Since starting up just over five years ago, Mike and Sandra Brown's Small World company has developed a very specialised range for the early years. It includes hand-made puzzles, role-play furniture, ingenious multi-layer puzzles and many resources which are extremely valuable in working with children with special educational needs.
Many of their materials not only help children to develop useful problem-solving and dexterity skills, but also carry a message, for example puzzles depicting life cycles, cautionary advice on strangers, or the Moody Bear with a variety of facial expressions. All of these are carefully manufactured with a hand-made feel to the finish.
The latest addition to Small World's catalogue displays its flair for adapting traditional production methods to the changing classroom. As classroom furnishing manufacturers gradually wake up to the second half of the 20th century, schools are adapting audio-visual resources and techniques from commercial developments.
Whiteboards provide dust-free environments, preserving computers and asthmatics alike, while providing a sharp and clear background for pupils to see what they are looking at. Magnetic display materials for whiteboards are becoming more commonplace as a result. So it is now possible to buy letters, shapes, even self-adhesive magnetic tape for DIY.
Small World is now offering a portable whiteboard in a strong beech frame, which, at around 50cm by 75cm, is big enough for a small group. This is designed to be used with Small World's new sets of lower- or upper-case magnetic letters. The packs of letters can be purchased separately or together with the board at a discount. At around 13cm for those with ascenders, the letters are larger and therefore easier to read than others on the market. They are cut from ply, painted bright red, with magnetic strips on the back.
What makes them rather unusual is that they are modelled on a good middle-of-the-road, italic cursive writing style, including the linking "flick". The handwriting model children receive in multi-sensory approaches to language work is often inconsistent with presentation aims. This fills a small gap in the market for schools and backs up Small World's claim to make products with children and teachers in mind.