Somebody mentioned something the other day about Christmas shopping. For now, I'm quite content to hide my head in the sand and pretend that a major gift-giving holiday is not going to be here before I know it. Each year, I seem to get more frustrated at the countless toys that are marketed towards children. Even some of my favorite companies now seem to be manufacturing mostly character-based toys. It's hard to find any toy suitable for preschoolers that isn't plastered with either a Disney or a Nick Jr character. It's also difficult to find toys that nurture a young child's imagination -- too many toys only have one "right" way to play with them.
A few weeks ago, our family was lucky enough to receive a box of toy animals from Schleich. I was very, very impressed with the quality of these toys. Actually, I don't think my term "toys" does justice to these animals. Each animal is exquisitely detailed and life-like. I could not believe how realistic the baby pig looked, and I was amazed at the detailing on the Okapi. (Random fun fact for the day that I learned on the Schleich website: the okapi is the only mammal capable of licking its ear.)
Lauren wasn't quite sure what to think of the animals. She's at a stage where her imaginative play is fairly predictable from day-to-day, and I'm not sure she's ready to expand her repertoire at this point. She struggled to figure out how to work these new characters into the pre-established stories that she usually recreates. One day, the animals all moved into a new house with the rest of her dollhouse figures. I'm also pretty sure I heard the baby elephant going to the cath lab another day.
You can read more about the Schleich company on their website. You cannot order directly from them, but you can see if a retailer in your local area carries the animals. There are also a lot of online sources for these figures. It appears that these animals normally retail for about $3-$5 a piece. Some of the smaller ones are less than $2 each, and I saw several sets available online that might work out to be less expensive per figure.
In addition to the zoo animals that we received, Schleich also makes a wide assortment of horses. Unlike many young girls, Addison never was enamored with horses. I can only imagine how thrilled a young horse-lover would be to receive some of the gorgeous horse figurines. If anyone has a nostalgic streak, Schleich also still makes the Smurf figurines that were so popular in the eighties.
I wish I had invested in some of these animals when Addison and Brennan were littler. They are such high quality that I'm certain they would last until they have children of their own to play with them. (They've already withstood several instances of getting caught underfoot.)
I also wish that I had used these a few years ago when we worked so hard in speech therapy trying to get Lauren to make animal sounds. How much nicer it would've been to show her a realistic cow figurine instead of just the cartoons in her picture books. I could've also introduced her to a much wider range of animals than just the most popular ones that are often in books for preschoolers.
As always, you can visit The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew blog to see what other homeschool families thought of this product.