Monday, July 27, 2009

Alex Toys Review

Award winning Alex Toys have been played with in our home since ER was very little. Our first introduction was when we purchased a set of Rub a Dub Dirty Dogs bath toys. They have little dirt marks that you can "clean" off in warm bath water. They were an instant hit with ER, because she loves anything puppy. So much so that they've never actually made it into the tub where they belong. She likes to play with them like little action figures too much. One often comes along with us in her bag.
We also really like their Rub a Dub Draw in the Tub bathtub crayons and are on our second set. What's really nice about these is that each one comes in a little plastic holder you can hold on to while drawing. That way your wet hands don't waste any of the crayon when you hold it to draw. There is a little lever to push up more crayon when you need it. ER loves drawing all over the tub with them and they really are easy to wash off the side of the tub.
Recently, in our prize package from we got their Water Flutes, and now ER wants them to be a part of every bath. It takes some practice to get the water to the correct line inside each one, and we have to monitor ER with them closely. The first few tries she kept tipping them and would've ended up with a mouthful of bath water if we weren't careful. She really enjoys them, so if you're willing to put in some practice, just like learning to play a real instrument, the rewards will come in time!

Before we got the following three products from Alex Toys to try out and review, our experience with them was limited to bath time. I only recently realized that they made products other than bath and art supplies. I was really happy to find out that they carry a wide range of toys, games, and learning activities that stimulate little minds and creativity.
My Layered Lacing, was a very exciting product for me to use with ER. I've always made my own lacing cards or borrowed from another teacher the kind made out of thick cardboard before. Alex Toy's versions are made out of big, chunky, foam pieces. Four pairs and five laces are in the set and they are very bright and colorful with fun designs. You attach a lady bug to a leaf, a shoe to a sock, pizza toppings to a slice, and add a fish to a fish bowl. They are great for kids who have mastered lacing around single layers, and continue to challenge fine motor skills as it can be a lot to hold two pieces in place and lace them together.
ER was doing pretty good with the little ones I made for her out of old greeting cards so I figured she was ready for these. Now that there are two layers it's a whole new activity for her, and one she needs a lot of practice with! It doesn't help that she has tiny hands but it's a lot for her to control and manage at once. She requires a lot of help to complete one; it's definitely a parent and child activity for now. I use the opportunity to talk a lot to her about what we're doing.

I had a four year old neighbor over who tried them and it took her a little bit to get the hang of them. These are an activity you can get years of fun out of. These are great for fine motor skills and getting those little fingers nimble and ready for writing.

I have to say I love the foam lacing shapes. I wish I'd purchased these for her before. I like them a lot better than the wooden or cardboard lacing shapes I was more familiar with. The foam has a little give in it. As toddler hands push and pull on it, it can move a little and sometimes that has enabled my daughter to be able to get the lace through. The pliable nature of the foam makes this a more enjoyable activity for her and I'm not worried about things tearing as it snaps back into place. This product, and many others also by Alex Toys has also won the National Parenting Center's Seal of Approval.
Next up was the set of two Jungle Touchable Puzzles, Alex Toys says that, "Colorful textured puzzles are fun to explore and stimulate learning." We certainly have to agree. We are just beginning to move onto real puzzles, instead of ones where all you have to do is put a single piece into a matching slot. So there were quite challenging to ER the first several times she tried them.
Being a big fan of the zoo this set was of a highly engaging design for her. We really like how there are some pieces with raised textures, like the lion's mane and the flowers in the puzzle with the giraffe on it. The giraffe puzzle with seven pieces was the more challenging of the two and it can still take her a few moment to figure it out.

Like the lacing shapes, I did not have much experience with foam puzzles before. This time the pliable nature of the pieces had pros and cons. Pros were that once again they have a little give and even if the piece wasn't in quite the right position, a lot of the time they pieces would still go together if you were at least close. On the con side, it meant that the puzzle can give a lot, meaning that pieces shift around as you put others into place. We learned that it's best to do these puzzles on a hard surface as opposed to the carpeted floor. This cuts down of the movement factor while putting them together.

For both the lacing shapes and foam puzzles, my only suggestion would that making the packaging something you can also store the activities in would be helpful. Both come in containers that are open in the front, this is so that part of the product can be displayed while in the box, but with all the pieces and laces it can be hard to keep everything in the set together. A nice box you can keep things organized and stack would be very helpful.
With the Zoominoes we don't have a problem with storage as it does come in a nice sturdy box. Inside are 24 large cardboard dominoes with a zoo theme. The animal pictures are easy to match up and it's a very good beginning game for young children. Since most will be able to match independently by age 3, the earliest reccommended age, it's greatest value is in teaching cooperative play while having the fun of playing a game. It provides opportunities to take turns, follow the simple rules of the game, and share.

Sharing is the hardest part for my daughter, she doesn't like to give her zoominoes up. Giving one up to match it by another one is very hard for her. The last time she rather indignantly picked all the pieces up about halfway through the game, put them in her purse, which she then zipped tight and hid under her bed. So much for sharing! Obviously we need to work on that.

I enjoyed reviewing our samples from Alex Toys immensely. It was very fun for this kindergarten teacher to get her hands on some new fun things to play with, um...I mean use with my daughter to enhance learning☺ Looking at their catalog was like being a kid in a candy store, they have so many great products for every stage of your child's life.

At this point of ER's development, besides activities like lacing and puzzles I am also very interested in seeking out games appropriate to her level and Alex Toys have several. I'm a big fan of the Moody Monsters, which incorporate social skills and emotions into a memory game, as well as the Wash and Dry Bingo and Silly Sandwich Game. But I am eagerly awaiting the time when she'll be ready for some of their craft kits!
Being the crafty mama that I am, I'm so super duper excited to try some of these! She's a little young for most of them but the second she's old enough you know a bunch of these are going to show up at our house. Imagine getting to color your bag or decorate one with fun peel and stick patches. You can paint a garden pinwheel or your own umbrella. There are a bunch of paper craft kits that would make great gifts, like the tissue art, giant paper flowers, and baggy bunch. They are the kind of projects that get you excited to get glue all over!

I think my favorite section of crafts is sewing for kids or style projects. I really like the variety of things you can make to wear and how everything you need to make a one of a kind creation come included. The ease of just opening a box for the supplies and not having to hunt everything down is worth it, and these are priced so well that you'd have a hard time purchasing the components you need separately for less.

For now I am content to plan out which of Alex Toy's art supplies I'd like to add to our collection! I am sure I could write and even longer post than this one on all the things I like. Not only do they have great art supplies, they have a great storage solution on how to store all those masterpieces, like this supersized accordian keeper. As you know if you've been by before, I'm always looking for ways to take things on the go, this car valet is already on ER's holiday list. I love it!

This review really only touches on the surface of all the great products Alex Toy's produces. This is one company will continue to support with many purchases in the future. Spend some time checking out what they make, and get ready to make a long wish list☺ I'd love to hear what you think is their best product, leave me a comment and tell me what you think!
Thank you to Alex Toys for providing the lacing, puzzles, and zoominoes for this review.

2 Friends Said:

Amanda said...

Great reviews! I like the looks of the lacing and puzzles. They would have been well used in our home when mine were younger.

Susana said...

We love ALEX toys too--they are so creative and well made!!

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