Sometimes when we’re bored we’ll head out to the local shopping park – a bit of retail therapy does wonders, and one of my sons favourite activities is riding around in the trolley looking at (and touching) everything. If you make that a toy store and he’s in absolute heaven. I’m very lucky to have a Smyths Toys Superstore just five minutes drive from my house and it’s a family paradise. As he’s only 18 months old right now, William is just starting to delve into the world of toys and I’m trying to be quite aware of what I buy him. First, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on things that he’s going to outgrow and second, I’m aware of the importance of education, development and play and I want to focus on toys that encourage that.
Enter the Big Steps range. This is the new pre-school line of products from Smyths Toys which is split into three categories – groove, play and vroom. Right now William has just started getting into role play – starting to pretend play after observing me. He loves watching me in the kitchen and is very big on food, so the Big Steps Play City Deli is ideal for him. Aimed at 18 months+ he’s just in the right age to start playing with this and I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops his play technique over time. At the moment it’s very basic, but he’s definitely having fun!
The Big Steps Play City Deli retails for £24.99 – which I think is excellent value given how long this should last and how many hours of play it’ll provide.
The Play City Deli is a pretend play food truck, complete with grill that makes a variety of noises and music, and lots of plastic accessories such as fries, hotdogs, burgers, donuts and a grill pan, spatula and tongs. It came fully assembled except for the decal stickers which take just a quick minute to apply, and the top which folds down into the middle section. Inside the truck is really quite a large amount of space (accessible by a lift up flap on the back which doubles as a rear table, as well as from the top underneath the grill). It would hold a lot of stuff, which makes it a pretty ingenious little toy box as well. The whole thing is on wheels and I’ll admit, my toddler did sit on it and try riding it around as well!
William immediately got stuck in and started playing with the food and at 18 months he does recognize that it’s food, and he’s playing with a kitchen. He loved putting the fries in the frier and walking around with them, and trying to force feed the cat a hot dog. It’s kept his attention and he was easily engrossed with it – and he has played with it for 30 minutes a day since we received it. I try to limit the same toy to small bursts, so he doesn’t get bored, and he would definitely be happy to play with it longer. Sometimes he’s a bit shy with new toys at first, but he got stuck right in there with this one.
Like William’s outfit? He’s wearing hand-made leggings from Cornish mum-maker Lottie & Lysh. The polo shirt is from Asda!
The pieces are a good size for toddler hands, and the bus feels fairly robust – although it can be tipped by a boisterous little boy! I feel like this would be a good starter kitchen for those who have limited space, especially given the extra toy-storage it provides and is also a much more portable option than a full kitchen. I’m already planning to take it on holiday (and we can stuff extra toys inside it) and it would be easy enough to take to a play date or relatives house to keep them occupied
We didn’t manage to test it with any other children, but I think it would be ideal for two to play – one providing the role of server, and the other customer. Pair this with a toy till and some fake currency and you’ve got a little empire under way. This could also pair well with a full size kitchen, as kids could cook up their delicious meals in the kitchen and then serve it to various people around the house or garden with their deli van. Quite a lot of opportunity for stimulating the imagination.
Most importantly, I do feel like William is learning through playing with this toy. It’s teaching him how to recognize food and how to handle it, it’s increasing his hand-eye co-ordination and it’s stimulating his imagination – just check out that concentration above! Roleplaying toys like this are so good for development.
Were there any downsides? Well, the food it serves isn’t exactly healthy, so I’d liked to have seen some tomato or lettuce or anything other than fried and sugary foods, but I’ll be buying some extra accessories to go with it for his stocking at Christmas and adding new kitchen accessories over time will help keep this toy fresh, and add depth. The only other downside is that it came with two cardboard containers that you serve your food in. I feel this is a bit pointless for a toddler toy, as they were already soggy (he had to taste test them..) and a bit ripped at the end of the first session. They really are a very very minor part of the whole kit though. I’ve added one of his plastic dinner bowls into the mix and he loves serving up his burger and fries in his own dish!
We’re going to be heading back to Smyths Toys before Christmas and picking up a few more items from the Big Steps Range. I’ve got my eye on the Toolbox and the Mobile Doctor Kit – both excellent ideas for pretend play that I’m absolutely sure he’ll love.
Do you know a toddler who’d be interested in the Big Steps range?
I was provided with the Big Steps My City Deli and asked to provide a review by Smyths Toy Superstores.