Last week there was a Family Fun Fair at the boys' school. It included a raffle auction where tickets could be purchased and distributed amongst various prizes that were donated. I had donated a nature walk and various nature activities. My children really wanted the things in the basket and the hike (though I take them on hikes all the time for free!). This guy on the left put ALL his tickets (his own money) in the tub for my prize. How sweet! Ultimately, someone else won. I'll have to take him on a nature walk!
The older guy in the middle only bought 1 ticket and won these cool wooden toys called Connectagons . We have something similar called Power Rings, but they are made of plastic. We've made interesting creations over the years as I've had them for 14 years or so. I used to use them in the classroom.
The boys really like these Connectagons so far. They are made of wood and have nice colors. We made lots of flowers last night, though they are very open ended and can be made into all kinds of different things. I would put these in the "loose parts" section of open ended play. Here is a good read on loose parts in the outside setting here.
What I like about these:
1. Made out of wood
3. Reinforces shapes4. Open ended play
5. Loose parts
I also liked looking them up on Amazon.com as I found several other nature related sets built around the same concept--butterflies and flowers, trees, fairies (two different kinds!), and under the sea! My almost 4-year-old didn't have any issues using them--in fact he's making more creations now!
A couple of other "loose parts" toys we have that the whole family loves include the following . . .
Wedgits--these are usually (except for a couple sets) rated 0-99 years! I love that. I bought these for my husband for various birthdays or holidays. We have a couple of sets. We like making our own creations and also use the cards as challenges to try to make specific things.
Magformers--Friends seriously ask to borrow these! Once again--purchased for my husband, but the whole family enjoys them! They are very open ended and I love the magnetic quality. Last year, my husband was in the hospital in Chicago for about three weeks. My almost three-year-old and I made the trip to visit every other day. Hospitals are pretty boring for this age . . . I brought some of these in a bag for play time. He found all the magnetic parts in the walls (like the corners) while there!
Jenga blocks--I hesitated a little to put these in . . . we received these for a gift from a sweet neighbor girl. We don't actually always play the game, but I see the kids using the blocks to make creations! Any kind of wooden block might work for this type of open ended play; however, even though we have wooden blocks of various colors and such, I see the boys pull these out more often.
Magnets and Balls--We first found these in Germany at a little toy shop near the palace in our little town. We loved that area. We bought a small set at a time before we were even thinking about kids because WE enjoyed playing with them! These do have SMALL parts--we don't leave them out around babies. I find I use the magnets all the time to put stuff on the fridge. We make all kinds of 3-D objects with it, but really love how they spin!
While some of these seem expensive, I will say they are sturdy and they've lasted over time. The whole family has enjoyed them! They might be good suggestions for grandparent gifts or for later children when you start running out of gift ideas (not that we know anything about that!).