I have often found it difficult to provide age-appropriate toys for the toddlers in my group. There are plenty of baby rattles and similar toys but beyond that, most toys specify ' age three and over' because they have many small pieces. The toddlers quickly tire of baby toys when they see all the exciting manipulatives that the preschoolers get to use.
With a mixed age group in my licensed childcare home, I have many different sets of magnetic building toys which are only available as table toys for the older children. Even with direct supervision, magnetic toys can be very dangerous for young children who tend to chew toys. Grippies Links are magnetic blocks designed for children aged 18 months and over. When I first opened the container I saw this warning label;
I understand why magnetic toys should not be washed in the dishwasher but I'll admit that without that reminder I may not have thought about it and could have automatically used the dishwasher to disinfect these toys along with all my other toys.
The storage container for the Grippies Links is a little disappointing. It is difficult to align the lid properly and twist it closed securely - it is possible to simply push it on firmly until it snaps past the threads but it also pops off unexpectedly when lifting it by the handle. The container is unnecessarily tall considering the blocks only half fill it. I do prefer square or rectangle storage containers which fit more efficiently on shelves so I will not continue to use this container anyway.
I like the size and colours of the pieces - pale yellow, orange, green and blue - so much nicer than bright primary colours. There are only 24 pieces in this set and 12 of them are shaped like people which limits the size of any structure that could be built. None of the toddlers in my group used the 'people' for any type of dramatic play but I'm sure they would eventually. They were all fascinated by the magnetic properties and often attached the pieces together and then waved them around until they fell apart - they all found this hilarious.
The pieces are a nice size for toddlers to grip and hold. They are also fairly heavy so with several toddlers together in the playroom excitedly flinging pieces around I had some safety concerns. This combined with the limited number of pieces means I am unlikely to have these toys available for free playgroup use in the playroom. They are much more suitable as table toys which had been my original intention anyway. At the table, there was a more constructive use of the pieces.
Here the youngest two enjoyed passing the pieces back and forth to each other - practicing their turn taking as well as construction and experimenting with the magnets.
I think all the toddlers enjoyed the opportunity to use magnetic toys at the table alongside the 'big' children. I appreciated the sturdy construction of these toddler toys. I could observe the toddler's exploration without having to worry about broken pieces or choking hazards.
Written by Cheryl, an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).