Lara was very excited when the train first arrived and eager to get it out of the packaging (mercifully only a cardboard tray and a piece of plasic film - hurrah!). She played with it as a train for a little while, pushing it along the floor making the requisite noises etc, and then began giving some of her dolls and soft toys a ride.
After a while she decided to start taking the differently shaped pieces off and re-arranging them, and she told me about some of the shapes she knew the names of and all the colours. However, after about ten minutes she was no longer interested and went off to do something else.
Sophia enjoyed playing with the different shapes in her hands, and mouthing a few of them. Then she started banging two of them together, and experimenting with different shapes - e.g. did the triangular piece and the circular piece make a different sound to rectangular + large whole piece? She was occupied for quite some time with this.
We took the train on holiday with us for Sophia to play with, and she was occupied with it for quite some time. She really enjoys taking the different wooden pieces off to explore with hands and mouth, knocking them together, and throwing them to see how far she can stretch to reach them.
Since their first exploration, the girls have had the train out a few times, and the blocks have been added to our bag of wooden shapes for building sessions once or twice. The recommended age for the train is 2 years, but I would say it could be given to a much younger child too, indeed it may be better for a younger child as Lara's interest in it has been limited.
Although I hesitate to say Lara's use of it is finished, as it does still come into service as a ride on train for her toys, and I suspect the shapes will be useful for exploration and discussion as we progress in our home education adventures.
Personally, I would recommend the Melissa & Doug Stacking Train as a first birthday present, since it is a very attractive, tactile wooden toy which would entertain a baby from about 9 months on, and also grow with a child for different use as they develop.
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