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Potentially huge wooden railway system with endless trains and accessories you could buy, it is a toy that can grow with your family and over time until you run out of space, or money!
From 3 years although it is suitable for younger children (from about 18 months) if you are prepared to spend a lot of time putting the track back together. I have a 6 year old who is showing no signs of interest in this waning so I would guess the upper limit is at least 8.
There are two main areas of interest for a child playing with this toy firstly pushing the trains around the track and later designing and building more and more complex tracks. My 6 year old has not really got past the first stage yet so I am hoping for many more years of play building tracks for his brother.
The beauty of brio is in it's simplicity. Very little of it has moving parts or small pieces to be broken. Part of our brio collection is 25 years old and has been through 6 children.
There is a huge amount of this stuff available, many different shaped track pieces, bridges, tunnels, stations, trains etc etc. If you had the space to put it in you could amass a ridiculous amount. However you can start with just a very small track and build it up over time, perfect when you are struggling to think of birthday or christas presents!
Brio is expensive especially if you buy the Thomas the Tank pieces (incidently these are the ones most likely to break!) but if your child likes trains I guarantee it will be your best value for money toy. I am not lying when I say my son has played with his every single day for the last 3 years, I can't think of any other toy I can say that about and that is why I love Brio!
BRIO 30156 Wooden Toys: 50 Coloured Blocks
Wooden blocks have to be the most enduring toy for young children. I have fond memories of my basic wooden building blocks which I used up until the age of 8 or 9, creating bridges, castles, houses, dragons lairs and all the other props necessary to the action I was imagining. So when my daughter was born, we bought her a set. So did my mum. So did my husbands parents. So did my best friend. Then I found a set very cheap in a charity shop and another at a car boot fair. After a while and after lots of sore feet (those things have sharp corners!) my daughter stopped showing so much interest in them and abandoned them for some of her newer and more exciting toys. The bricks were all packed up and put away in a cupboard to be brought out infrequently and irregularly. Then last Christmas the final present from my father to my daughter was these blocks. I have to admit I found it very hard to get excited and I feel very guilty about it because they are brilliant. Blocks of wood? Exciting? Yes indeed and I shall tell you why.
Brio is a well established (since 1884) Swedish producer of wooden toys. They have a reputation for durability, quality and expertise in making toys which help childrens development. Their website is Brio.net and I would heartily encourage you to visit and have a look at the rest of their range. It is well laid out and easy to use and will give you a list of retailers for their products in your area. They are probably best known for their wooden train sets, but they have a range of other good quality wooden toys which are well worth purchasing. A quote on the website about these blocks says:
Put your junior architect to work! More than just a whole lot of fun, playing with blocks develops abstract thinking, hand-eye coordination, motor skills and concentration.
An attractive cube shape in ordinary cardboard. It has a very striking black border which surrounds a picture of the bricks inside. The box is superior in design to any other brick box I have seen before, drawing your attention and encouraging you to pick it up. A picture of this box can be seen on the Amazon.co.uk page for this product. It doesnt overwhelm you with additional information (these are blocks of wood after all, how much can you say?!), simply stating the recommended age (12 months). At the bottom of the box was a white cotton drawstring bag to store the blocks in. My daughter has adopted it as her shopping bag so I can testify to its strength and durability! The drawstring opening is quite small however, so I found it hard to fit more than one or two through the opening at any time, something I did find annoying until the bag was claimed by Olivia that is!
When I opened the box I wasnt impressed to see each block individually wrapped in white tissue paper. It took me a good five minutes to remove all of the wrapping and then I had to pick it up and recycle it all hardly environmentally friendly. This product claims to have chip proof paint and this is what we are paying the extra for, so it seemed a little hypocritical to have to protect all of the blocks like this.
However the blocks themselves were a total surprise. Instead of the normal bright primary colours and pastels that are usually the chosen colours for this sort of product, these blocks are limited in the range of colours used. There is a strong black (how often do manufacturers use black in childrens toys?), a brilliant white, a deep red, a lush verdant green and a salmon pink. These colours are simple and vivid, making them easy to locate in a packed box (and on the floor!), extremely attractive and striking appealing for adults as well as children. The Brio logo is printed on four or five of the blocks in black or white depending on the block colour.
The blocks themselves are very lightweight and easy to handle. This is mainly due to the special paint used on the outside of the blocks, one that is designed to be chip proof and fade proof according to Brio. It gives the blocks a wonderful shiny, smooth, tactile quality that encourages you to handle and play with them. I find my daughter is drawn more to these blocks than her other sets and will play longer when using them. The rest of my family are drawn to them as well and have created some very intricate masterpieces for Olivia, who alas, does not appreciate their skill and prefers a more destructive approach!
There is a limited range of chunky shapes:
White long rectangles
Green short rectangles
Pink half ovals
This means that it is much easier to build as you arent dealing with a range of different shaped and sized blocks. There is enough of a range to be able to stimulate imaginative play, but not so few that the blocks are dull and uninteresting. The pink shapes are designed to fit into the arch shapes, but they seem to be slightly too small, the fit is not very satisfactory or snug.
I had to think about this long and hard before deciding that there arent any. Loath as I am to give a product an overwhelming positive review, I honestly cant find any real problems or issues with this product. I have a few little niggles with the shape sizes, but it wouldnt put me off buying them again. The price is a little high (see below) but you are buying a quality product which will last for years and can be put aside for grandchildren.
Out of all of the sets of bricks that Olivia has these are our definite favourites. They are beautiful to look at and an absolute pleasure to use. They have had a lot of abuse, including being chewed, thrown and banged and they still look good. Despite being left on the balcony in the sun they have not faded and whilst the paint is dented in places, the wood underneath has not been revealed. None of the paint has chipped off either, something I am always concerned about when buying painted toys for children. They are very architecturally striking and definitely in a class of their own when it comes to building bricks. I have found these very useful for teaching my daughter shapes as well as colours, she can now confidently name triangles and cyclinders as well as a range of colours. A useful additional learning tool.
They are also ideal for people who may be put off by the garish colours of modern childrens toys and perhaps would choose something in keeping with a modern interior décor. I hasten to add that this could never, ever be me my house looks like a cross between a bombsite and a pigsty!
***********Price & Stockists******************
Brio.net will give you a list of stockists.
Amazon.co.uk sell them for £19.99
There are no Marketplace offers.
*************Other Similar Products********
These also come in a box of 100: BRIO 30159 Wooden Toys: 100 Coloured Blocks
These cost £29.99
You can also buy plain Brio unpainted blocks and the normal primary coloured blocks.
Brio's history began in 1884 with basket-maker Ivar Bengtsson. Today Brio is a global corporation, and the biggest in wooden toys. Every parent wants his or her child to have a happy childhood. The meaning of a happy childhood varies from family to family, and between cultures and over time. But there are still some common factors. Bringing up a child in a safe environment and providing the stimulation that develops the child's various needs are common denominators for all parents. Brio sees it as its task to contribute to the child's development by offering good toys that stimulate the child through play. Thanks to in-depth know-how, Brio develops toys that always generate joy for the child, while satisfying the child's needs in various phases of development. Brio is a reliable partner for parents, a support.