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I first encountered a Skwish at baby yoga with my daughter. It's a fairly simple design - two parallel wooden sticks with beads on, and another pair at right angles, anchored together with sturdy elastic - but I'd never seen anything like it. It's not a ball, it's not a rattle, it's simply mesmerising. My daughter was about four months old when she first encountered one, and is now three and a half - my son is four months old too. He has just reached the point where he can reach out and grab the toy. The elastic makes it easy to hold for small babies, and the beads make it rattle and interesting to look at. Older babies (and adults!) enjoy squashing the whole toy, to see what happens. My daughter still finds it interesting, although that may be because her brother's playing with it. The knobs on the end of the wooden rods are good to chew on, and the whole thing is very pleasing to feel, being mostly smooth wood. It's easy to manipulate, but also easy to hold in whatever position the small child chooses. It's also easy to clean by hand in a bowl of soapy water.
I own a children's day nursery and so often purchase baby and child toys. i first saw this whilst browsing in mothercare, as an adult I was intrigued and quite enjoyed playing with it, (It reminded me of those tangle toys), so I thought we would give it a try. Price - I think i paid about £12.00 for this, but a quick on line search tells me they are available for between £8 and £15 depending where you go. Initially this seems a little price for a small rattle type toy, but it is quite a different product and they are definitely durable and provide hours of entertainment so on reflection i think thats a reasonable price. What is it? - It is basically wooden rods and balls all tangled together with lengths of elastic. It is put together to resemble a ball, but due to the elastic and the fact that the rods aren't connected, it squishes when pressure is applied and can stretch when pulled. Play - The babies in my care really enjoy this toy, they like to look at it, as the bright colours are attractive. The squash it in their hands, try to move the rods around and often tangle it up and then untangle it. They pass it from hand to hand, its perfect for developing grasp as theres lots of little places for fingers to grab. They roll it ton one another, the throw it. What are they learning - Well besides fine and gross motor skills they are developing their perception, problem solving and understanding of objects. they can see their impact on the object which helps develop a sense of self. We found these so useful that we bout two more, so the children didn't fight over them. Age Range - 0-18mths, after that they can still enjoy it, but I feel that's the most appropriate age range. I like simple toys that last and provide learning as well as entertainment, for me this fits the bill.
The Whoozit Skwish was given to my son as a Christmas present by his Grandparents and I have to say that when I opened it I gave it a very strange look and almost discarded it into the 'strange gift' pile. However, I have to say this is one of the best baby toys I have come across. The toy is made up of sticks, strings and beads which are attached to the sticks. It is fantastically brightly coloured and is of a high quality. It is suitable for babies as soon as they can grab. The small sticks and string enable their tiny hands to grab hold of the toy with ease. The wooden beads have a beautiful sound when moved which attract the babies attention. My 4 month old baby appears to adore this toy and is always keen to grab it when it is given to him. He then keeps hold of it for as long as possible, which he hasn't done for any of his other toys. The only downside for this toy is its awkward shape, which prevents it from being a toy which can be easily placed in the changing bag. It is however, light enough to be carried with you.. A must for any first baby toy!
The award-winning Skwish is made by the Manhattan Toy Company, the makers of Whoozit toys. It is available in three different colours: Classic, Colour Burst and Natural. We have the Classic, which is the one in the product picture, so I'll be referring to that one when I talk about colours. The Skwish is made up of three sets of parallel wooden bars which are set at right angles to each other to form a three-dimensional hexagon. Each 14cm-long bar has a bead at each end and another bead which slides up and down. The bars are connected by thin black elastic. It is very light, which makes it suitable from birth, and is made from replenishable rubberwood. The bars are painted in pairs of contrasting colours. For example, one set of bars is green and red, with one bar being green with red beads and the other red with green beads. The other colour pairings are blue/orange and purple/yellow. Because the toy is held together with elastic, it is very malleable and can be squished (hence the name). It can be twisted, completely flattened, pulled in two different directions... it will move just about however you want it to, but as soon as you let go, it will spring back into its original shape. The sliding beads mean that you can use it as a rattle, or simply tilt it to watch the beads sliding one way and then the other. The toy is aimed at developing reaching and grasping ability, fine motor skills and visual understanding through its contrasting colours. I think it also helps to develop visual abilities in other ways as well; I'm sure that, when I bought this toy two years ago, the makers claimed that it helped to develop understanding of structure and three dimensions, but this seems to have disappeared from the product blurb (possibly because it's hard to prove). The best term I could use to describe it is 'architectural', if that doesn't seem a little grown-up for a baby's toy. (Actually, I just googled that and found that the Skwish is based on a principle of nature called tensegrity (or tension integrity) which is 'a property of structures with an integrity based on a balance between tension and compression components', according to Wikipedia. Well, you learn something new every day!) I do like the version we have, but the Colour Burst looks equally as good although the bars are not always painted in pairs of colours as they are on the Classic. However, the colours on the Classic are bright, but quite dark, whereas those on the Colour Burst are lighter while still being interesting to a baby. The Natural I'm afraid I don't see the point of at all; it is made of pale wood with some of the beads in a slightly darker wood, but there is not enough contrast between the bars for a baby to make any sense of it. I think this one would just be confusing - and therefore uninteresting - and I suspect that it has been made as a sop to the fashion for 'natural' toys. I am very impressed with the Skwish as it is so simple but so fascinating to a baby. Both my children have loved it, although my toddler is not really interested in it anymore, so it is very much a baby toy. It is a good alternative to plastic or fabric toys, or even to other wooden toys; many wooden toys available now are quite retro in appearance, which is fine, but this is a very modern toy which makes it different from anything else they have. It costs around £10 depending on where you buy it; I got ours from Toys'R'Us, but they are available from Amazon and www.whoozit-toys.co.uk, as well as some independent online retailers. (The headline is from Finding Nemo, in case it's bugging anyone).