Review: Play to Z Stacking Hoops

Amidst the sea of wonderful electronics and plastic at Christmas in July, one company stood out from all the rest.  The attractive and tactile toys immediately appealed to both me and Lara, and after chatting to the founder and MD, Sue Gascoyne, I wanted to know more.

Her wonderful company Play to Z, was set up in 2006 with the ethos of embedding sensory play experiences in the learning environment.  Coming from an educational background and believing in natural learning through exploration and play, their toys and resources really appeal to me.  They supply treasure baskets, sensory tale packs and much more.  All are carefully created with regard to children's sensory experience and with learning opportunities which extend into childhood, supplied with guidance and ideas for parents.

The toy which really caught Lara's eye was the lovely stacking hoops, and we were delighted when Play to Z offered to send the girls one to play with.  This is a fantastic, ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to the usual stacking toy, but is also an amazing sensory collection with infinite play possibilities.

Just look at the excitement opening the package, which comes in a lovely cloth storage bag, elicited:

Babies will love to play with, compare and chew the different hoops; toddlers will enjoy sorting and comparing them, and inventing new play uses for them; whilst the ethical, environmental and fair trade credentials of the individual hoops are something which could lead into amazing education opportunities with older children.

For us, this is the first toy Sophia (7 months) has fully engaged with.  She has looked at other things, played with them a little, but this she really plays with, and in so many different ways already.  She loves to take the different hoops off the stick hersefl, and to see how they feel in her hands and in her mouth.  She pushes them around with her feet, and even picks up two at once to compare their different textures.

Lara (29 months) loves all the different hoops too, and so far they have become bangles, flower gardens for Peppa Pig's house, hoopla hoops, hula hoops for her dolls, and so much more.  She also likes to see how tthe different textures feel on her skin and by chewing them.  She is intrigued by the metal staying relatively cool in the hot weather, for example.

Lara has also spent quite some time sorting the hoops into different categories and telling me about their different qualities, which is amazing at her age.  We have encouraged the language for this and she has learnt lots of new adjectives,and comparative words and phrases.

The most hilarious game to play, for both girls, is balancing them on our heads.  Many an hour has been spent with the four of us sat round seeing who can balance their hoop longest, followed by hysterical laughter.

Like all of Play to Z's range, this is a toy that will grow and develop as our children do.  I love the idea that something so deceptively simple can be so many things and used, played with and enjoyed in so many different ways.  This is what childhood, and imagination, is all about.

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