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Worried you’re not doing enough to help your little one progress? But you’re busier than ever and wondering how other Mums manage to fit it in?

We spoke to Christine Nicholls, the Co-Founder of Golden Bear Toys, to find out what she thinks are the best toys and times to help your child develop.

Let it come naturally

“Don’t overthink it”, says Christine. “A lot of what we do as parents is instinct, and there will be lots of times where you read a suggestion on what your child should be doing at a certain stage, and you’ll find you’ve already activated that choice on your own. At Golden Bear, we understand that all parents are busy, so we make toys that are not only fun and engaging to play with, but that also encourage development and work with a parent and child’s daily schedule.”

You don’t need extra time

“You don’t need to alter your schedule to inspire growth and learning”, says Christine Nicholls. “Encouraging development doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting. Instead of forcing in extra slots, I would utilise natural points throughout your day to help your child grow and learn. I’d say the best moments are ones that will always happen, like playtime, bath time and nap time”.

Why playtime is so important

Not just fun and games, toys can be an essential teaching tool that you can use to help your child learn physical, emotional, social, cognitive, creative, and communicative skills. Christine says, “Every time we create a toy at Golden Bear, we consider developmental milestones and how it can help a child to grow as well as have fun”.

In The Night Garden Musical Ninky Nonk Bubble Train, £37.
In The Night Garden Musical Ninky Nonk Bubble Train, £37.

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This is the perfect Christmas or birthday gift for children aged over 12 months. Based on the iconic Ninky Nonk Train from the In The Night Garden show. It has bright colours, textures, and music that stimulate senses and a bubble feature that is perfect for encouraging little ones to get up on their feet. The toy also enables children to place the characters around the train and post shapes through the sorter, which aids hand-eye coordination and improves motor skills.

Not a natural-born player?

“Don’t worry!” says Christine. “It’s very normal for playtime to feel a bit challenging at first. Hardly any of us are natural-born children’s entertainers, and playing and creating games comes with experience. This is why fun and interactive toys can be very beneficial, especially in the early years”. Not feeling that confident? Seek out a toy that includes an element of construction. Building is a great activity to do together, and many parents find it stimulating too. Try it with, In The Night Garden Pinky Ponk Build & Sort Vehicle, £16.

Pinky Ponk Building Blocks & Shape Sorter Vehicle Toy- £16
Pinky Ponk Building Blocks & Shape Sorter Vehicle Toy- £16

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Suitable for children aged 18 months+, this is a brilliant 3-in-1 toy based on the iconic Pinky Ponk from the In the Night Garden show. It can be built over and over again and is ideal for encouraging early shape recognition and helping to develop motor skills. The chunky components make it easy for little hands to pick up and play with ease, and the spinning propellor and squeaky nose can aid an understanding of cause and effect.

Keep bath time fun for everyone

“Bath time can be a vital tool, which helps indicate winding down for the day, but it can also be used as a moment to help your child develop”, says Christine. She adds, “Choose toys that inspire both you, and your children, as this will keep the love of bath time alive”. Baths getting a bit repetitive? Reignite the love with, In The Night Garden Igglepiggle’s Lightshow Bathtime Boat, £19.99, which is a wonderful toy that every child will love. Based on Igglepiggle’s boat that appears in the opening titles of the In The Night Garden show, it includes Igglepiggle pouring cups and shapes that fit inside the boat—making it an ideal tool to help with early shape recognition and aid dexterity. It also has colourful lights that illuminate the bottom of the bath and creates a pleasurable and calming experience ahead of that all-important bedtime routine.

Igglepiggle's Bath-time Lightshow Boat- £19.99
Igglepiggle’s Bath-time Lightshow Boat- £19.99

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Help them sleep better

Whilst improving language and reading skills, reading books before bed is a great way to wind down for the day, but they’re not the only thing you can use to signify sleepy time. Bringing out the same soft toy or comforter before bed solidifies a routine that will help your child drift off better. Not sure which one to get? Try In The Night Garden Snuggly Singing Soft Toys, £16.99 (each), which are beautiful toys made from a soft textured fabric that, once pressed, play gentle music to calm and stimulate your child’s senses. Each Snuggly Singing In the Night Garden Soft Toy plays their iconic song from the CBeebies TV show when you squeeze their tummy. Perfect for relaxing children at bed or nap time, they can also be used for comfort if your little one has a bit of a moment at some point in the day.

Snuggly Singers- £15.99
Snuggly Singers- £15.99

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What TMC Mums Say….

My son loves the build and sort vehicle and watched so intently as I put it together. Afterwards, he spent his own time figuring out how it came apart and how to put it back together and when he wanted help, he asked me to rebuild it for him. It’s an excellent tool for building cognitive skills and exploring creativity, and an entertaining toy to play with together. I gave him the snuggly singing toys before bed, and I was so surprised how quickly he bonded with them, cuddling each one and gazing at them lovingly. I was pretty shocked, as usually, he doesn’t interact with cuddly soft toys. I also noticed it really calmed him before bed, and instead of being upset to go in his sleep bag, he willingly went in – I wish I’d got them sooner”.

Lydia House

”The ‘In the night garden musical ninky nonk bubble train’ arrived at the most perfect time for a little boy needing entertaining and a baby girl who’s starting to work things out! There are so many different features to this toy that help at the crucial development stages for little ones. From shape sorters, to stacking cups, along with the fun musical elements it makes for a great all rounder to keep them occupied and entertained for longer! The added feature of the bubbles in one compartment whilst you pull the train along gives it the wow factor for my little boy- he’s been running round with it all morning!”

Harley Waller

Both of my boys (15 months & 3 years) love the build and sort (ITNG)vehicle. My youngest adores it! Pushing it along and making the best car sounds. After a while of watching his big brother pop the shapes into the holes and build it up to create the full vehicle he now copies and easily matches the shapes to the correct holes too!
Such a great toy for hand-eye coordination and has also helped my eldest with sharing and teaching his little brother.
The light up boat is now a firm favourite at bath time and in the evening when the lights are down.
I love how he just watches the light show in the water and on the walls, following the lights with his hands. The bubble blower Iggle Piggle is also wonderful!
Have already recommended both to friends.

Hannah Wheeley
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