Product Type: Mothercare baby toys
Newest Review: ... a miniature Hulk before now over this 'shapes getting in the way of other shapes' issue and physically flung the Hammering Bench across the... more
Stop! Hammer Time!
Mothercare Hammering Bench
Member Name: chrisandmark
Mothercare Hammering Bench
Advantages: Helps with hand to eye coordination plus other things, fun and entertaining for little ones
Disadvantages: If several shapes are partially hammered through it can get pretty crowded underneath the bench!
This is one of those toys which has definitely stood the test of time in our house; my sister bought it for Hollie's first Christmas when she was six months old, eventually having grown into the toy she used it amazingly regularly and enjoyed incorporating it into her games right up until she was roughly three years of age - at which point David came along and it has now been used for well over a year by him, although as a boy with an awful temper I've recently had to take it away from him as I really do not like to encourage tiny naughty children to beat their bigger siblings (and parents!) with a hammer.
So, almost five years use from a toy which at the time cost less than a tenner. Pretty good, eh? But it's not only been regularly used, what's the most impressive thing is that this toy is hit by a hammer on a daily basis but it's still in immaculate condition after all this time - the pieces are all still there thanks to them being reasonably chunky in size and looking at the bench itself I can see there isn't so much as a single mark or dent in it. Absolutely amazing.
Shape-wise it's identical to the one you can see above; ours has a different colour scheme as the bench is a pale green and while the shapes are the same colour it's been mixed up slightly, with the stars being yellow and purple (instead of the yellow and red combo you can see) and the other shapes are similarly altered. Not a problem, although I must admit I do prefer the blue bench for the simple reason that it would match David's tool set which is what it sits next to on his out of reach 'noisy toys' shelf. Once my initial irritation about it being plastic rather than wood wore off I saw this was actually a good thing as the bench is noticeably lighter than my friends similarly sized wooden shapes bench, meaning the kids can pick it up and move it around themselves much more easily than the wooden style. I like the fact that the bench, shapes and hammer are so rounded in design, something which came in useful this morning when David tripped and slammed his face straight into the edge of the bench - he's got a small bruise, but it's nowhere near as nasty as it would have been if the corner had been pointed.
The bench itself is bulkier than it appears in the photo, it's just over 30cm long with an overall height of 16cm - the flat 'shelf' where the shape holes are located is roughly halfway up and is placed well for the shapes to be easily (kinda) knocked through. Hollie always loved the sound of them hitting the tiled floor of her playroom when she was small, and as a parent I appreciated the fact that they didn't drop with too much of a clatter due to the lightweight nature of the shapes. I always feel it's a shame they didn't give the hammer a squeak as that would have been fabulous to hear each time the hammer hit a shape!
The four different shapes (eight pieces altogether) fit well into the holes which are cut into the top of the bench and both Hollie and David have spent literally hundreds of hours between them just putting the shapes into place and then hammering them out again. The shapes fit snugly so that a few hammer strikes are required to pop them all the way out, this is also a bonus when it's time to put the toy away as the holes will hold the shapes in place so there are no loose pieces to get lost or misplaced. The gap between the bench and the floor is *just* enough to allow the shapes to be hammered out, but this can cause problems sometimes as the hammer doesn't always shove the shape all the way out and you'll have to use your fingers to pull it the last few millimetres - not an issue for an older child, but if the surrounding shapes are hammered through to various degrees a chubby toddler hand sometimes gets hold of the wrong shape or pulls it awkwardly so that it sticks against another one. This sounds like a minor irritation but it's bizarrely frustrating for David, he's turned into a miniature Hulk before now over this 'shapes getting in the way of other shapes' issue and physically flung the Hammering Bench across the room! I think I've bred a baby with psychopathic tendencies.
Mothercare claim the main boon for this toy is the fact that it will improve hand to eye coordination, and I agree with this wholeheartedly as it's one of those toys where I can observe my babies making improvements in this area - I can remember the day Hollie actually managed to fit the star into its corresponding hole, she had had mega trouble with this particular shape and I was made up for her when she finally did it! This was through perseverance, and in my opinion this is where the fun nature of the toy really becomes useful - babies and toddlers will ALWAYS love banging things and the fact that this toy is such fun for them means they're not even aware that you're helping them to learn new and important skills. I've found it useful recently to help David learn his colours - he's not a good speaker, in fact he's barely speaking at all yet, but by asking him to pass me the red or yellow shape I can stay up to date with his knowledge of things despite the fact that he's being a very lazy boy when it comes to putting things into words!
The bench makes a good role play toy too as it's ideal for playing with alongside a kiddies tool set for a building game, Hollie used to play with it at the same time of her Mega Bloks and would build the foundations of her house while hammering at the shapes for sound effects and real bricklaying actions! Brilliant! I had been hoping to move it outside into their Little Tikes play house but unfortunately David's penchant for hitting people has put a stop to this idea and it's gone into the loft instead ready for when he's prepared to be a little less boisterous! I'd say the recommended age of twelve months is pretty much spot on and although babies of this age won't really get the whole hammering thing they'll definitely enjoy exploring the different shapes and textures - David particularly enjoyed biting on the triangular shape during a bout of painful teething; examining both now I can see there isn't so much as a hint of a toothmark in either of them, uber impressive considering David is (and always has been) such an aggressive biter.
I think this is a great toy for babies, toddlers and beyond. I've been impressed not only by the sheer amount of play time my two youngest children have had out of it, but also how long it's lasted despite these immeasurable hours they've spent banging on it!
Summary: A fantastic toy for babies and toddlers - but not my particular hammer-hitting toddler right now!
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