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I am a massive fan of Melissa & Doug, an American toy company which makes all kinds of fabulous traditional and educational toys and games. I spotted this particular one on Amazon and after persuading my Husband (to be fair it *is* on the surface quite expensive) purchased it for my Son for Christmas...
So what is a latches board you might ask? Well the clue is in the name - a latches board is a large wooden board measuring approximately 45cm x 30cm and on the board are various sections which are fastened with a different type of brass latch. There are 6 types of latches on the board and they are all opened in different ways, with some needing to be turned and others lifted or unhooked. The idea behind it is that your child (suitable for ages 3+, but my 2 year old loves it!) has to figure out how to undo each latch to open up the little wooden doors. Essentially a problem solving activity, it also aids hand to eye co-ordination and helps to develop motor skills.
Each latch is on a coloured and numbered door, which adds an additional educational element to the board and behind each door are different animals in the same colour as the door. So for example door number 5 is green and has a security chain fastening it. Once you have negotiated the latch and open the door, you will see that behind it are 5 green frogs therefore reinforcing the colour and the number that was on the door. Other animals hiding behind the doors are a purple horse (nearly extinct I believe...), 2 blue dogs, 3 yellow cats, 4 red rabbits, aforementioned 5 green frogs and 6 orange goldfish. Some of the doors are single and some open like double doors, some open out to the side and others lift up, so there is a nice amount of variety to the board.
I love the fact that the board is so well made - this really is a toy that will last for years and years and can be enjoyed by many generations! The wood is solid and nicely thick, without being too heavy, the illustrations are painted onto the board with brightly coloured (but non-toxic) paint and the latches and hinges themselves are high quality brass fittings. Whilst I deliberated buying it due to the cost, I am really glad that I decided to purchase it because the quality really does speak for itself.
Needless to say this toy was my little boy's favourite when he opened it on Christmas day and whilst he doesn't play with it every day, it is one of those toys which when rediscovered in the toy box brings delight to his little face. Not only can he manipulate most of the latches by himself (there are a couple of more difficult ones, which are managing to evade him currently!), but it's also a great learning tool for teaching colours, number recognition and counting and also animal names. As a parent I really like that it is totally safe and there are no small parts which could come off and that it is a simple, but brilliantly made traditional wooden toy with no batteries!
If you can overcome the price tag - currently £18.96 on Amazon, it really does make a fantastic toy for your toddler or pre-schooler.