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Baby CrazyEgg is now chronologically 22 months old. Because of her extreme prematurity we work with various health professionals who focus on various aspects of her development. Two such contacts recently produced different versions of the same toy and, after observing Baby CrazyEgg's antics, announced that she was 'ready':
"Look at her! That's right, well done! You can see the little cogs whirring in her brain! You did it Baby CrazyEgg! [Clap, clap, clap]"
The first time she was observed with this toy, it was the fruit version. Baby CrazyEgg has a lot of pretend fruit and when she spied some similar to her own during a group occupational therapy session she crawled off to investigate. She discovered that this fruit, unlike that at home, had holes in it. Also, there was a string, and several bits of fruit were on the string, and if you pulled it they all moved. The therapist showed her how to put more fruit on the string. Baby CrazyEgg clapped.
The toy was simply a threading toy. A thick cotton cord with a bead secured at one end and a wooden 'needle', about pencil thickness, at the other end. The pieces of fruit were the beads. The therapist explained that the toy is useful in teaching children to use two hands to complete a task: an advance on tearing or ripping paper for instance. To thread you must hold the bead in one hand, and push the thread through with the other. The stick makes this easier. Then, you need to change from the pushing action to a pulling action and pull the thread out the other side. In terms of cognitive and fine motor skill development, this is quite something. Baby CrazyEgg showed sufficient aptitude and interest for the therapist to say that threading should be something we focused on for a bit. She suggested we use old washing line and empty toilet rolls if we had no threading toys at home. I never did try this as I knew Baby CrazyEgg would simply chew the cardboard.
The second version we came across had beads that were shaped like insects, but with some regular round beads too. This time Baby CrazyEgg did some threading herself, and the Inclusion Support Worker exclaimed as noted above. Following this, I searched online to find a threading toy and found the exact ones the therapists had used. Made by Alex Toys they are readily available from Amazon. The size of the round beads in the insect version had concerned me since they could easily be fitted in Baby CrazyEgg's mouth. The fruit version had large pieces, but we have a lot of play fruit. Then I came across the washing line version and I thought it was perfect since it had large pieces, differed from what we already own, linked with Baby CrazyEgg's recent interest in trying to put on her own clothes (completely wrongly), and had potential as a doll's washing line for future play.
For £10.95 I got 'Wash and String', 12 wooden beads each showing a different item of clothing, cotton lace with stopper and wooden needle attached. The beads themselves are beautifully brightly painted, showing the detail of the clothing items on both sides. The picture above shows what an appealing display they make. As I hoped, they were all chunky and too large to be swallowed. The items of clothing are: vest, pants, socks, tights, swimming costume, shirt, dungarees, shirt, sleepsuit, trousers, dress, shorts: pretty comprehensive, and appropriate for a toddler. The wooden needle is very securely attached to the cotton lace and I feel this is a very safe toy when used under supervision- both the needle and the cotton lace could be dangerous if misused.
Although aimed at 3 years plus, this toy is suitable for younger children. Baby CrazyEgg is getting a lot of use from it. Sometimes she threads as an adult would, but this is intermittent. Sometimes she can't find the holes in the beads because she has her finger over them... When she threads a bead over the needle, sometimes her movement to pull it over the rope means in fact that it falls off. She likes to hold the needle whilst others put the beads on for her, or put the beads on while Mum or Dad holds the needle. Gradually she is becoming more adept, and her recognition of different clothing items is coming on a treat.
It's a simple toy, and a very useful one. It would not have occurred to me what skills were being developed if I had not been told, and I would have overlooked it thinking it wasn't that interesting. But Baby CrazyEgg has a different idea of fun and I must say she has rather enthused me with this toy. Many an evening after she has gone to bed I am to be found threading these clothing beads onto her string. It's very soothing.
A downside is that the paint does chip a little if there is too much enthusiastic shaking of the completed washing line, and the clothing becomes a little scuffed, but this is a very minor point. Five stars from me.