Product Type: ELC Outdoor Toy
Newest Review: ... big for my three year old and just big enough for adults sized fingers, so they can be used my everyone. The bowling balls are fairly li... more
Member Name: sandemp
Date: 17/05/11, updated on 19/05/11 (106 review reads)
Advantages: Very well made, not too babyish, help child learn new skills while having fun
Disadvantages: No storage crate/bag, bases could be a little bigger
With Summer rapidly approaching we decided to get some outdoor toys for one year old Freddy to play with. As the Early Learning Centre have been running a three for two offer on outdoor toys, we picked up a few from there. One of the toys we picked up was this skittle set containing six skittles and two balls which cost £6 when bought separately.
==Set Them Up==
Billed as being suitable for children over the age of two, these skittles come supplied in a cardboard tray shrink-wrapped in plastic. Unfortunately the tray is not reusable, which means that you will need to find some way of storing them when not in use. This did actually disappoint me a little, it would have been a nice touch if they had been supplied in a plastic crate or even bag.
The six skittles are all brightly coloured, with there being two each of red, blue and green while the balls are a bright yellow. All of the pieces are made of tough, rigid plastic, meaning that they can withstand being thrown around, banged against hard surfaces, trodden and even chewed on. But the downside to this tough plastic is that if you are hit with one it will hurt. Although the skittles are light enough for a young child to carry, there is still just enough weight behind them to allow them to remain standing in all but the strongest of gusts.
While the skittles are a reasonable height for young children to hold at about 22cm, the base has a very small circumference. This means that it takes extremely good hand-eye coordination to stand them upright on a level surface (such as concrete or short pile carpet) and it's even harder to get them to stay upright on grass. To be honest I do feel that even a two year would soon become frustrated and the design would be improved by making the bases just a little larger.
The yellow balls are much better designed and the with a circumference of 27 cm are the perfect size to fit into little hands. What I especially like about these balls is that they are moulded to look just like real bowling balls, with three little indents for the fingers and thumb. What I don't particularly like about them is how hard they are, these are not balls that I would allow any toddler to play with unsupervised as if they hit breakables they will cause damage.
All in all from a purely aesthetic point of view, as a parent I would probably give this skittle set four out of five. They are undeniably well made and durable, having survived several weeks of play with no sign of damage (including going for a swim in the paddling pool). But they are very hard, meaning that there is the potential for them to cause damage (to both children and property) and the relatively small bases mean they are very hard for a small child to set up on their own.
==And Knock Them Down==
To be honest the main reason I bought this set of skittles is because Freddy has a slight delay in his gross motor skills and I remember a physiotherapist using a similar set to help one of my much older children (who has mild cerebral palsy). When we first bought this set, Freddy had only just starting sitting unaided (albeit very wobbly sitting) and wasn't yet crawling, so I hoped that this would encourage him to spend longer sitting upright while reaching and then hopefully crawl.
So to begin with we would play with this set indoors, in the hall and would set them up for him and then help him roll the ball towards them. Of course at this point it was more a case of me doing all the rolling, but whenever we knocked any of the skittles over we would let off a big cheer, which Freddy thought was great fun. As time went on Freddy became far more confident at sitting and starting trying to roll the ball himself. At this point the fact that the skittles are so light and their bases small really came into it's own as it meant that even though Freddy didn't roll the ball very hard, if the ball did hit a skittle (no matter how gently) it would fall over. Cue lots more cheering and a real look of accomplishment on Freddy's face. Of course this does mean that every time we play with these I have to spend a lot of time setting the skittles up, but that's part of the fun.
As well as playing with these as a conventional skittle set, Freddy finds plenty of other uses for the pieces. He loves to bang the skittles against different surfaces, just like drumsticks, and they do make a great noise, I just have to watch that he doesn't try hitting other people or my TV. Being a child who is fascinated by balls he also likes playing for the balls on their own. The balls are a great size and weight for Freddy to hold and they roll along the floor with very little force, meaning they are fantastic for him to practice rolling them and then crawling after them.
As well as helping Freddy to play with these indoors we regularly take these out into the garden, especially when we have friends round to play. Freddy's little friend is two and she also enjoys playing with this set, although again she finds it difficult to stand the skittles up and sometimes gets frustrated with them. But the squeals of delight as she knocks them down (not always with the ball) is a delight to hear. So from a young child's point of view I would definitely say that these are a success and would say that Freddy and his friend would quite happily give these skittles four stars out of five.
==Learning is Fun, fun, fun==
Now you may not believe it, but for a such a simple toy this skittle set provides an amazing number of opportunities to help your child learn while they are having fun. Firstly (and in our case most importantly) they will help your child develop their all important gross motor skills. For the newly sitting baby they are brilliant for helping them improve their confidence. By simply setting them up in a triangle just within reach and then allowing your baby to knock them down, you'll find that they will help him improve his balance while also learning a little about cause and effect. As baby gets a little older, you can set the skittles up a little further away and then help them roll the ball towards them. Start with the skittles quite close (but out of reach) and set up in a fairly large triangle (to give a larger target) and as they get better move them further away and place them in a steadily smaller triangle. Don't forget to be uber enthusiastic and cheer and clap every time a skittle falls over though. Once your child is crawling, they can also use the balls as balls, rolling them along the floor and chasing them. Although you will spend a lot of time setting the skittles back over, it won't take long for your child to decide they want to help, and doing so will help them improve their hand-eye coordination, although there will be plenty of frustration along the way.
With older toddlers, as well as simply praising and cheering as they knock the skittles down I would also take the opportunity to talk to them about how many they've knocked down and which colour as well as those that are left standing. This is a great way of introducing simple maths concepts such as counting, adding and even taking away. In fact this is something I do with Freddy now at just thirteen months, because at this age children are like little sponges and they take in far more than they can express.
As to the age range these are suitable for, well as is often the case, I do feel that The Early Learning Centre is being rather over cautious with their minimum of two years. All of the pieces are large enough not to cause a hazard for young toddlers and babies and they are extremely well made and durable with no jagged seams or sharp edges. Personally, I feel these are safe and suitable for babies from the time that they are sitting (even if they still need pillows behind them). Ok, they will need a lot of help to play with them at this stage, but it's so much fun that I can't see why that would be a problem for most. I love spending time helping Freddy play with these. I would say that I would never allow children to play with these unsupervised no matter what age, they are simply too hard and the chances of someone getting hurt if hit on the head or something damaged are just too high. As for an upper age limit, that would really depend on the child, but as these don't look in the least bit babyish, I can see children up to six or seven being happy to play with them.
==Time To Pack Up==
This is a very well made skittle set, that while more expensive than those available from, say, Argos, are also far better quality. Personally I can't recommend these enough, both as the game of skittles in general and this set to be specific. This set is so well made and look so grown up that I can see them being played with for years to come, and therefore am definitely recommending that if you are thinking about buying a set of skittles, then spend that few pound more and buy these. Of course they aren't quite perfect, I would have liked a crate to have been supplied to store the set in and feel the bases could have been a little bigger. But all in all this is a great set and worthy of four stars out of five.
Summary: The quality shows