Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nature Studies - Beaches and Bugs

I just posted a long list of nature studies resources we enjoy having in our home. A couple of items that we recently received from A Toy Garden deserved their own special mention. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been searching for things (games, toys, books, etc) to make nature studies interesting and fun for my girls. We've had a blast with each of these two items and give them two thumbs up.

Sonya suggested that we review the Bug Bingo game because the bingo cards have so much information printed on them and the pictures are quite detailed and true. I wasn't sure if the game was going to be over Lucy's head, but it said ages 3- adult, so we decided to give it a try. Lucy and Julia both enjoy finding bugs outside and were very interested in playing this game.

At one point I asked Lucy if she had to go to the bathroom because she was dancing around and wiggling so much. She said no, she was just very excited about the game and trying to see all of the pictures. The game is very simple to play, there are large printed bingo cards, bingo marker chips, and flash cards with the bug pictures and information. One person holds up the flash card and each player checks to see if they have a matching picture on the game card in front of them. I didn't read much of the information on the backs of the cards because Lucy was enjoying just matching the pictures and I didn't want to overwhelm her with too much at once. She was able to play on her own, and even wanted to check Daddy's game card for him when he had to distract Julia from destroying the game. She didn't want to stop once she got five in a row so we kept going until we all had a Bingo and our game cards were filling up.

I really like that the cards have the information printed on the backs. I did read out loud a few sentences about a some of the bugs and we'll definitely read more of the information as Lucy gets more used to the game and is a bit older. For now I thought it was great that she was just learning the names of the bugs and by matching the pictures she was learning what each one looks like. There are even a few terms like "metamorphosis" included, which is fun.

We all enjoyed playing this game and will be using it often. There are six game cards included, so even Grandma and Grandpa can play when they come over. A Toy Garden also sells Nature Bingo, Ocean Bingo, and more. I think these might be appearing on Christmas wish lists in the near future.

The second item we received for review is the Green Toys Sand Castle set. We already had the tea set by Green Toys and absolutely love it. Green Toys is a wonderful company - their toys are made of recycled plastic milk jugs (a very safe plastic) and are BPA and phthalate free. There is no coating on the toy, so definitely no lead paint here. The toy even comes packaged in recyclable cardboard. The plastic toy itself is very durable and sturdy, I was impressed with the quality.

The set comes with a pail, shovel, rake, and castle mold. The pail has a thick rope handle and is a great size. Lucy had fun scooping water from the lake so that Daddy and Julia could fill the castle mold with wet sand and make castles. The mold worked well and made nicely formed castles. The shovel and rake are both quite sturdy and will hold up to quite a bit of use. We'll use this set at home to work in the garden, collect nature finds on walks, and much more.

I honestly wasn't sure what I would think about the sand castle set since we already own several pail and shovel sets that we use in our sandbox at home. After playing with it though, I'm ready to throw all of the others away and just use this set. Other sand toys crack and the handles snap off and they just aren't as sturdy and nice as this set, not to mention I'm sure the other ones we have are not a safe plastic nor in the slightest bit environmentally conscious. I much prefer my children play with something I know is safe and responsibly made. This is a fun set that I know will last for quite some time.

Visit A Toy Garden to find either of these fun "nature studies" items. Check out the autumn category for a large variety of fun fall items. (A Toy Garden also sells Fundanas, another of our favorite nature studies tools.) Thanks for the great recommendations, Sonya!

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