Top Ten Toy Picks from Spring Fair 2016

Over the weekend I went to Spring Fair in the Birmingham NEC, if you’ve never been, it is THE event to attend if you’re a retailer looking for new suppliers and stock. I went with two hats on, as a blogger and as the Marketing and PR person for a toy shop I work for. The Spring Fair was huge, every hall in the NEC was filled with a different category, but we (me and That Lancashire Lass) were primarily interested in the children’s toys. It was a  long and tiring day, but it was incredibly interesting and I’ve got a better idea about what will be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year (too soon?). 

Here are my top picks from the toy hall at Spring Fair 2016 (Hall 5).

Hippychick Ltd (stand 5Eo1) – Pl-ug Den Building Kits, retailing from £12.99, it is an innovative den building kit, by using the specially designed hooks, suckers, clamps and pegs you can build your own indoor or outdoor den. All you need is a sheet or blanket and some imagination. 

Bigjigs (stand 5G01) – I’m a big fan of the Bigjigs wooden toys, but their “Green Toys” were new to me. The Green Toys are classic toys constructed from recycled plastic and other environmentally friendly materials. I particularly liked their selection of chunky vehicles which had a nice retro vibe. Suitable for ages 1+ I know my 5 year old would very happily play with these.

Fiesta Crafts Ltd (stand 5L04) – Fiesta Crafts are well worth looking at full stop, but my favourite new thing on their stand were their “Stickabouts”. A bit like modern day fuzzy-felt, the Stickabouts have a scene on a board and a load of “stickers” to place, but these glue-free stickers easily peel off and re-stick anywhere you want. If they stick to the wall then they easily peel off. This is a bit of a welcome sticker revelation to me, all the fun of stickers but without having to spend hours scraping them off the wall. 

Clockwork Soldier (Stand 5M49) – these are a new brand to me, but I loved the look of the products and I want mentally picturing them on the wall in my son’s room and seeing him playing with some of the craft kits. They have a beautiful range which includes space, dinosaurs, robots, superhero and dress up. I’m going to campaign hard to see these in the toy shop, I think they’ll sell incredibly well!

Keel Toys (Stand 5D20) – I can’t resist a cuddly toy, but my eye was drawn to the Christmas Elves, these are soft, cuddly and smiley Elves which would be a great gift for December, they’re reasonably priced and would be a jolly visitor from the North Pole is you were going to do Elf on a Shelf this year.

Brainstorm Ltd (Stand 5L27) – one word, StikBots. I think these are going to be pretty big this year, these are small pose-able plastic robot figures with suckers on their hands and feet which you can use to create stop-frame animations with using a downloadable app. They come in an array of colours and will be great for creative kids.

Orchard Toys Ltd (Stand 5K41)  – this stand is worth visiting just to see the Giant Railway Puzzle linked up to the Giant Road Puzzle, and the village and the airport. The Giant Road Puzzle is a classic, and they’ve recently launched a whole raft of new puzzles to accompany that and I know that these will sell incredibly well in the toy shop and kids will love making their own town and transport system at home. Fantastic.

Marbel Ltd (Stand 5K50) – the Marbel stand was showing off some of their new Hape wooden toys products, I’m not sure what if anything I’m allowed to say, but if I use the words “wooden train”, “xylophone” and “just awesome” you know what to look out for later this year. Hape products are really well made wooden toys at a good price, great for babies and toddlers.

Stepping Stones Marketing (Stand 5L47) – are the UK distributors for Lilliputiens baby and nursery toys, these are quite captivating soft toys, but with hidden surprises designed to stimulate the child’s senses. We were quite taken by the lemur cot and pram toy as well as the adorable fox, we liked the gender neutral colouring and the quality of these products.

Jamm Toys (Stand 5L10) – I’m new to Jamm Toys and I was impressed by their range, in particular the cool retro wooden scooters stood out to me, they look like Vespas but for small children. I’d be surprised if I don’t see a few of these being scooted around our local park come Christmas!

spring fair 2016

Spring Fair was enormous, if you’re going then go with a game plan, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a very long day. 

I’ve picked out just ten things I loved from my day at Spring Fair, but honestly there were hundreds of fantastic toys to go and marvel at. I had a really interesting time and I learned an awful lot about toys and what will be big this year. Fantastic!

Bigjigs Wooden Safari Animal Building Blocks Review

The small boy is currently obsessed with animals. Animals which roar, growl, squeak or go ooh-ooh are particular favourites, almost as exciting as those animals with long necks who eat the leaves from the tops of the trees. It is with some regret that we don’t actually live on a nature reserve and we have to make up for that by using pictures, videos and our really wild imaginations.

You might’ve heard that we’ve made it to the final 21 to become Bigjigs Play Patrol Agents. Everyone on the shortlist gets a toy to review and luckily for our little jungle explorer we got the Bigjigs Wooden Safari Animal Building Blocks.

Bigjigs wooden safari animal building blocks

The Bigjigs Wooden Safari Animal Building Blocks are for children aged 1+, I did worry that at the grand old age of 3 he might be a little old for them. I was wrong, you’ll see why later.

There are 32 brightly coloured blocks in the box, some are plain, some are coloured, some have plant and tree designs on them, but the best blocks are the component parts to build a simple giraffe, lion, tiger, bear, hippo and panda. They each have a body and with superb attention to detail, the giraffe has an extra block for its neck. I thought the animal head blocks were fun, with one side showing its face and the other side showing the back of the animals head.

I liked the selection of blocks. I liked the different colours and patterns which we talked about with the small boy (see, educational too). I liked that you can mix and match bodies and heads to create your very own beasties. The blocks were good quality with smoothed, rounded edges and corners and a durable painted finish. The blocks are handily supplied with a bright blue drawstring bag to keep all the blocks together.

Bigjigs Wooden Safari Animal Building Blocks

On the day we got the blocks it was inexplicably sunny (for Manchester), so we took the blocks into the garden to play with. Our garden is famous for its jungle like properties, i.e. the grass needs cutting and it has it’s own watering hole (water feature).

We decided after a long journey and being cooped up in a box for a while, the animals must be thirsty, so we took them to the watering hole. We enjoyed creating the scene and talking about how thirsty and tired they must be. Once they’d been refreshed we ventured into the jungle to see what was lurking in the trees. The giraffe looked hungry so he started munching on the leaves while the tiger watched. There was lots of tiger growling from the small boy.

Hiding in the trees we found the shy panda and another growly creature, the bear. They were having a chat about what they liked to eat. The panda was unhappy about the lack of bamboo in our jungle garden and the bear was displeased we didn’t have any spawning salmon. You can’t please all of the bears all of the time…!

The small boy then decided to put all the blocks in a circle around the watering hole. We asked him to describe each block as he picked them up, see, we’re always learning, but mostly having fun. He then decided they were dirty (they weren’t) and threw them into the watering hole for a wash. This is where we discovered how durable the paint was.

Bigjigs Wooden Safari Animal Building Blocks

Once the animals had been rescued, it was time for them to have a sleep in their special blue bag, so we dried them off and put them away.

Like I said, I was worried they’d be too young for him, but they weren’t. I think these blocks are the kind of toy which can grow with a child. Helping younger ones with their dexterity and co-ordination, and for older children, with colour and shape recognition, as well as helping to spark their vivid imaginations.

We had lots of fun with these blocks, they’ve started a million conversations (and hasty Wikipedia searches) about what animals eat, where they live and what they do. We’ve played with them simply and created complex fantasy worlds with them.

The Bigjigs Wooden Safari Animal Building Blocks are a lovely toy for babies right through to pre-schoolers. They’re thoughtfully designed and we loved using our imagination to bring the blocks to life. They’re just £11.99 and I think good value for a quality wooden block set. If we could change anything, we’d probably add a monkey, but the monkey wasn’t massively missed with all our aping around.

Disclaimer: We were sent the blocks by Bigjigs free of charge to review as part of our application to become Play Patrol Agents. Our reviews and opinions are always honest and a true reflection of our experience with the product.

BigJigs Play Patrol…fingers crossed!

It’s not unreasonable to suggest that we love toys in this house. In the last three and a half years our house has slowly but steadily filled with all manner of colourful things to entertain our small boy. One thing we were dead set on was that where possible his toys should be pretty good quality, preferably wooden, durable and ideally they shouldn’t beep, sing, or play teeth-grindingly annoying tunes.

Alas some of those have found their way into his toy-box, but largely the things that entertain him most are his cars, his wooden kitchen, a Manchester United scooter (for shame) and his pride and joy, his BigJigs train set.

A couple of weeks ago we applied to be one of the BigJigs Play Patrol Agents and today we heard that we made it through to the final 21. Excited is not the word!

There’s no voting, so I’m not begging for your support, but I just wanted to share our collective joy and excitement. Whether we get picked or not we’ll still always be happy and loyal BigJigs fans. We should hear in the next few weeks or so, we’ll keep you posted, but please keep your fingers crossed. Exciting times.

BigJigs Play Patrol
Some of our BigJigs Track