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Twiddle, fiddle, pull and turn

Carol Raby reports on high-quality equipment for stimulating a young child's senses

Equipment for young children works best if it encourages imaginative play, extends learning by providing appropriate challenges and, last but not least, has intrinsic appeal.

Edu-Play equipment not only meets these criteria but has the advantage of developing a child's visual perception, auditory discrimination and fine motor control. At the same time, children can acquire important scientific and mathematical knowledge.

Edu-Play's wall-mounted large activity board is an impressive and exciting collection of multiple devices. So impressive is it that young children, when first introduced to it, spend the first few minutes absorbedly taking it all in.

It consists of a rotating mirror, a squirrel cage with coloured balls, a multi-coloured paddle wheel, a telephone with dial, a rope pulley with bells, a large, brightly-coloured gear train, various hologram cylinders, a four-spoke wheel with clappers and a large wheel which makes an engine noise when turned. Children are frequently and mistakenly told by adults not to touch, so they can hardly believe their luck when they are encouraged to twiddle, fiddle, pull, turn, rotate, spin, revolve, and even to make loud noises.

Everything they do with their hands creates an intrinsic reward by the exploration of cause and effect. Fine motor control skills are developed without the frustration of flimsy equipment falling over since everything is fixed to the board and to a wall. Various sounds and visual effects can be explored, which encourage full use of the imagination and expressive language, ranging from driving a steam engine to making a telephone call, from checking one's appearance to mending the gears.

Concepts such as fast and slow, up and down, backwards and forwards, clockwise and anticlockwise can all be explored and knowledge of colours reinforced.

The wall activity board offers the possibility of introducing a wide range of scientific constructs, from colour mixing or the exploration of movement to reflection and diffraction, from an excellent demonstration of a gear train with reversal of rotation on successive gears, to the effects of centrifugal force. These can all help to stimulate future scientists developing in nurseries all over the country.

The activity board is not only suitable for children to learn from direct experience but can be used to support such topics as "movement", "light", "transport", "myself" and "my senses".

Other Edu-Play equipment ranges from shape boards and puzzles to encourage visual discrimination, special awareness and knowledge of shape, to threading activities to encourage fine motor control.

Many of the products help to increase attention-span and to develop sustained concentration. Others use the principles of screw threads, ratchets and fixing pegs, and encourage the development of technological skills as well as manipulative ones.

A sound and musical object such as the Mirror Chimeabout is a very visual toy which consists of strips of coloured perspex mirror that respond easily to touch. As its name suggests, it reflects image, colour and light as well as providing the reward of jingling bells.

The Diffraction Roly Poly Drum is a satisfying toy which gives sound and reflection reward, while the Diffraction Mirror Paddles teach children about colour and multiple reflection. The Mirror Marble Wheel, styled like a ship's wheel, has a mirrored back and holds several nylon cups, each with a coloured marble. Not only can it encourage imaginative play, but it also makes a satisfying noise and can be used to demonstrate with older children the principles of random mixing and centrifugal force.

The Rotating Mirror Cube, which could safely be used in role play, has large mirrors that reflect images and light and can be used by more than one child at a time for speech and language purposes. At the top of the range is the Jumbo Suffolk Playbox from which children can construct their own activity centre, encouraging early engineering skills, co-operative and imaginative play.

We all know that buying cheap, easily-broken equipment is false economy. Edu-Play products are of the highest possible standard, soundly constructed from quality materials, such as birch ply and acrylic mirror perspex, meeting both British and European safety standards.

* Edu-Play age range: 1 to 7 yearsBathroom Objects Shape Board Pounds 24; Three Triangle Threader Pounds 18.90;Wall Activity Board Pounds 299.50; Mirror Chimeabout Pounds 43.65; Diffraction Roly Poly Drum Pounds 38.30; Diffraction Mirror Paddles Pounds 55.65; Mirror Marble Wheel Pounds 46.50; Rotating Mirror Cube Pounds 82.60; Jumbo Suffolk PlayboxPounds 325.Edu-Play, Units H I, Vulcan Business Centre, Vulcan Road, off Humberstone Road,Leicester LE5 3EB. Tel: 0116 262827.Stand G25

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