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Play equipment

Summer means play time - and lots of it. Yolanda Brooks finds the gear that will give your games sessions the winning edge.

There's no excuse for using a sweatshirt to mark out a target when you can erect your own mini-goalposts within minutes, with the Early Learning Centre's Inflatable Goal. As well as the goal (which you will need your own foot pump to inflate), you get a set of giant, inflatable hands, plastic stakes, a ball and a repair kit. The package fits neatly into a 30cm x 20cm box, but don't expect to get it all back in again once it has been unpacked. The goal is suitable for children aged three and upwards, and costs pound;15 from Early Learning Centre stores. You can also order it by calling 08705 352 352 or by visiting the website at

Frisbees can provide the perfect free-range cardiovascular activity. But learning the basics can be a chore for beginners who see the traditional hard disc as a painful missile. Soft Saucers from Newitts offer a gentle introduction to the art. They're washable, kind to furniture and hands and move more slowly than hard discs. Soft Saucers cost pound;5.46 each from Newitts, Claxton Hall, Flaxton, York YO60 7RE. Tel: 01904 468 551. Website:

Spend the summer doing the frog, the peacock or the cobra with the Yoga Kit for Kids. The kit has 24 colour cards that show children in classic yoga poses, shadowed by a sketch of the animal they are trying to emulate. A rhyme explaining how to get into position is printed on the back. The manual for adults has easy-to-digest information on safety, getting relaxed, and ideas for running sessions. A 40-minute cassette with classical music on one side and instrumental tracks on the other completes the set. A poster (61cm x 90cm), with a set of 12 poses, is available in the same series. The Yoga Kit for Kids costs pound;18.95 and the poster costs pound;7.95. Both are available from The Festival Shop, 56 Poplar Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham B14 7AG. Tel: 0121 444 0444.

Boardgames are a trusted distraction during the winter months, but there's no need to be huddled around the table with the curtains drawn with the boardgame selection from Sovereign. The company specialises in outdoor games: its range includes scratchproof and waterproof table-top snakes and ladders, draughts, chess and maze games, with a similar range of magnetic steel wall games.

The full table top with games costs pound;302.40. The table top alone costs pound;166.32. Contact Sovereign at Unit 6, 85 Park Street, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS0 7PD. Tel: 01702 391 880. Website: Email:

Hoop-N-Target from Spordas can be used both as a Hula Hoop carrier and a target. The colourful vinyl bag has Velcro patches which provide a target, a hook on top for hanging and handles on the back. Spordas's Velcro tennis balls are useful only for those with an accurate and gentle aim. A light, foam ball would give participants a much better chance of hitting the target and the ball staying on it.

Hoop-N-Target costs pound;15.25 and Velcro tennis balls cost pound;4.10 for a set of three, from Davies Sports, Excelsior Road, Ashby Park, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire LE65 1NG. Tel: 0870 6000 195. Website: www.daviessports. Email: customerservice A modified version of the prototype Tail Ball (also from Davies Sports) is now available. The soft ball, with its colourful trailing tail, will help develop hand-eye co-ordination and give children with poor motor skills a decent chance of catching it.

Prices quoted (apart from the Inflatable Goal and the Yoga Kit for Kids) exclude VAT and postage and packaging.

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