Category Archives: Informational Blog

The Benefits of Play Food & Purchasing Tips

When it comes to toys, play food is a staple. In addition to being a heap of fun, toy food is a great way for children to reach their developmental milestones. For this reason (and many more) play food can be found wherever there are children. Much like fresh food there are lots of play food items on the market. Therefore, it can be hard to know where to start and what to buy. To give you a hand on how to get the best bang for your buck and for some tips on where to start we are here to help. To learn more read on - and as always don’t shop hungry!When it comes to toys, play food is a staple. In addition to being a heap of fun, toy food is a great way for children to reach their developmental milestones. For this reason (and many more) play food can be found wherever there are children. Much like fresh food there are lots of play food items on the market. Therefore, it can be hard to know where to start and what to buy. To give you a hand on how to get the best bang for your buck and for some tips on where to start we are here to help. To learn more read on – and as always don’t shop hungry!

The Benefits
Physically handling play food is a great way for children to improve their dexterity, fine motor skills and visual recognition of shapes, colours and patterns.  Food is a great way for adults to socialise and communicate and this also goes for children. Even alone, children can hold dinner parties or host cooking shows which encourages them to utilise their vocabulary. Play food also kicks children’s imaginations into a high gear encouraging them to think outside the box and get adventurous. Of course we’re talking sardines on cake adventurous – but believe me, it is better that this happens in their cooking domain and not yours!

 Where to Start
If you think starting your play food collection will be as “easy” as your weekly grocery shop, I’m sorry to disappoint. Picking up individual food items willy-nilly can leave you with a lot of oranges and no apples – not that devastating unless you want to make an apple pie!  For this reason, we recommend that you keep it simple and start with the basics. Food crates from Le Toy Van and Fun Factory are fantastic as they include multiple items from the same food group. For example, (my personal favourite) the Le Toy Van Honeybake Baker’s Basket which includes a croissant, a pretzel, an iced bun, a swirl bun and a pain au chocolat – drool.

If you’re looking for a real bargain, check out this set of crates from Fun Factory.

Once you have assembled a handsome food triangle (or as much as the food triangle as you wish), you have completed your mission, and your child can enjoy hours of play food fun. However, if you want to get the best dollar value for your play food items we recommend that you turn up the play value.

Heat Up the Play Value
Heating up the play value of your play food is the best way to get value for money. Play value refers to the essential value of a toy; or more plainly put, the amount of play you can get out of a toy. When talking about play food, you can increase its play value by adding extra appliances and accessories that encourage children to play with the food items longer. Imagine making that apple pie (once you source the apples) to find that you have no oven to bake it in! Or better yet, think of all the opportunities that a singular oven represents – savoury or sweet you can have it all and warmed by your imagination – delicious.

Get the whole Family Involved
We see a lot of group gift purchases here at Elf HQ. Normally, a mum and dad will grab a kitchen, a market stall or an oven and the rest of the family contribute by adding some play food or cooking equipment. This is great for a few reasons. Firstly, the play value of each item added by each family member increases. Secondly, it’s easy for you when relatives call asking what your child would like for their birthday or Christmas. Plus it’s nice and easy for your friends and family members – win-win! Here are a few bundles that we elves would be thrilled to find under the Christmas tree this year.

We see a lot of group gift purchases here at Elf HQ. Normally, a mum and dad will grab a kitchen, a market stall or an oven and the rest of the family contribute by adding some play food or cooking equipment. This is great for a few reasons. Firstly, the play value of each item added by each family member increases. Secondly, it’s easy for you when relatives call asking what your child would like for their birthday or Christmas. Plus it’s nice and easy for your friends and family members – win-win! Here are a few bundles that we elves would be thrilled to find under the Christmas tree this year. Honeybake 2-in-1 Shop & Cafe ($229) with five Honeybake Market Crates ($24.95 – $26.95 each)

If you’ve suddenly developed an appetite for some play food then now is a great time to satisfy your craving as we have 20% off our entire Play Food Category. If you think that a group gift centred around a kitchen or market stall is what your child would like for Christmas, then contact the rellies and tell them to get shopping before this sale ends. Bon appetit toy lovers!

Everything you Need to Know about Marble Runs

Marble Runs have been loved by children, teens, and even adults for generations, and it’s not hard to understand why. The satisfaction of rolling a marble down a track that has been built with your own hands is a fantastic feeling – no matter how many times you’ve done it before. There are several high-quality marble run systems available, so we understand it might be difficult to know where to start. As always the Entropy Elves are here to help.

Marble Runs have been loved by children, teens, and even adults for generations, and it’s not hard to understand why. The satisfaction of rolling a marble down a track that has been built with your own hands is a fantastic feeling – no matter how many times you’ve done it before. There are several high-quality marble run systems available, so we understand it might be difficult to know where to start. As always the Entropy Elves are here to help.

When considering marble run systems, think of them as the ultimate building toy that will be used throughout childhood and beyond. Marble runs are designed to be built up and broken down, each time with a different objective and each time improving children’s (and adults) creativity and problem-solving skills. As children grow and develop, their marble run can do the same.

At Entropy, we stock three major wooden marble run brands. They are Hape’s Quadrilla system, Haba’s Ball Track and Wonderworld’s Trix Trax marble run system. Each of these brands is fantastic (obviously or else they wouldn’t have a home here at Entropy) and has specific features. In no particular order, we’ll give you our thoughts on them to help you decide which one to choose.

Everything you need to know about Hape Quadrilla Marble Runs

The main distinguishing feature of the Hape Quadrilla range of marble runs is that they are built to a specific plan. You need to follow the plan precisely in order to make the marble run work correctly. If you are even a quarter of a turn out with the orientation of a block, your marble can spit out somewhere it is not meant to. For this reason the Quadrilla system is great for problem-solving but is less ‘open-ended’ than other systems. Quadrilla blocks connect to each other using a peg-like mechanism which means they create a sturdier structure than other systems. If you knock it accidentally though, it will all come apart (often spectacularly). Quadrilla uses traditional glass marbles, which are pretty small. For this reason, younger children might not have the fine motor coordination needed to play initially, but they learn this quickly! The age recommendation is from 4 years, and at this age adults will need to help with the build.

There are multiple sets available ranging from entry-level models to challenging structures. Each main set has an instruction booklet to introduce you and your child to the basic principles of playing with Quadrilla. The booklet also includes a variety of tricks and tips on how to make connections between blocks and tracks. A single Quadrilla Marble Run can be rearranged in a number of different ways. The included booklet shows how to make up to 20 different builds, and encourages the builder to create more using their imagination. All Quadrilla Marble Runs can be joined together to make fantastic larger runs, just let your imagination run wild! Quadrilla also offers loads of cool extenders and accessories to add to your track.

If you’re looking at starting your Quadrilla marble run adventure, our recommended choices are The Cyclone or The Challenger set. You really want to choose a set that has a combination of straight tracks and circular elements (like whirlpools). This gives you the best bang for your buck. Our experience at Entropy is that those that start with smaller sets than The Cyclone or The Challenger nearly always add to their collection quite quickly.

Everything you need to know about Wonderworlds ball runs

As the name suggests, all Wonderworld Trix Track marble run sets include both tricks and tracks. Each set has a lot to offer with multi-level play and a trick that exemplifies cause and effect. All Trix Track sets feature wooden runs, a wooden ball (it’s bigger than a traditional glass marble) and plastic risers. The dimensions of these three elements are consistent across the entire Trix Track range making all sets compatible with each other. A single Trix Track ball run is designed to be built one way. However, add another set, and the building opportunities are only limited by your imagination. The plastic risers and wooden tracks in this range connect (the plastic risers have pegs that fit into specially designed holes on the underside of the tracks).

Wonderworld sets are made from rubberwood which makes them very sturdy and suitable for younger builders. The wooden marble is bigger at 3cm, and easier for younger hands to manipulate. They are relatively easy to build and quite stable. These features make them a good choice for child care and family day care environments for children aged 3 and over. If you’re looking at starting your Wonderworld ball run journey, our recommended sets are:

Everything you need to know about Haba's Ball and Marble Runs

Iconic German toy manufacturer Haba have an extensive choice of wooden marble run sets, which can be broadly broken into the ‘My First Ball track’ range, and the standard ‘Ball Track’ range.

The Haba My first ball track range is designed for children aged from 18 months, and this is a key distinguishing feature. This age rating is possible due to the large building blocks used and the size of the wooden balls (they are 5cm diameter meaning they are larger than a standard small parts choking warning). The low-to-the-ground runs and robust wooden pieces offer stability and easy building for young children. If you’re looking at starting your Haba ball track collection for a child under the age of three years, we recommend that you choose anything from the My First range.

Haba’s Classic Marble Range (from 3 years)
Haba’s Classic Ball Track Marble Run Range is designed for ‘children’ aged 3 to 99 years. This range is all about speed and momentum. Haba’s marble run sets consist of wooden building blocks, wooden marble runs, glass marbles and, depending on what run you pick, plastic clamps. The building blocks (which are used to raise the wooden marble runs) and the wooden marble runs do not ‘interlock’ but are instead either stacked or in some kits secured with cleverly designed plastic clamps. All Haba wooden construction toys are designed on a 4x4x4cm block design. This means that Haba marble runs are compatible across the range, but also with Haba building block sets (additional clamps can be purchased separately). For example, if you start with a Haba wooden building block set, you can later integrate it with a Haba ball track set. This feature offers great play value and longer-term value for money.

The My First Range is also designed on this 4x4x4cm design. However, as the wooden blocks are much larger, they must be added to the end of the marble track when being integrated with a Haba Classic Marble Run Range.

Our recommendation for a starting point with the Haba ball track system is this large set. It has everything you need to get started.

So there you have it, we know there is a lot of information there, but let us try and summarise it for you:

Quadrilla: build to a plan, less open-ended, better choice for older children, teenagers and adults.

Wonderworld Trix Track: sturdy, larger wooden balls, good choice for younger children and multi-child environments.

Haba: fantastic quality, great play value as the systems are compatible with wooden block sets, open-ended and creative.

And a final piece of information from us, please note that these marble run systems are not compatible across brands; but within each brand they are.

A summary from the Entropy Elves

Hape Quadrilla

Haba

Wonder World

Made from Rubberwood, plywood, beech wood, TPE, PA, ABS, PET High-quality beech wood Environmentally-friendly rubberwood
Country of Design Germany Germany Thailand
Country of Manufacture China Germany Thailand
Age Range 4 – 99 years My First Range Classic Range 3 – 10 years
18 months – 3 years 3 – 99 years
Marble Size & Material Glass 15mm Wooden Ball 5cm Glass marble 15mm Wooden Ball 3cm
Build to Plan Yes No No Yes
Free Build (with one set) Yes No Yes No
Compatible with other marble runs in the same brand Yes See above for details Yes Yes
Cross compatible with other brands No No No No
Extension & accessory sets available Yes No Yes No

Tic-Tock Let’s talk about the Analogue Clock

Analogue ClocksEverything seems to be moving to a digital platform. The most innocent and unassuming items have electronic counterparts that, well quite frankly kick butt. Heck, just look at what the good old toothbrush has to compete with these days. While digital items seem to reign supreme are they always better, or more to the point what good is an analogue clock in today’s society?

Analogue watches have been replaced with digital watches, and digital watches are currently being replaced with ‘smart’ watches. With the decreasing instances where one will be required to read an analogue clock is it essential that children learn to read analogue time? The answer is yes – very important. While it may longer be necessary to read an analogue clock; it is definitely important for cognitive development and understanding the complex topic of time.

While time is expressed in numbers, the passage of time cannot be learnt the same way that one learns their 1, 2, 3’s. Time telling involves a lot of skills that are put into practice once the child starts learning about hours, minutes and seconds.Most children don’t have trouble reading the hour as it is an ordinal number from one to twelve. However, when the concept of minutes is involved, children automatically have to switch to counting in multiples of five to get to the right time. Therefore, learning to tell time, exercises a child’s ability to skip count by fives; which requires a good understanding of basic math. As analogue clock faces have distinguished numbers around the face with markings in-between this is a great visual aid – these features are not transparent in digital clocks. However, Even with the visual aid of an analogue clock face time telling can still be difficult to pick up.

Most children don’t have trouble reading the hour as it is an ordinal number from one to twelve. However, when the concept of minutes is involved, children automatically have to switch to counting in multiples of five to get to the right time. Therefore, learning to tell time, exercises a child’s ability to skip count by fives; which requires a good understanding of basic math. As analogue clock faces have distinguished numbers around their faces with markings in-between this is a great visual aid. These features are not transparent in digital clocks. However, Even with the visual aid of an analogue clock face time telling can still be difficult to pick up.

Luckily, there are many tools on the market that can help. Cactus Watches is an Australian range of children’s and teens watches that are a great value, durable, and have easy-to-read dials. The contemporary designs of these watches make it even easier for little ones to learn how to read the time. Stand out products are the Time Teachers that have the hour and minute hands labelled and the Time Tellers that have an outer ring marked with five past, ten past, quarter past and so on (for those who are having trouble picking up the time telling lingo).

TimeTeachers

Alongside these fantastic children’s watches, there are other time telling tools and toys aplenty. If you would like to discover our huge range of watches and time teaching toys head over to our website.

Step into the kingdom of Schleich

Schleich is a wonderful German brand that is responsible for the creation of thousands of super realistic hand-painted figurines. The Entropy Elves caught up with Schleich’s head of business development and product management, David Albert, who is based at Schleich HQ in Germany, to find out more about this iconic toy.

The animal figurines have been in production since the 1980s; what were the very first ones? In 1935 Schleich started with wire figures and the first Schleich figurines were the Smurfs. The first animal figurines were farm animals and horses.

Schleich animals of the world

How do you decide what new Wild Life and Farm Life animals to introduce? We are always trying to introduce animals that have never been produced in the past and, of course, we want to provide our customers with a fresh and exciting assortment.

Schleich – Farm Life Drake 13824

NEW Schleich – Farm Life Drake 13824

Schleich - Wild Life Black Panther 14774

NEW Schleich – Wild Life Black Panther 14774

How do you ensure that each Schleich figurine looks as life-like as possible?

      1. We work very closely with research institutes and universities to make sure that every figurine looks as realistic as possible.
      2. We do the complete process in-house — each toy is precision-engineered by a German master craftsman who works on a wax mould for up to six weeks for the finest detail. After injection moulding and finishing, the figurines are all decorated by hand.
      3. Schleich also has a very exact quality control program which also guarantees the highest quality.

Do you have any personal favourites? I definitely love the male elephant. It looks so impressive with its huge tusks.

Schleich Asian Elephant Male

What do you think people love the most about Schleich? The quality of the figurines and their very realistic look and feel.

Besides fun; what other benefits does playing with Schleich figurines have for children? The educational value is quite high while playing with Schleich figurines. All of our Farm and Wild Life animals exist in real life and they have the same proportions and colour as the real ones. With fun and exciting play concepts, Schleich encourages imaginative play and a child’s creativity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s something that may surprise people about Schleich? Every figurine is hand-painted meaning each figurine is unique. An Elf figurine, for example, takes 100 steps to get painted. This means that each figurine looks a bit different than the one right next to it.

Elf Wedding

Are there any nice stories from over the years about children and their Schleich figurines that have particularly stuck in your head? We receive lots of letters from all over the world from children telling us about their animals and favourites. Schleich has dedicated staff members who answer the letters.

Schleich T-Rex arriving at Schleich HQ

The latest team member at Schleich HQ in Germany

How common is it for adults to collect Schleich? We have a lot of customers that are adults and most of them collect our beautiful horses or the Smurfs.

Get your Schleich figurines for 25% off until July 31, 2017, and enter our competition Bring Schleich to Life before Monday, July 31.