I am a student at ….College and I am doing The Early Childhood care and education Course FETAC Level 5. One of mandatory modules in this course is Early Childhood Education and Play and The Toy Critique assignment is part of that. I have to choose a toy and write detailed assessment about it. My chosen toy is The Memo Locomotives Puzzle made by Goki. Goki is the name of the brand for high-quality wooden toys at a fair price, ensuring that excellent toys remain affordable. Memo Locomotives puzzle is set of 32 wooden tiles with 4 different, attractive locomotives and comes in hard cardboard box. Each locomotive is in different colour. To connect pieces together child has to look at colours, pictures and shapes, like square and diamond.
Aim, Objectives, Rationale
My aim of this assignment is to choose a toy that is suitable for children in age group 0-6 years and to assess and to examine it under various headings. I will critique it fewer than 40 criteria points and discuss the toy specific to P.I.L.E.S and the role of the adult in supporting play. I will write up and evaluate my findings and give conclusion and recommendations at the end. I chose to critique Memo Locomotive Puzzle for this assignment because it is a toy that my family members had played with for few years and children really loves it.
I have learned that play is not only enjoyable, but it has a value to learning and development as well. It is in play that young children encounter their own learning situations. Play facilitates social skills and helps children to see things from other people’s point of view. Play helps to strengthen the imagination of children and it is necessary in cognitive development. Through play, children develop a greater ability to concentrate (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 47).
Aistear recognises the value of play in early learning and development. Section 3 of the Good Practise Guidelines deals with the subject of play and its role in the early childhood curriculum (Flood and Hardy, 2013, p 165)
Aistear recognises the enormous body of research that shows that young children (particularly those aged 0-6) learn most effectively through play and that more directive methods do not work but actually curb children’s natural desire to explore and discover (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 92). Going through this assignment I want to find out for what type of play and what stage of play. The Memo Locomotive Puzzle is suitable and I want to see how it stands up in relation not only to play but to learning and developmental values too. I will look at adult’s role in play activities regarding this toy and if there are any changes to be made to improve the toy. I will state my conclusion and give my recommendations at the end.
List of criteria
1. Name of toy?
Puzzle and Memo Locomotives.
2. What is the price range?
It can be bought online at amazon.co.uk and it costs 24 euro, shipping is included.
3. What is a brand for it?
The brand is Goki.
4. Who is a toy manufacturer?
It is Gollnest & Kiesel KG, Germany.
5. Is it ready available?
Yes, it is and can be bought online at amazon.co.uk.
6. At what age group is it suitable?
It is suitable for children from 2 years of age up to 6 years of age.
7. Is it suitable for boys or girls?
It can be played by boys and girls.
8. Does it suit all cultures?
Yes, it does.
9. Is it suitable for children with special needs?
Yes, it is. There could be some difficulties to use the puzzle if child has specific movement restrictions.
10. Does it suit single or multiple players?
It can be played by single child or up to four children. There are 4 locomotive sets in the box and up to 4 children can play with it at the same time.
11. Is it aesthetically pleasing?
Yes, it definitely is. The puzzle comes in four bright, contemporary colours: red, blue, yellow and green. There are lovely, colourful, attractive motifs of animals and children illustrated on it.
12. Is it educational?
Yes, it is. It promotes physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social development.
13. Does it help to develop language?
Yes, it does. Child names colours, shapes and animals and talks about pictures that appear when pieces are connected.
14. Does it develop motor skills?
Yes, it does. It is a great builder of fine motor skills as a child has to connect pieces without a glitch to get a complete picture.
15. Does it encourage imaginative play?
No, it does not. This toy is more suitable for manipulation type of play.
16. Does this toy have any sensory benefits to the child?
Yes, it does. Wood has individual character, smell and texture. This awakens the natural senses and kelps the child to recognize and understand natural materials.
17. What size is it? Does it need a special storage?
The puzzle comes in hard cardboard box sized 21x8x5 cm and does not need a special storage; can be easily put on the shelf.
18. Does it require batteries or does it need to be charged?
No, it does not require batteries or charging.
19. From what kind of material is it made of?
It is a wooden toy.
20. Is it durable?
Yes, it is very durable. The puzzle is made from sturdy wood, so it is very
hard to cause any damage to it while it is used in playing activities.
21. What kind of texture does it have?
It has smooth, even and solid surface with warm feeling.
22. Is it waterproof?
It is not waterproof. But I had experienced that a small amount of water does not cause any damage to the toy.
23. Is it washable or does it need special cleaning?
It is not washable and does not need special cleaning. It can be cleaned with dump cloth.
24. Is it for use indoor or outdoor?
It is for indoor use, but can be played outdoors as well, if it is not too wet.
25. Is it moveable?
Yes, it is. Child can move it, for example, from table to ground very easily.
26. Is it portable?
Yes, it is. It comes in nice box with lid and is lightweight.
27. Is it qualitative?
Yes, it is. My family members have used this game for more than three years and it still looks and feels the same as it was whet it was brand new. Material is qualitative and sturdy and printings have stayed on place till now.
28. Is it good value for money?
Yes, it is.
29. Are parts of it replaceable?
No, they are not.
30. Are there levels of difficulty?
No, there are not. But adults can make them up, like, asking the child to connect pieces by looking at colours. When child has appreciated it, adult can encourage the child to connect pieces matching the shapes.
31. Are there add-on packs available for it?
No, there are no add-on packs available.
32. Is it suitable for multiple purposes?
No, it is not. But, if the child has an imagination, he can find another function, for example, use wooden pieces as a part of construction project.
33. Is there a special instruction or programming required?
The toy does not require programming or special instruction.
34. Does it require an upgrade?
No, it does not require an upgrade.
35. Does it need an adult supervision?
It does not require an adult supervision.
36. Is it safe for children?
Yes, it is. It is fully tested and certified to meet all safety requirements.
It has CE marking.
37. Is there choking risk?
No, there is no choking risk. Each piece of puzzle is in size 5×7.7 cm and big enough to be safe for even a very small child.
38. Is it flammable?
No, it is not flammable. But it will burn if put in flame, because it is a wooden toy.
39. Does it have a guarantee?
No, it does not. But it can be returned to Amazon.co.uk within 30 days of delivery for a full refund.
40. Is it recyclable?
Yes, it is. It is made from wood and wood is a natural made material which can be subjected to recycling.
41. Are there reviews about the toy?
No, I couldn’t find any reviews about this particular toy.
Detailed assessment of the Toy
Initially I found out for what type of play my chosen toy can be used for. There are several types of play, but to my chosen Locomotives Puzzle fits Manipulative type of play that is under Physical form of play by Moyles’s forms of play (Beaver et al, 2001, p471). Manipulative play involves practising and refining motor skills. This type of play enhances physical dexterity and hand-eye co-ordination. Over time children need to experience a range of different levels of manipulation if they are to refine their motor skills. This type of play includes manipulating objects and materials (NCCA, 2009, pg 54) Manipulative play includes using puzzles, threading, playdough, carpentry, construction sets and blocks (Department of Education, Training and Employment, 2012, pg2).
In this type of play the child has to manipulate with puzzle pieces by lifting, turning and placing them. This toy can be a part of Intellectual play as well as it helps child to discover and learn colours, shapes and counting and has a benefit to memory skills. This toy can be tested under five areas of benefits to development that links with Aistear’s themes.
Aistear recognises the enormous body of research that shows that young children (particularly those aged 0-6) learn most effectively through play and that more directive methods do not work but actually curb children’s natural desire to explore and discover. This section describes how play benefits all five areas of development: intellectual, language, emotional and social (PILES). This links with Aistear’s four themes: wellbeing, identity and belonging, communicating, and exploring and thinking (Flood and Hardy, 2013, p 165). I will look closer how my chosen toy can benefit all five areas of children development.
Physical Development: Wellbeing
Physical play is very important and essential to children development. Physical play (…) promotes gross-motor skills. Children develop balance and increase co0ordinaton trough practising skills such as running, jumping, climbing, skipping, walking on tip-toe, hopping, pedalling, etc. Physical play also promotes health and wellbeing because it increases appetite and tires children so that they sleep well. Physical development also involves the development and refinement of fine-motor skills; creative and construction play are both particularly beneficial in this area (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 92). Physical development and health is also one of Key Developmental Indicators (KDIs) that “together form a framework that guides teachers in the planning process of beneficial learning experiences for the children in their care” ( Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 61).
There are 4 KDIs that relate to physical development and health. This toy is valuable to fine-motor skills. Small-muscle or fine-motor development also is included in the physical development of a child, and deals with such areas as smiling, picking up a fork or tying a shoe. Small-muscle development is evident as infants grasp cereal to put in their mouths and is enhanced by activities such as picking up blocks or drawing with crayons (Brotherson, 2006, pg 2). Playing with The Memo Locomotives Puzzle the child has to lift and turn pieces, and sort them in groups. Children have to do accurate movements to connect pieces thus getting the complete picture of the train. Children develop control and strength in their fingers by doing that. These things are very essential to educational process at later stage, for example, to handwriting and drawing practise.
Intellectual Development: Exploring and Thinking
Intellectual, cognitive development takes a big part in children’s overall development. Cognitive development includes the development of each of the following: imagination, creativity, memory skills, concentration skills, problem-solving skills, concept information (Flood, 2013, pg 96). And playing has important role in intellectual development. Through play children can explore and think about a wide range of concepts in a non-threatening way. Play cannot be ‘wrong’ so children are much more likely to take risks with their learning when they are engaged in play (Flood et al, 2013, pg 93). Through play with The Memo Locomotives Puzzle children can explore colours and shapes.
This toy helps children to improve their sorting skills, because they have to sort out pieces by colours at the start to make each train. Children will get 8 pieces for each train after sorting them by colours. Now they will be able to sort those 8 pieces in pairs by connecting shapes and by linking pairs together they will get complete train. Each time by playing with it children train their memory skills by remembering which piece has to be taken to make complete diamond shape and which one is needed to make the monkey and bananas picture. Children can learn or improve their counting skill. For example, for a small child teacher/parent can count each piece that child has placed and soon child will start to count together with teacher/parent.
Language Development: Communicating
The definition of language is: “Language is any form of communication, be it spoken, written or signed. Language consists of words and system of combining them” (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 122) The memo Locomotives Puzzle can give benefits to language development by naming colours, shapes, animals and other parts of pictures. Because of Puzzle’s bright and vivid printings it has a big value to teaching child the right name of exact colour. Besides that, game can be played up to 4 children and by communicating and explaining the rules to each other they will improve they language skills. Virtually all types of play involve communication.
Children negotiate their roles, talk about what they are doing and talk about their plans for what will happen next. (…) When playing games with rules, children have to explain rules to newcomers. (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 93) Children will learn new words and they will learn new ways how to put words in sentences. Teacher/parent can be a companion to child if he’s playing alone and communicate with him during play thus helping to improve his language development through play.
Emotional Development: Identity and Belonging, and Communicating Emotional development involves children learning to deal with their emotions (both negative and positive) in a healthy way. Emotional development also involves the promotion of a positive self-image and high self-esteem. (Flood and Hardy, 203, pg 93) Play is important part of emotional development and The Memo Locomotives Puzzle can help in that. During play with this toy children have to deal with emotions like anger and frustration when something does not work the way children wish to or pride and happiness when they got it right.
Those good emotions promote positive self-esteem, child is happy about himself, for example, he is proud he did his train set first or he did his one carefully and at the end it looks nicer than other ones. Children learn to share their emotional with adult and peers, like; child learns not only to show but to talk about his emotions. Emotional regulation is an important part of emotional development (Flood, 2013, pg 175). During play with The Memo Locomotives Puzzle teacher/parent can observe children and help them deal with their negative emotions, like they can teach how to deal with frustration when it is hard for child to find right piece of puzzle.
Social Development: Identity and Belonging, and Communicating Social development basically involves the development of three related skills: (1) the ability to interact effectively with others, (2) learning and understanding the norms of the society in which the child lives and (3) moral development. Play can be a very effective way for children to learn and perfect these skills (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 94). The Memo Locomotives Puzzle can help children to interact effectively with others.
They have to communicate while playing by handing pieces to each other, helping find the right piece for each other. They have to learn to share The Locomotive’s sets and wait for their turn. They will learn to ask for a piece nicely and use phrases like ‘thank you’ and ‘you are welcome’ thus learning and teaching to each other good manners. Children learn to understand the norms of society by doing that. “Social norms are descriptions of ‘rules’ about people’s behaviour, beliefs, attitudes and values within a society or social group” (Flood, 2013, pg 151).
It is very important to select not only the right type of play to promote child’s development but to make sure that the play will match his stage of development also. Most of theorists of play, like Maria Montessori, Friedrich Froebel, Steiner Waldorf, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget and Rudolph Steiner, have identified stages of development. For example, Rudolf Steiner distributed 3 different stages: 0-7 years, 7-14 years and 14-18 years (Flood et al, 2013, pg 42-43).
The Memo Locomotives Puzzle is suitable for children in age group 2-6 and fits under first stage (0-7) years by Steiner’s concept: The first seven years of children’s lives are of greatest importance. (…) Children conquer the skills of movement, speech, gesture and communication. (…) Children absorb every aspect of their environment and they are open to external influences also. The focus at this point is on learning by doing (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 42-43). I already have clarified that my chosen toy helps to improve children’s basic knowledge in physical, intellectual, language, social and emotional development and it means that age group marked on The Memo Locomotives Puzzle’s label match the concrete toy.
Detailed assessment of the role of the adult
There are two styles of play that are relevant to adult’s role in children playing activities. They are structured play and free play. Structured play is planned, guided and led by adults. Structured play can be useful but there is a risk that if it is too adult-led children can lose interest. (…) Adults can provide support by demonstrating skills that the child can then try out for themselves. (…) Some theorists advocated a very structured approach. Montessori advocated that certain skills should be very clearly demonstrated by the adult, with the child carefully watching so that they could then copy exactly what the adult had done (Food and Hardy, 2013, pg 87, 88)
Free play is not adult-led. Adults provide equipment, materials and resources for free play, but they do not direct it any way. Advocates of free play believe that children learn much more from this style of play than from structured play, since they are more motivated by having created it themselves (Flood and Hardy, 013, pg 88). The Memo Locomotives Puzzle needs adult participation to improve children development in all five areas of benefits to development. Adult participation is essential to help children by naming colours or shapes, showing which colour or shape are the one that has been named. Therefore adult attendance is not essential all the time. Children can be left with the toy by themselves thus giving them time to practise their object manipulating skills and memory.
Adult has to observe children while playing and make a decision when to intervene and when to stand back. Adult must intervene and help in communication thus helping to develop children’s social and communication skills, like helping to resolve conflicts and to solve problems in peaceful manner. I like Janet Moyles concept and I believe it suits the best regarding adult role to play with The Memo Locomotives puzzle. The concept for which she (Janet Moyles) is best known is the spiral of play or spiral of learning. The spiral of play describes how children move in and out of different modes of play: direct play to free, and back again (Flood and Hardy, 2013, pg 105). Adult observes to children playing and decides when and if he/she is required to intervene in the play to support it.
I consider results of my assignment as positive and valuable. I found out a lot about my chosen toy’s benefits to children learning through play. I discovered for what type of play this toy would suit the best and how adult can support children in play with it.
My aim was to find out can The Memo Locomotives Puzzle be supportive in learning through play and give any benefits to children’s development. I introduced with my chosen toy and did description of the toy including 40 assessment criteria and described the toy under five areas of benefits to children’s development. I also looked at adult role in play with The Memo Locomotives Puzzle. I found out that toy is educational and fun.
I found that The Memo Locomotives Puzzle fits under manipulative type of play. The toy can be useful in all five areas of benefits to development: physical, intellectual, language, social and emotional development. I believe that manufacturer has positioned this toy under the right age group because of children’s developmental stages and age stages. I discovered that for this toy looking at adult role better suits structured style of play with adult stepping in and out giving children time for free play as well. Overall I looked at toy from many aspects and found this toy suitable for children’s learning through play.
My list of advantages and disadvantages:
Attractive for children
Age group toy is suitable for
Benefits all five areas of children development
Material for storage box is not quite durable
Made of natural material
In overall I really like this toy. I have experienced that children love this toy and it is attractive for them. There are only two things I would recommend to change about it: 1) Although the toy comes in good hardboard box, I would recommend using wooden box instead. The hardboard box can be destroyed in a second if child steps on it and it would make storage very impractical. I believe it would lead to lost pieces. I agree that wooden box would make the toy a bit more expensive, but it would make the toy last longer.
If there are no pieces lost, this toy really last for many years because of its durability. 2) I would recommend to manufacturer to change an age group that toy is suitable for. Because of my own experience I can say that this toy is really attractive to children aged 2-4. Children at age 5-6 lost their interest after the first time playing with it. They already know colours and they know shapes and they got along very quickly, level of difficulty is too easy for them. All the other aspects, like durability, bright and vivid colours, lovely printings. I believe, are very good regarding this toy. I like about this toy that it is really educational and attractive for children and I would highly recommend it to parents and teachers for children aged 2-4.
Beaver, M., Brewster, J., jones, P., Keene, A., Neaum, S., and Tallack, J., 2001, Babies and children, Diploma in childcare and education, United Kingdom: Nelson Thornes
Brotherson Sean, Bright beginnings #8, 2006, US: NDSU Extension Service
Department of Education, Training and Employment, 2012, Giving children a flying start, Australia: Queensland Government
Flood E., Hardy C., 2013, Early Childhood Education & Play, Dublin: Gill and MacMillan
Flood, E., 2013, Child Development, Dublin: Gill and MacMillan
NCCA, Aisthear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, 2009, Ireland: NCCA