Tuesday, 7 February 2012

In With The New

One of my favourite things about running a toy shop, is being ever on the look out for new toys, and the fantastic designers and distributors behind them, and from the day that we opened out virtual doors, I had John Crane on my radar.
It took a lot of emails, and a trip to sunny Northampton to convince them to let us stock their brilliant ranges of wooden toys, but the good news is, 2 months after the launch of The Canterbury Toy Shop website, we were given the go ahead to put in our first order - and oh what fun I had leafing through the bulky and super-glossy catalogue, picking out my favourites from their extensive ranges.
John Crane's criteria is a simple one, but one that I share, their priorities are to provide:

"High quality, value for money, innovation and safety - with design flair."

We happen to know that that's just what our customers are after too!

I could tell you all about John Crane's history in representing wonderful toy brands, as well as their own ranges which excite children and adults alike, but I know that what you really want to read about is the toys themselves. Take a moment to peruse the toys on The Canterbury Toy Shop website to see what's on offer, but for this blog post I've decided to take my Top Five John Crane toys and tell you a little bit about what gets a thumbs up from me. Remember, as a Mum myself I choose all of these toys based predominantly on watching my son, Sebastian, playing, and hand pick the toys that I know he and his friends would pick!

In no particular order:

  1. The City Of London Train Set
2012 is an exciting year for London, with the Olympics taking place this year, as well as huge music festivals in Hackney in June, and the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations centered in the capital - the worlds eyes will be firmly glued to the city. And John Crane have got into the real spirit of the moment with this adorably
detailed London themed train set. With a classic figure of 8 track and engine with 2 carriages, the track is compatible with other wooden train sets, and can be added to an existing collection. With a total of 50 pieces this set also features iconic London play pieces, such as The Gherkin, The BT Tower, Buckingham Palace and The Houses of Parliament, as well as cute characters and scenery items. This is a toy that we not only want you to love this year, but to pass on and on and on, until the buildings are unfamiliar and the black cab has been replaced by something altogether more high-tech. This wooden train set will last and last, long enough to one day be a history lesson all of it's own! £40.00RRP.

When I posted about "Stickle Bricks" on The Canterbury Toy Shop's Facebook page back in January 2012 we had the most comments and responses that we'd ever had to a Facebook status. All  I asked was whether anyone remembered them. And there you have it, one of the secrets to a fantastic toy - it must never lose its appeal, and it must stir in all of us a certain sense of nostaligia. Now it is rare for me to put my hands up and say that a non-wooden toy floats my boat, however, when it comes to these spikey, sticky, stackable bricks, I admit it - I'm a fan! Which is why this big tub of "bristleblocks" (Stickle Bricks to you and me!) was the first plastic toy ever to grace the virtual shelves of The Canterbury Toy Shop,
but I can tell you now - they're here to stay! The tub contains 68 soft bricks, which are not only hours of fun for the big people, but encourage manual dexterity and creativity in the younger folk too, and you'll soon realise that we get even more excited about toys which offer a positive developmental benefit to our children. Do we need to tell you about the brilliant ideas in the enclosed "building suggestions" leaflet, and the fab etched, reusable tub? Probably not. £22.99.

This is where I'm often accused of being unfair in my toy selection. Being Mum to a 2 year old boy I tend to forget that a lot of my customers have children of the more feminine persuasion and I sometimes need to be reminded to look at girly toys too, otherwise we'd have so many wooden dinosaurs it'd start to look like the gift shop at The Natural History Museum in here! However, sometimes I need no such nudging, and that speaks volumes for a toy, not only because it means that something "girly" has caught my eye, but also because it means that I've probably recognised that a toy which has likely been marketed towards those buying toys for a little girl, actually has equal appeal to the boys too. The High Tea Shape Sorter is definitely one of those. Yes OK, it's pink, but in my experience very few pre school children have an awareness of our "pink for a girl, blue for a boy" attitudes and you know what - they won't care anyway. I'm about to harp on about the great educational benefits of a fun toy once again but this is a brilliant example and one which I just had to include in my top 5 John Crane toys. Not only can you take tea with your children, choosing from a stunning range of cute wooden desserts (some of which look good enough to eat - I've had my eye on that chocolate heart for a while now!) but you can aid your children in learning to recognise different shapes through sorting the cakes back into their corresponding space on the sturdy, wooden cake stand, and in doing so can also develop numerical skills as each cake displays a number on its base, which also matches the correct space on the cake stand - genius! Tell me this wouldn't look great in your childs play room or nursery! £25.00

 4.  "Critters" - My First Puzzle

At The Canterbury Toy Shop we're working at the moment on increasing and improving our range for children under 18 months. This is one of the first pieces that we've introduced as part of that initiative, along with the farmyard animal version of the same puzzle. Not only is it an easy "take anywhere" toy, featuring integrated carry handle, but the pieces (chunky, simple, and brightly coloured - perfect for baby) are on short cord. As a Mum I am fed up of hunting around all of the time for lost puzzle pieces from my sons collection of wooden puzzles. At the moment we're missing two cows, a chicken, and the letter "O" somewhere in our lounge! The fact that these pieces can not be lost means baby can take it anywhere, in the pushchair, up to bed, or in the car too. It's a simple puzzle, but it's spot on for encouraging manual dexterity and providing stimulation for younger minds. If it wasn't for the fact that I stock them in the shop I would be buying these for first birthday presents regularly! £8.99

5. Fire Engine

Long before I even had the idea to open The Canterbury Toy Shop, my sons Grandparents had bought him this fire engine, and it has been a firm favourite, not just of his, but of his friends, male and female, when they've been to visit. First things first, there are a lot of plastic fire engines on the market, and a lot of them light up and make a noise. They are also prone to breaking, especially if they bang in to things (which they no doubt will) - the ladders up top have a habit of snapping off when being played with, and can be sharp, and they also tend to come with a number of small pieces that would leave me reluctant to give them to a child under 3 years to play with. However, the beauty of the wooden fire engine is not only that you get to make your own siren sounds - and believe me - this is just as much fun as pressing a button, but it'll last, it can survive collisions with the coffee table, the dining chairs, the toy box, and can even be dropped from the formidable heights of the high chair, without suffering too much. And if it does? It's a doddle to fix and return to sound working order. An elderly lady who helps to run a playgroup that my son attends said something to me when I first opened The Canterbury Toy Shop, which has stayed with me ever since, "Children don't learn that toys need to be fixed when broken any more, they just learn that they have to go in the bin". This is so true of a lot of the plastic toys available and a little bit of wood glue will mend almost anything but a broken heart. What's more, we don't just stock the engine, but a group of cute wooden fire fighters with all of their necessary equipment - and a fully furnished fire station too - imaginitive play at it's very (wooden) best! £37.00

And so concludes my Top 5 John Crane toys for 2012. If any blog readers purchase any of the toys above (or anything else from The Canterbury Toy Shop for that matter!) I'd love to receive your reviews, you can email me directly at ashleigh@canterburytoyshop.com !

1 comment:

  1. We've got a similar wooden fire engine, and matching fire station, and it is a big hit. I discovered John Crane toys about five years ago when I was first pregnant. We were determined not to have a house full of enormous noisy lumps of plastic and I was so pleased to find that there are sophisticated, beautiful and enduring alternatives!