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The Early Learning Centre hopscotch game that I am reviewing here was actually a chance purchase after searching in the Early Learning Centre for a present for my daughters 2nd birthday. I knew that she had been enjoying the floor puzzles on the mornings she attends nursery, but none of what was on display really caught my eye, it wasn't until I was leaving the store that I spotted this large hopscotch floor puzzle on sale for £7.50, half the price it was originally marked up at and half the price of the similar floor puzzles I had just been looking at.
Although the low price of this set made it a far easier purchasing decision than spending double this amount, it also caught my eye for a couple of other reasons. I thought that this would be a great gift for a 2 year old that is just getting confident enough on their feet to start truly testing the boundaries of their balance and co-ordination, as well as showing an interest in numbers which I like to enforce wherever possible; I felt the eye-catching, bold, multi-coloured design would really draw her attention towards the numbers. It was for the above reasons combined that resulted in me purchasing this as a present for our daughter with the hope it would live up to my expectations.
Packaging and Contents:-
The very first thing that struck me as a good idea was near impossible to miss when I spotted this Early Learning Centre hopscotch for the first time, this is the fact that the outer retail packaging actually doubles up as a durable carry bag with a zipped top which can be re-packed with relative ease time and time again. Whilst this seems a small thing this helps to fight the battle we seem to be slowly losing, which is to try and teach our daughter everything has it place, the fact that this hopscotch has its very own carry case often ends up with her asking to put it back after playing with it so as she can carry it about which in my eyes is a good thing.
Inside of the carry bag are 10 multi-coloured tiles with puzzle shaped edges which allow them to fit together in numerical order in a classic hopscotch design. Also included are 3 throwing discs of which unfortunately we only have 2 left, as I can solidly confirm that this toy is not in the slightest bit dog proof, which wasn't a consideration until I clicked too late that the discs resemble Frisbees which my dog adores to chase and chew. Once laid out the hopscotch is most definitely eye catching and bright and our daughter couldn't wait to get it out of the packaging let alone jump all over it.
The aim of the game is to throw one of the circular discs as far along the hopscotch grid as possible, hop to retrieve it placing one foot on each tile with alternate hops, then turn around and hop back, all without tripping, stumbling, or veering from the correct course. Whilst this sounds simple enough it's easy enough for an adult to get their feet in a tangle let alone a 2 year old. Our daughter who is now closer to 3 years old is just starting to get to grips with playing the game properly and now able to tell me if I've been cheating. So whilst this game is probably more suited for ages 3 years + we have still managed to get good use out of it in the meantime and can see it lasting for a while longer with it hopefully providing entertainment value for a couple of years yet.
The puzzle pieces and discs are all made out of compressed foam with a dimpled finish on the top to give grip for little feet whilst the bottom is a flat finish to provide maximum grip on any given surface. We have a laminate floor in our sitting room and have set this hopscotch up numerous times without any major incidents of it slipping or causing an accident. It does move and slip ever so slightly on such a smooth surface meaning it needs to be readjusted occasionally to keep it a safe distance from the fish-tank and TV stand; however on carpet or even real wood floors with a smooth finish I do not think that this would be a problem.
Setting this game up is half the fun and has helped a lot with our daughters counting and number recognition in more ways than one. Whilst setting this up occasionally the numbers would pop out of the middle of the puzzle pieces which at first was a nuisance. This was until our daughter decided it would be a good idea to pop them all out whilst trying to put them in order. She still needs a little help with putting the puzzle pieces together in order as well as once dis-assembled as part of her very own game, however can now count unaided 1 through to 10 whilst pointing to the right numbers. Whilst this set cannot hold 100% acclaim for teaching our daughter to count it quite obviously helped her along the way. Another use we have found for the numbers whilst free of the puzzle tiles is to use as stencils to draw around the outside of with a pencil for colouring in meaning a set of A4 sized numbers with the appropriate word spelt out underneath can be easily made.
As mentioned when we first got this set our daughter was walking well and really starting to test the boundaries of balance and co-ordination with regards to jumping, hopping and generally any form of movement other than walking as this was already mastered and beginning to get a bit of a bore. I feel that this game has definitely helped improve our daughters' co-ordination as far as her feet are concerned, as well as providing exercise for and therefore strengthening her leg and core muscle strength with all the jumping, hopping and bending which all helps with posture later on in life.
One concern I had initially was that the foam tiles would be quite weak, not stand up to any sort of bending and break easily. Fortunately this product has proved me wrong, whilst we make every effort to ensure our toys are looked after inevitably they will receive some form of abuse at some point in their life, and they have stood up to this well. The tiles wipe clean easily however are not really designed to be used outside, but our daughter would be thrilled to be given a piece of chalk and told to decorate the path with a hopscotch design so this is not really a downside more an upside that we can play hopscotch indoors without drawing on the floor.
The fact that this game is educational in a way that our daughter learns without even realising it is worth the initial outlay of the £7.50 that we paid. This is with the additional added bonus that it provides a decent amount of exercise for our daughter, as well as taking 5 minutes either side to set up and tidy away. Whilst tidying up may not seem like the greatest activity in the world, when trying to fill a cold rainy day with indoor activities it's actually a plus point.
With all that has been mentioned in this review to our daughters' development which in part has been due to this simple £7.50 floor puzzle, which with a little imagination can be used for a couple more purposes than the manufacturer originally intended. When I first brought this Early Learning Centre hopscotch set I felt that the original £14.99 price tag was a little steep yet the £7.50 that I paid was a bargain. Having owned this set getting on for a year now there is little sign of wear and it still come up really clean, and it has actually impressed me enough to change my initial opinion on the original retail price. Whilst I would obviously like to pay as little as possible for anything that I buy I feel that even at £14.99 this Early Learning Centre hopscotch set would still provide good value for money.
So overall even with the usual higher selling price taken into consideration I would say that this product is worth a definite and solid 5/5 star recommendation from me. The Early Learning Centre have done a great job of creating a child proof toy with an excellent lifespan.
I remember the day I bought this Hopscotch set because it was the day after my son was born - Christmas Eve 2010. We were actually on our way home from the hospital but Mark, left on his own to complete Christmas that year (it was never going to end well...), remembered he needed some last minute Christmas Dinner bits so popped into the huge Tesco next door to the hospital - it's a sad sign of the times that David had his first 'outside the hospital' feed on Tesco car park while we waited for his dad and sister to complete the Chrimbo shopping! As well as all the necessities Mark came out with a few last minute stocking fillers, including this most un-winterlike Hopscotch game which is possibly the last thing I would have considered buying during a snowy Christmas period - but a game which has been played to death since the kids received it.
Basically for your money you get ten foam tiles, each with a number on, plus four circles of foam to replace the stones you would have thrown in years gone by to play Hopscotch. The tiles are edged with a kind of jigsaw cut so they fit together nicely, children need to know their numbers to set the Hopscotch grid up properly as the tiles will fit in any order as they're uniform in size and shaping - it would be easy to get the numbers all mixed up and you can't have a proper game of Hopscotch like that! Even then at three Hollie could count well enough to get all numbers in the correct order (Christmas Day was largely spent with the more impressive toys being ignored and this cheap garden toy put together to run down the hallway), she knew the gist of the game despite the fact that she decided to play her own version of the rules although has since mastered how to play 'properly'.
The game is very simple. Throw one of the circular foam discs onto the grid and Hopscotch your way up the number it's landed on, pick it up and Hopscotch back - the aim of the game is to get back to the beginning without putting a foot where you shouldn't or tottering off the grid altogether. You can play one of two ways; freestyle where you toss the disc at will or in a more structured manner by aiming for the disc to land on each number in order, hopping a further distance with each throw. Hollie and David play both ways, as well as making up their own games regularly to ensure they don't get bored with the traditional game!
The only issue I've found is that the foam discs are extremely lightweight and don't always go where you want them to, especially if it's a bit breezy outside. We've gotten around this by gluing a 2p coin to each one to add a little more weight, this still isn't perfect but my partner was loathe to use anything heavier as a weight for fear of splitting the foam while in use - at least now we can ensure the disc at least hits the Hopscotch grid even if it doesn't manage to get to the number we were aiming for!
Considering we've had this Hopscotch set for such a long time I'm extremely impressed with how well it's lasted, not least because it's been stored in situ outside in the garden for weeks at a time. It came in a thin plastic bag which I think could be used to store the tiles, we didn't keep it as the tiles were too tight for Hollie to get them into the bag comfortably so I've just used one of the large Argos carrier bags which keeps everything together without having to worry too much about being massively careful when it comes to sliding the tiles in. The only damage I can see is a little sun fading to a few of the tiles, which has obviously made them look a little untidy in places but at the end of the day this is an outdoor toy so it was never going to remain in perfect condition for the duration - at two and a half years old I think this bunch of thin foam has done pretty well really to even be in one piece (well, ten pieces - you know what I mean!), I can forgive a little sun damage!
As I no longer have the packaging I have absolutely no idea what age range ELC have elected to give the Hopscotch set, although based on other ELC toys we have I'm guessing it would be their usual '36 months and over' recommendation. Yep, just checked on their site and it is three years. Erm... why? This is soft pliable foam, the discs (sans 2p coins!) can't be swallowed and I'm pretty sure that even the sharpest of baby teeth wouldn't be able to rip off a section of foam for the child to choke on - obviously supervision is key, but I personally have had no qualms about David (who is the same age as the Hopscotch set!) playing with it at any point and he's had masses of fun with it right from when he started crawling and would entertain himself by crawling first on the concrete, then on the grass and finally over the foam grid to learn about different textures.
Mark paid £4 for this Hopscotch set from Tesco, as far as I know it's still available in there although I have noticed our local (as in ten miles away!) branch has been stocking less ELC products this year so you may have to look online - I do recommend this one however as my mum bought a cheaper version from a local discount shop which warped very quickly and soon became unusable, this set from ELC has stood the test of time and remains a much used outdoor toy.
At a Glance Slot-together foam hopscotch for indoors or outdoors. Good for co- ordination and counting. Features and benefits for ELC Hopscotch Slot-together foam hopscotch for indoors or outdoors. Good for co-ordination and counting.Warning! Not suitable for children under 36 months.