When my oldest son was starting school and have some difficulty with his hands the gentleman from the school board who used to come to visit us very highly recommended lacing and sewing toys. I have a lot of respect for the officials who visit us, both have been very knowledgeable, and both have been completely spot on with any recommendations made. So I immediately bought my oldest a number of sewing and lacing projects and I did find them quite helpful. Fast forward a few years and my youngest is now starting school. Thankfully he does not suffer from Raynauds, but he does have some issues with left and right, and I felt he could do with some help in fine motor skills to prepare for writing. Most of the sets for my oldest had been crafts kits - so could not be re-used. So - I ended up buying several lacing / threading sets for my youngest. In addition to the fine motor skills - I had hoped to use these to help teach letter recognition.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
26 plastic upper case letters - roughly 7 cm or 3 3/4 " high.
6 brightly coloured laces - 36" long.
I had intended these for my youngest son only, but both children ended up lacing together words right away. My son finally managed to get all of his letters down except lower case "b" and "d" just before these arrived, so they weren't as useful for letter recognition as I hoped, but then that is not the fault of the product. We have played a few phonics games with these, choosing a letter at random and then racing about the house to find an item that begins with that letter. They were quite useful for helping him get the letters pointed in the right direction as you can easily place these backwards. The strangest thing was that he often spelled entire words backwards with the letters reversed as well. So if you held a mirror over them, the word would read perfectly in a mirror. While I wasn't thrilled about this - it did give me some idea of some of the things we need to work on.
The biggest use for these letters quickly became spelling. My son is working on BOB books and Hooked on Phonics at the moment, and most of the words in his books are three letter c-v-c words. These letters have been brilliant to reinforce what he is learning with the books, as well playing a word building game. To do this I place two letters making an end sound, and he finds all the letters which can make a complete word with those such as "h + at", ",m+ at" etc... He has really come on leaps and bounds with both reading and spelling using these letters.
While I feel reading and spelling are what makes this set worth buying, my sons would disagree. They feel the best part of this set is sewing words together, especially their names and hanging them up about the house. They can however be rather rude and spell something like "S-T-U-P-I-D" to hang on their father when he is absorbed in a video game - but hey at least they are spelling.
My sons also occasionally enjoy stitching a letter or words onto their peg board toy, but these letters are big and one word takes up an awful lot of the board. We have found these wonderful for tracing as well. My son can lay out the letters on a paper, and trace the words. This leaves a very thick blocky letter which can be coloured in. The effect is brilliant for things like home made greeting cards, or in our case home made school books. A parent can trace, paste or draw a picture for a familiar word such as the characters in our BOB books. Then the child traces the word and colours the whole lot in.
Our biggest problem with this set is that you only get one of each letter. This really limits the words you can spell, and meant my oldest could not even spell his name. The only solution for us was to buy a second set. I believe I paid £9.99 for the first set, but the price has gone up, and the second set costs me roughly £11. The current price is £11.28 on Amazon. I did search everywhere and was unable to find a cheaper set. So I have spent £21 in total for these letters, but I honestly do feel that it has been money well spent. I would certainly consider buying the numbers as well if I were not skint at the moment with Christmas. I would love a couple of lower cases sets as well, but these are only available as upper case letters. They have a lovely set with shapes as well, and once again - if I could afford it - I would buy these as well. I think it would be wonderful to sew say a duck onto the front of a lace and let the child find the letters to spell each word.
The manufacturers recommend this for ages 3 - 6. I am quite certain the reason this is not recommended for under age 3 is the worry that an infant could entangle themselves in the laces. However, I feel that if you removed the laces, these letters would be ideal for a toddler to hold and feel the shape of each letter. They are made of a very sturdy thick plastic. An older two year old could even try the lacing with a parent helping. As to upper age limit - I do not feel that I would buy these for a child over age 6. However I do feel that once bought and paid for, these will be used for many years. I could see an adult using these for card making and I can think of many other arts and crafts uses. My oldest child is still having some fun with lacing words together as well. I would also recommend these up until at least age 8 for children with difficulties in spelling. Some children really do learn through touch best, and being able to touch and feel the word is a huge help to tactile learners.
My sons have both given these toys 5 out of 5 stars. I did find them a bit pricey for plastic and string, but in all honesty these are a very high quality and well made item. The fact that I bought a second set even thought the price had increased says something about the quality. I feel that these are a very versatile toy, and this makes them worth far more in my opinion as well. When a toy can only be used in one way, children quickly grow bored with it, but we just seem to keep finding more and more new things to try with these. Best of all, they have really made a difference in my child's literacy skills, and he has enjoyed learning. It doesn't feel like school work when we are playing with these - it is just a fun game. What better way to learn?
Plastic capital letters made of resistant plastic. It comes with 6 cords.