“ Manufacturer: ELC / Type: Baby Toy „
As new parents, Mr Lools and I were completely clueless about buying toys. Especially when it came to buying toys for two newborn babies. Prior to our boys being born we didn't buy a single toy (apart from teddies) as we found it quite overwhelming. It became pretty obvious for us both that when the boys were born we needed toys almost immediately to occupy and distract the boys as when you were alone with two babies it was simply not possible to pick them both up together and entertain them that way. So we headed to ELC (which we had gathered to be "the place") to buy toys and stumbled upon the ELC My First Maraca.
***ELC My First Maraca***
ELC describe the My First Maraca toy as "Perfect for budding musicians". The toy is a rounded plastic ball. Inside the end section are beads which you can see through a clear plastic panel, with a musical note on the front. Unlike a traditional maraca handle which is straight the My First Maraca has a rounded C shaped plastic handle which makes it easier for a small child or baby to hold. The My First Maraca is about 7cm long by 3cm wide so is quite small and compact.
The toy is available in blue plastic or green plastic. We purchased both colours of these toys so one of my sons had the blue toy and the other the green toy.
ELC states that the My First Maraca is suitable for children over 3 months old.
The My First Maraca toy is available from ELC stores and Mothercare stores and is also available online. The toy is priced at £3.00 for one maraca but is often on special offer and is reduced to around £2.00 which is the price we purchased it for in February 2010. I think compared to some of the other rattle type toys in ELC which look a little more attractive and have a greater variety of textures, and sounds and generally are larger in size the lower price is probably about right as I feel the toy is very basic.
***Playing With It***
Unlike many other ELC toys are rattle the My First Maraca does not come with vast amounts of packaging. If you purchase in store like we did, the toy can simple be found in the "music" section and is sold loose therefore you can pick up the toy and try before you buy so to speak. It also means you do not have the chore of removing the toy and all of the plastic ties that usually hold toys like this into the packaging.
We purchased this toy for our sons when they were around 6 weeks old. At 6 weeks old I must say my boys did not do a lot; apart from sleep, feed and need their nappy changing. However at 6 weeks old Mr Lools and I noticed they were awake for longer periods and were smiling and noticing things around them. Although they couldn't "play" with toys, they did seem entertained by looking at different bright items or listening to the sounds of items. At this age Mr Lools and I simply found ourselves shaking the My First Maraca toy to encourage some form of reaction from them i.e. a smile and because the beads inside of the toy make quite a loud rattling sound we found this was a very good toy to encourage them to look in a certain direction or smile.
Over the next few months until they got to the 12 week mark I found my sons becoming a lot more alert and awake for longer periods. The difficulty with twins at this age compared with a single baby which you can pick up and play with is when you are on your own is you simply can't pick both babies up at the same time as you need to support the head and you just don't have enough hands/ arms so Mr Lools and I found ourselves trying to split ourselves between both boys. Sitting on the floor with them whilst they were in supportive bouncer chairs seemed to be how I spent most of my time from 6-15 weeks so I could give them my full attention and play with toys with them. The My First Maraca toys were bright but not as bright and colourful as other rattle toys so I found myself shaking other toys in front of them at this stage although I did like the loud rattling noise that the My First Maraca toys made and although the green and blue toys make a slightly different sound I found with them being one of the louder rattle toys they stimulated more of a reaction from my boys. I did find my boys preferred to watch other more colourful and larger rattle toys and these types of toys kept them engaged for longer.
Once my boys got to the 12 week mark they were able to hold onto the toy themselves for short periods and were reaching out for toys. With many rattle toys they were simply too large or too awkward for my boys to hold but the My First Maraca toy is a perfect toy to encourage babies to hold in my opinion because of its size and design. The rounded handle makes this toy very easy for small hands to hold and secondly the rattle toy is not too heavy. My boys really enjoyed being able to hold this toy and because they could hear the toy rattle reasonably loud in their hand encouraged them to shake and wave the toy around. This is a good toy to encourage a baby's physical development and motor skills as it aids with coordination, balance and strength.
The more my boys played with this toy I could see a real difference and development in their ability to hold and shake this toy. I would say giving them many rattles I was very nervous as they were large and quite heavy and giving a toy to a baby with very little coordination and jerky movements can result in them hitting themselves with the toy; I've learnt from experience! I always supervised my boys with toys at such a young age but as they got nearer 6 months old and started to sit in a highchair I often found I had to turn around a take my eyes off my boys for 10/15 seconds. I never left my boys with toys totally unsupervised but I felt confident with the My First Maraca Toy that it was a toy I could give to my boys without having to watch them constantly as even if they did hit themselves with the rattle it was never hard enough to hurt. I would say because of the way the rattle is designed and a baby holds the rattle means it can be waved quite frantically and you do need to take care the My First Maraca is not used as a weapon if you have other children. Most parents do not have this same issue but when my boys were crawling and moving close to each other at 8 months I often used to find myself getting nervous as them wielding these toys so close to each other!
I would say that the biggest downfall to this toy is that it is so basic. It is not a toy which will keep children and babies entertained for very long periods as it simply rattles and although there is a mirrored section in the clear section so you can see a reflection and beads inside of the toy; babies will cast it aside and look for something else to play with. The age range guide says from 3 months but as a parent I think this is down to individual discretion and I'm sure we did not wait until this age when we supervised my boys playing with this toy. There are no sharp sections or choking hazards you would just need to ensure a baby does not hit or drop the top on them so I would advise playing with this toy in a more upright supportive bouncer. By 8 months old my boys simply would rattle this toy for 30 seconds, gnaw on the plastic and then cast it aside. By 1 year old my boys barely noticed this toy in the toy box and would choose other toys to play with over the My First Maraca. In my experience this toy is best for children aged 3 -6 months old.
What I particularly liked about the My First Maraca toy is the size of the toy and how light it is. As I have mentioned I felt confident giving this toy to my boys as it is less likely they would hurt themselves with it but secondly it was very easy to pop in a changing bag. Having two babies meant having to transport around a LOT of baby equipment and I often wouldn't take certain rattles and toys out with me in my handbag or changing bag because they were too big. The My First Maraca was one of my top 3 toys to put in the changing bag as it was so small and light but would still keep my boys entertained.
Durability wise I do feel the My First Maraca Toy is very durable and is of a high quality that I have come to expect from ELC. We have owned this toy for 20 months and although it is not regularly played with now it is still in very good condition. It was played with regularly for 8 months and has been dropped from highchairs, thrown from the sofa onto hard floors and suffered no damage. The printed note on the clear plastic section has scratched slightly but not so much that you can't make out this shape. The toy is very easy to clean with a damp cloth and fits easily in a steriliser. I have put this toy in our steam steriliser on many an occasion without any issues.
The ELC My First Maraca by no means is the best baby toy we have owned and isn't a toy I can get overly enthusiastic about but it serves it purpose as an effective rattle toy to keep babies entertained. The My First Maraca is colourful and keeps small babies entertained and encourages a reaction from them because of the loud rattle sound it makes but is not overly annoying and loud when rattled repeatedly. I think the biggest advantage of this toy is the design and size. It is very easy for a small young baby to hold so encourages physical development and motor skills but as a parent doesn't make you feel uneasy giving it to your baby as it is small and light so they are less likely to injure themselves with the toy.
The toy is very basic and by 1 year old my boys had totally outgrown this toy so it does have limited use because of its simple function but for £2.00 I think this was a very worthwhile purchase.
The toy is very durable and has suffered no damage from if being thrown, dropped and gnawed on. It is also a very compact rattle which is very easy to pop in a changing bag to play with on the go. Definitely a worthwhile purchase and has been put in the "to save" toy pile and will be used for baby number 3 when he or she arrives.