent article on the risks and benefits specifically of playground play, but in fact the contents apply to all outdoor play. Full Article here.

In summary there is growing concern about how safe are public playgrounds. However the UK evidence details that of the two million or so childhood accident cases treated by UK hospitals each year, less than 2 per cent involve playground equipment.

In fact participation in sports like soccer, widely acknowledged as ‘good’ for a child’s development, involves a far greater risk of injury than that of playground play.

So how do you evaluate play ground risk ? You can’t eliminate it. The article poses a truth that if we as children didn’t take any risks none of us adults would have ever learned to ride a bike.  Playgrounds (both public & home based) aim to manage risk, not eliminate it.

So what are acceptable and unacceptable risks? Three factors are central to determining whether or not the level of risk is acceptable or tolerable:

1.    the likelihood of the child coming to harm;
2.    the severity of that harm on the child;
3.    the benefits, rewards or outcomes of the activity.

Judgements about the risk of a child-centred robust physical activity are not formulaic. Reasonable human judgement is a requirement. Specifically we need to make judgements about acceptability based on an understanding of the balance between risks and benefits.

For example a child hanging upside down by the legs from monkey bars

1 The likelihood of the child coming to harm in my opinion is reasonably high for a toddler

2 The harm incurred if they fell is also quite high - broken arm concussion etc

3 The benefits are greater co-ordination and leg strength

To me as a parent I would stop my toddler engaging in this activity. However lets look at a toddler paddling on the water edge at the beech under parent supervision.

1 Likelihood of harm is low but the parent may become distracted with another child so a possibility exists

2 The harm incurred is a possible drowning.

3 The benefits are sensory development - self expression etc

In this case although the risk is death, as a parent I am willing for the child to continue as the likelihood is so low.

Outdoor Climbing Frame

We perhaps also need to add a cultural dimension or to put it more simply, you need to add in the child / attending adult’s perception of that risk. For example walking along the hedge of a field populated by cows can be interpreted by child and adult alike in two ways.

• country children / adults could see it as a very low risk activity - they are familiar.
• city children / adults could see it as a very high risk activity ie they are not cows – they see them as bulls ie they are unfamiliar and are therefore terrified.

So we are summarising that play should be evaluated on the severity of impact if the risk should take place, the likelihood of that risk taking place and the developmental benefits of that outdoor play.

### Radio Flyer - Some History

Friday, May 11th, 2012

As a Toy Shop owner and as a parent there are few toy concepts that are massively successful in the US but don’t gather the same fervor in Ireland.

However the Radio Flyer Pull Along Carts are one. Massively popular in the US but haven’t really caught on here or in The UK.

The concept is a metal wagon that is pulled by child or parent, big enough for two children to fit in.

US blogs suggest that on the Eastern seaboard of the US, the Radio Flyer Wagons are a parenting badge of honor. Where the more battered and customised the cart, the more street kudos is earned.

The lesson to learn as a consumer is that these carts last a long time and families love them.

The Radio Flyer Wagons have been around for decades. Easily identified by their iconic bright red colour and matt black wheels. Their long life is due to the quality of metal materials and production. In fact they are so long lasting that once children get too big for the wagon, the wagons make a great gardening wheelbarrow for parents.

The company has been manufacturing ride on carts for nearly a century. The story of Antonio Pasin, the inspiring guy who started the company, is simply touching. A cabinetmaker from Venice in Italy, he emigrated to Chicago in 1917 at the tender age of 16. Too young to get a mainstream job, he firstly got a job making piano carcasses.

Then with little English he started out constructing wooden carts in a one room shed. Demand outstripped supply while at the same time he was fascinated by the new Ford Motor Company metal fabrication techniques. These two factors resulted in moving to a larger factory in 1927 but using modern sheet metal techniques. It really hasn’t changed much since.
A few minor changes have occurred in the last 90 years, mostly for added safety…

• Side walls have increased in height,
• Extra-long handle was added for easier pulling,
• The size of the shell has been increased to accommodate more than 1 child,
• Controlled turning to prevent tipping.

Keep an eye out for Radio Flyers in family centric US movies. I can think of “The Parent Trap”, “Lean on Me”, nearly every version of “Little Rascals”and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Can you think of others ?

### Swings And Slides - safety considerations before Purchase

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Starting with the less obvious issues

• Don’t allow children play on swings and slides where the grass underneath has had weedkiller applied , the chemicals that poison the weeds will likely do the same to your children.
• Soil cushions falls, soil with grass cushions even better. So site swings and slides on grassed soil or consider EN 71 artificial safety grass mats and place them under high fall points such as climbing wall.

TP Swing with Grass Underneath from Mimitoys

• Leave space between the play equipment and soft / hard garden features – and that includes thorny rose bushes - 1 - 2 meters approximately.
• Install the equipment with safety in mind. Obviously this means no short cuts in assembly but also and critically make sure the legs are steel bolt anchored into 4 concrete filled holes (18 inches diameter approx 24 inches deep). These concrete cylinders sit under the  4 extreme corners of the swing section under the soil level.  Lastly ensure that that there is no visible concrete that a head could knock against. If there is cover the exposed concrete with padding.
• Associated with the above point is to ensure that the swing and slide set is not placed over a hard surface such tarmacadam, concrete or timber decking.
• Install it near your viewing window in the house, so that you can have a look at the child or children. Allowing you to react to falls or rough play.
• Never situate any garden play equipment under a tree with lower hanging branches. Children will reach for the branch, grab it, suspend from it and then fall from it. Honestly it’s a broken arm waiting to happen.
• Big children should never play on outdoor toys for small children, eg small plastic slide – heavily bumped heads are a likely outcome. Similarly small children should never play on outdoor toys for big children as per the above reason.

Climbing Outdoor Toy with Pirate Theme - Mimitoys

The Mimitoys recommendation depends on the age of your children. If all under 5 then firstly concentrate on a good outdoor climbing toy eg this Pirate Ship. These options are more social than pure swings and slides and don’t require an adult in constant attendance to push the swing.
If some children are over 5 then go for the full swing and slide, with as many features as your budget can stretch.

I particularly like the Suricate Wooden Play Centre, as you are getting a lot of features for the spend (€769.99 at time of writing incl delivery). Click here for details.

Conclusion. Swings & slides & children during summer sunny days are images that remain enshrined in the memory of parents. Pay a bit of attention to type of swing & slide, its quality and positioning and make sure those memories are not interrupted by trip(s) to the Accident & Emergency of your local hospital.