Ready, teddy, go
If games and activities are designed to aid children's learning, then there is no better way of evaluating them than testing them on real clients. Orchard Toys has designed a range of products using friendly teddy bears which always appeal to the young consumer. Results of our tests at Wickbourne infants school in West Sussex confirm that the games appeal to children and are colourful and durable.
One of the most popular of the six products with our three to four-year-olds was also the winner of a best toy award in 1994 - Tell Me a Story - Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Pounds 7.99). This large jigsaw puzzle plus tape cassette is an excellent group or class activity and is easy to use. The children enjoyed it enormously and wanted to do it over and over again. Since it encompasses a wide range of skills - listening, story sequencing, matching and sizes - it is suitable for repeated use.
The game the children found most exciting was the Teddy Bear Colour Match Express (Pounds 5.50). Each player has to match coloured teddies with the trucks of a train. The game benefits from being self-maintaining and self-correcting. We substituted the small die included with the game with a larger one more suited to children's small hands and ensuring easier recognition of the thrown colour.
The ABC Floor Puzzle (Pounds 6.25) is a large jigsaw puzzle which was popular with the more able or slightly older children. It succeeds as a self-correcting learning aid for the alphabet and the large pieces are attractive and easy to handle.
All the games and activities proved to be a novel way of teaching or reinforcing basic skills and concepts.
They are described as suitable for the age range three to seven years, but most - particularly Guess the Weather and the Match and Count Bear - require either adult assistance or an existing knowledge of the skills involved. A more realistic age range, would probably be four or five to seven years.
The last activity tested on our children was Teddy Bear Opposites (Pounds 5.50) in which pairs of cards show teddy bear contrasts which have to be matched. The cards are tough, durable board and are self-corrective, but they do not interlock in the usual jigsaw manner. This seems to make it more difficult for the children to match them.
However, since the children who did not already have an appreciation of opposites treated it as simply a physical matching puzzle, the game is not very effective in teaching the concept and was perceived as being difficult. A helping adult hand was needed to get the most out of it.
Carol Raby is head of Wickbourne infants school, West Sussex.