Thursday, January 15, 2015

Toucan Box Review

You may have seen adverts for Toucan Box popping up on Social Media. I have noticed them several times and thought about them, then thought that we could do that ourselves. Just before Christmas thought there was an offer that we couldn't resist - A chance to try your first Toucan Box for FREE.

The box arrived about a week before Christmas - some pop sticks, googly eyes, glitter glue (BB's favourite) string, jewels, glue, some thin foam, and of course the instructions.

Toucan Box Review - Instructions
Instruction booklet

Toucan Box Review - Instructions
Instruction booklet

The box had BB's name on, which he now recognises, so the first part of his joy came from the fact that there was a parcel for him. The second part was that it rattled and jiggled and sounded sooo cool. As soon as we opened it he wanted to start creating. We made several of the Christmas decorations, most are not packed away for next year, but here's one that he gave to Nana that we brought home from her room the other day.

Toucan Box Review - Christmas Tree decorations
A Christmas decoration by BB

Simple, but effective. BB was able to do most of this himself too, once he had been shown what to do. I enjoyed making them too - it was nice to spend the time together working on something like this.

Toucan Box Review - Rockets
The super dart rocket
Our second box arrived just after Christmas. This was to create fireworks or rockets. Again we sat down to the activity as soon as the box arrived.  BB was particularly into rockets at this time too as we had just watch Wallace and Gromit on Prime Instant Video- the one where they build a rocket and go to the moon looking for cheese.

Then a couple of days later when my parents came to visit, BB carefully got the  things out, setting a place for each of them at the table with all of the things they needed to make the rockets.

Toucan Box Review - Rockets
The first attempt rocket
My Dad immediately set about improving the design, narrowing the rocket and removing the tails which created resistance and slowing it down. It flew! So all the family had some fun out of this set.

Our third set arrived yesterday - even though we were quite late home, we had to do it before we went to bed. We made some jellyfish.

Once again everything that we needed was in the packet. We made one each so BB was easily able to copy what I was doing. He needed some help of course, especially with the threading of the ribbon and tying of knots.

Toucan Box Review - Jellyfish
Our jellyfish

As well as the craft materials you also get some stickers which you can add to a chart to get free gifts and prizes.

Toucan Box Review - Sticker chart
The prize chart, for collecting your tokens

There was also a booklet that they call the Toucan Tracker, which links all the activities to the curriculum. I counted them - 89 outcomes!!! 

Toucan Box Review - Curriculum Document
The curriculum!

Then there is a sheet for parents that tells you how the activity fits into the National Curriculum "What we are learning" and the flip side "Explore more" gives you more ideas for activities. Though we haven't done any of these yet, I have created a folder to keep them in for future ideas, so I do value them. 

Toucan Box Review - Parent sheet
Parent support sheets

To be completely honest I found the curriculum links to be the least valuable part of the project. I also doubt if they are correct - for example in the fireworks pack they are talking about expansion of air, the speed of sound, shock waves and sonic booms - now I was a Science Teacher for 13 years and that sort of level of understanding was beyond most of my year 10 students, so I really don't think its appropriate for a preschooler.  Nor do I think anyone will achieve a sonic boom with their home made paper rocket! There is another link to a Science outcome which begins with "The North Pole is home to Santa and his reindeer..." now call me a party pooper, but that's not actually science!

Toucan Box Review - creative use of leftovers
BB's snake
The other thing of course is that you could do all this yourself. The thing is though that you don't do you! Well I don't anyway, not right now at least. And if you did, it could cost more as you would have to buy a whole pack of straws, a whole reel of ribbon etc. instead of just the bits you need. That said, every project so far has been very generous with resources - we have had bits left over from every project so far which we are putting away in our craft stores. Whilst I have been writing this, BB has picked out some of the leftover pieces from the box and created this snake, all by his self.

The boxes cost £4.93 and are delivered fortnightly, so whilst they are not expensive, that does add up. However, we are enjoying the joy of boxes arriving, getting into the craft ideas, working together to create something and we do have stuff left over for other projects. You can also get a box half price if you introduce a friend, and can collect the prize tokens faster if you share your projects on Instagram Twitter of Facebook. So although I could do it myself for less, the reality is that I am not doing that right now. Currently, we are thoroughly enjoying the whole Toucan Box experience and would definitely recommend them to our friends and so have no intentions of giving them up as yet.

So if you would like to try a free box click on the image below - please note this is an affiliate link and I will earn a small commission for introducing you (but it wont cost you anything)

 If you do end up trying one, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rethinking the Christmas Card

As the festive season ends, I am taking down the cards and wondering about the future of this annual tradition. The number of cards I receive each year seems to decrease, though the number I send remains the same.  Many people no longer send cards, but a text or email, or even a Facebook status update instead. The advent of the internet and mobile phones, along with the increasing price of sending mail and a growing consciousness of the environmental impact have undoubtedly contributed to the decline. I wonder each year if it's time for me to stop sending them too.

To ease my conscience about the waste, I always keep the cards. BB and I use them for craft, and we make labels for next year's presents from them too. But this year, as we hope to be moving, they have found themselves in the recycling bin. To keep the cost down, I always buy next year's cards in the January sales too, but again with a move in our future I don't really want to be stocking up on things like this - we are streamlining our belongings, not stockpiling!

So does this mean that now is the time for us too to cease this old fashioned tradition and move more into the electronic age? It's something I have been pondering for a couple of weeks now, but I think not. Although I didn't write a Christmas letter this year, I usually do.  And I love writing the cards. It's a time for me to sit down and think about all the special people that I know around the world, to remember them, and the times we have had together, to wonder how they are doing. Many of them have children of their own now, some that I haven't even met. I wonder about them too. This little process of sending a card is perhaps my only connection with some of them, I don't want to lose that. I like that the card represents a little bit of me in their home at Christmas.

The Christmas Card BB made me at nursery this Christmas

Of course I love receiving cards too. I hang them on ribbons so they become part of our Christmas decorations. Little bits of the sender are in our home too. So I have decided to carry on with the tradition. Further more, in thinking about what I really like about sending them, if possible we are going to try and make our own next year too. I always used to do this. Not just as a child, but as an adult too. Something simple like a photograph of a where I was living or a place I had been. They don't take too long to make but are something different to commercial ones. I loved making them. I recently found many of these at my Nana's house, she had saved them, the personal hand crafted cards being a little more special those from a bumper multi pack. We have received several this year with photos of children and families. Some with artwork by the children, several handmade by crafters.

The Card BB and I made for Nana last year

As I parent I also think about what I am passing on to my child about this process. Do I want him to think that sending cards is about buying a multipack from a megastore and then laboriously writing and posting them? Or would I like to make the process more meaningful? Making our own Christmas decorations has become part of family Christmas traditions that I hope we will enjoy each year. I am thinking that mindfully making and sending our own unique cards could become one too. As with all these things its will take a bit of organising and planning, but I think we can do that. I have already found a couple of great places to get envelopes online, some fancy envelopes and some more plain ones. We have a whole stock of card and paper already, and a wealth of ideas. I'm not sure what style we will go for yet. Maybe there will be a whole range... we'll see.

Meanwhile we'd best get making all our thank you notes as a practice run.