I’m thrilled to be able to introduce you to the range of Spielgaben educational toys, an Australian educational resources company which is just about to introduce its wonderful range of products to the UK and USA in August this year. All opinions in the following review are my own and I can tell you straight away that I’m in awe of the quality and design behind each and every piece!
I first read about these wonderful toys from my good friend Deb who writes over at Learn with Play at Home and I knew I wanted them immediately for my own children, but I was disappointed to see that they were only being sold in Australia. However, they are now being released for sale in the UK and USA and I couldn’t be more excited to recommend them to you, both for creating a wonderful home learning resource and for a very valuable addition to any classroom, nursery or preschool setting.
Spielgaben resources are all made of high quality wood and natural materials. They come in their own, hand crafted wooden storage trays and the new model (which is being released next month) will arrive in a fantastic wheeled crate to slot each tray into, keeping sorting and storage easy to manage. You can see images of this crate over on the Spielgaben homepage.
When we first unpacked these wonderful toys we were in awe of the sheer volume of pieces, the range of the types of manipulatives and incredible potential for play, exploration and learning by making endless different combinations. As a long time teacher for 4-5 year olds in main stream schools, I was in charge of ordering new resources for our Early Years unit and was often disappointed by the small number of pieces supplied in sets, barely enough for one child to explore let alone a group. Yet these offer a generous amount of each type of toy, allowing children to really develop their play and ideas for as along as they choose and combining them extends the play to new levels. It also allows kids to work together without fighting over pieces, giving them scope to work on games, projects and tasks simultaneously.
These 13 sets allow possibilities for: counting, sorting, shape recognition, pattern making, matching, building 2D and 3D structures, measuring, ordering, using 1:1 correspondence, exploring textures and sizes, creativity, language development and countless other uses beside.
The Spielgaben design is based on the educational theories of Froebel, a German educator who lived between 1782-1852. He was the forefather of later educational philosophies of Montessori and was the founder of Kindergarten. He believed in nurturing children’s creativity and allowing them to discover and learn through hands-on, interactive investigation, looking at patterns in nature and experiencing mathematical, spatial concepts in a real way. Einstein himself played with this type of toy as a child! Spilegaben has recreated these 13 sets of materials for modern day child to return to this good quality, distraction free, open-ended way of play, and the possibilities for their use are endless. They represent absolutely everything I believe in as an Early Years teacher and Mum!
You receive a guide for using each set of the materials along with pictures pattern cards, lesson ideas and worksheets (should you want to use them) as well as more information about how each one aids the educational development of your child.
My girls jumped straight into the sets without any need for introduction and wanted to combine some of them immediately. I know some settings encourage just one type of material at a time, but I’m a firm believer in allowing children to direct their own learning with kits like this, so I allowed them to use them as they wished. They spent a lot of time matching and sorting colours into groups initially, finding different shapes, measuring sticks and concentric circles to place together in sets. They were fascinated at how the circles could fit inside each other and were absorbed in that activity alone for over half an hour.
They quickly started to make their own pictures using the flat shapes, with pattern making occurring naturally as part of this. Cakie (4) made repeat patterns around some flowers that she created while Pop (3) matched colours and sorted items by size, type and shape.
Every morning they have rushed down to get out more sets to try (there are lots to experiment with!) and they have become very interested int he gorgeous solid shape wood blocks sets, using them for constructing buildings, city-scapes and sculptures with. I found the beautiful structure (below) on the dining table before breakfast one day, set up ready for adding and building on further as the day progressed. I love toys that can be changed and added to, improved on and explored in new ways and that can remain within free access at all times. My Reception/ Kindergarten classroom was set up in the same way, with free access to good quality materials always a top priority. Reggio Emilia philosophies also emphasise the need for the environment and quality materials to be the third teacher, and these tick the box in every single way. If I was teaching now I would order these from my EYFS budget immediately! They are also wonderful for home educators, preschools and for everyday parents to have at home. A set like this is worth a whole play room full of plastic, limited-possibility toys and will last longer and be of more value in the future.
Spielgaben is offering a limited-offer special discount for the first 200 readers from the USA and UK who sign up on their new site by clicking the button to “register interest.” Because of the high quality nature of the resources they will be making them to order and using crowd-funding to gather enough interest before packaging and posting. So if you’re interested for your home or school get your name down quickly to get in the special group offer!
We have barely scratched the surface of the materials here in this review and haven’t even written about the scientific possibilities of exploring the spinning spheres kit or the gorgeous knitted balls. Hopefully we will be writing a little more about them soon, but first we need many hours of play and discovery time using the sets, which I am very happy to have over this summer!
[I was sent a set of Spielgaben products to review for this post. All opinions are my own and very genuine!]