Life in lockdown has thrown a sharper focus on the things we really need as a family to survive and thrive. Once you get past the basics like food, toilet roll and you’ve made peace with the fact that Granny is out of bounds and you are a childcare island, we’ve rediscovered how crucial toys are. Not just for keeping kids engaged and firing up their imaginations but most importantly for creating memories.
Previously, the purchase of toys was limited to birthdays and Christmases for our own kids, presents for kids parties throughout the year and the odd splurge when mama is in a good mood. However, lockdown has turned life upside down and we’ve found ourselves at the mercy of Amazon looking for things to amuse and entertain, and literally buy us 5 minutes peace.
Our agency WhatsApp is always hot with our shared recommendations plus a running commentary of amateur child psychology. If you’re interested, a straw poll of 3 mothers concluded that boys are more expensive than girls though girls require more time investment, screens are the devil (until you need to cook dinner or take a work Zoom call) but also the ultimate bargaining chip. Whilst kids have firm brand preferences and aspirations, they genuinely just want to play with you or actually just their mates but until we get the nod from Boris here’s a list of brands that SOS (so far) during lockdown. We would love to hear yours too.
Disclaimer: We know we’re not reinventing the wheel here, we’re not intending to. What’s been most interesting is how our children are gravitating to what they already have and how we are drawn to things from our own childhoods.
Always indestructible and with a limitless amount of construction possibilities, Lego has really come into its own during isolation. Inspired by two series of Lego Master currently available on All4, every member of our family has embraced the opportunity to create 3d models from our imaginations and it has become a good way to give the kids a screen break.
Our respective households already had boxes full of the stuff from sets made and broken up stretching back to the 80s. This soon took over a whole bedroom which became known as ‘the Lego room’ from March onwards. We also still had most of the instructions from these sets and have enjoyed recreating sets from early childhood. Looking through instructions spanning the past 4-5 decades became a fun pastime in itself.
The trampoline has been a lifesaver…again. Isolation coupled with some of the best Easter weather in recent times meant this purchase was a no brainer for many families. Smyths were desperately trying to keep up with demand as trampolines regularly sold out within hours of going back in stock online. Add fairy lights and sleeping bags to recreate Luna Cinema, a can of cheap shaving cream for a foam party (“This is the best day of my life!!!) and water bombs for the amusement of Mummy who is drinking rose on the patio not Daddy who is standing by with the towels.)
Alongside trampolines we (all of us) bought a LUKAT splash mat on Amazon, not quite the foundations of Somerset House but not as cold or laborious as the paddling pool.
For my 8 year old son, video games have become a way of socialising with his friends. We soon realised that while they craved each other’s company, boys have very little to say to each other on video calls. But connect them together online to play PS4 games and they can play and talk together for hours on end. Too young for mobile phones, the neighbourhood boys are now connected on the playstation network, so they always have a gaming buddy on hand. The top games for boys are Minecraft and Fortnite. Minecraft is also on the home schooling timetable – the schools not mine – so there you go. The younger kids love Sonic Racing and Sonic Forces. Everyone has upped their gaming gadgets too with headsets and Mario Cart gaming control wheels suddenly feeling like must-have items. This increased hours spent gaming will surely see a surge in sales of licensed merch for these video game brands once shops re-open.
There’s a reason that sales of games and puzzles increased by 42% since the beginning of the year to April and it’s just that they’re honest good fun. No one ever felt bad leaving their kids to play a game of Connect Four did they? Carcassone has become a firm family favourite and loved by the Dads. Memory games also scored highly along with just about any puzzle you can get your hands on.