Sunday 9 October 2011

PlayPlax review

PlayPlax, the award-winning great British toy is back ! Or so they tell me, because when we were offered a box to review, I have to admit I'd never heard of it ! According to the manufacturers, "Forget pressing electronic buttons, stroking or watching computer screens – the iconic British game that ensures children use their own creativity and imagination is back. Designed and manufactured in England as it always was, Portobello Games has resurrected the 1960s iconic children’s toy PlayPlax."

Founder of Portobello Games and mother of four children herself, Lucy Baring had loved PlayPlax since childhood and always dug it out of the cupboard when visiting her parents with her own children. She says: “To me, PlayPlax always was and probably still is the best designed toy ever. We are really proud that in the modern culture of manufacturing everything at a low cost overseas, we have managed to make PlayPlax entirely using British manufacturers and suppliers, while remaining price competitive.”

Lucy says: “When PlayPlax was made obsolete in the early 90s, the tooling was also scrapped. We wanted to exactly replicate the first edition and so we tracked down the original factory based in Cheshire who developed new tooling and found the original dye recipes. The finish had to be perfect and Patrick (the toy’s designer Patrick Rylands)’s long-time friend and design guru Brian Webb had always wanted to design the box for it – and he finally got the chance to do it!”. Wow, that's dedication for you !

Well, both 10-year-old Sophie and 6-year-old Juliette both looked impressed when they discovered the box.

They instantly started pulling all the pieces out of the box and looking at the pretty colours (their exact words). As a parent, I have to admit that I wasn't initially overly impressed and I wasn't sure how inspired the girls would be.

It reminds me a bit of Lego in that you have totally free reign to create whatever you like, but to begin with, you're at a bit of a loss to create anything impressive-looking. I started looking at the box to see if there was a booklet with ideas of things to make in it and was surprised to see that there wasn't. There are just a few ideas on the box itself.

While I'd been looking for an instruction manual, Juliette had just got on with it and created "a hotel" !She proudly showed me the secret tunnels, windows and lifts that she'd built into her construction ! I was actually amazed at how imaginative and detailed she was in her description of her construction.

I left her for ten minutes while I went to get little brother Pierre who had just woken up from his nap and, by the time I'd changed his nappy and given him a drink, Juliette had constructed a pretty impressive tower-type construction, which she proudly showed off.

2-year-old Pierre grabbed hold of a couple of pieces and looked through them, oohing at the way everything turned red !

So young and already a leader ! The girls instantly started copying Pierre, looking through the coloured pieces too !

It's handy wearing glasses sometimes !

Looking at the world through rose-tinted spectacles ?!

It's great to find a toy that all three kids can play with together, regardless of their age, and they really did seem inspired by the brightly coloured and interestingly shaped pieces. Pierre gave them some pretty rough handling, dropping and even throwing them on the floor, and they still survived in pristine condition.

You get 48 pieces in a box, which sounds a lot but isn't actually that much, especially if you have two (or more) children playing with it at the same time. Although the whole idea of the toy is to allow your kids free scope to create whatever they like, I still would have liked a page or booklet of ideas to help get their creative juices flowing to begin with. Sophie copied the aeroplane on the box (with mind-boggling ease !) and was really chuffed with herself so I think it would be a good thing.

However, according to PlayPlax, "research on child development and creativity has found that the best toys for children are "open-ended toys" rather than those that dictate how they are played with. These foster children's imagination and have the potential to be different every time a child plays with them, requiring more thinking and creativity on the part of your children and allowing them to direct the play themselves."

It has just as many creative possibilities as Lego and has one huge advantage - it doesn't hurt so much when you walk on a piece when sneaking across your child's bedroom in the dark !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £15.99

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  1. I like the colours and the fact they are not too small so wouldn't clog up my hoover

  2. I remember this toy from my childhood. I used to love building with it. I haven't thought about it for years! So good to see it is back on the market.

  3. I don't think this toy crossed the Channel back in the days but I like the concept and the design. Sounds like a lot of fun.

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  5. Not a single word more true in my opinion! Kids can learn while having a blast with the greatest best art supplies for kids. Colored pencils, watercolor paints, and sketchbooks have helped my kid tremendously with his or her fine motor abilities and creativity. They adore using these tools because they allow them to express themselves freely and increase their sense of self-worth.


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