Toy Talk®  with Nikki Bush showcases and endorses educational games and toys every child should have during their formative years as well as games for family fun and connection. Nikki Bush, Human Potential and Parenting Expert, has been helping parents to buy with confidence since 2004. This is her running list of weekly recommendations for 2021.

FRUIT PUNCH by Amigo Games

Fruit Punch is one of the world’s top selling card games with 11-million sold. Be quick, be fast. In this competitive game spot five of the same type of fruit and be the first to bop the banana! Players inspect the cards flipped face up by each player, at the same time, looking for matching fruit and mentally doing the addition to find a total of five of the same fruit. Quick reflexes are required as players compete to bop the banana first leading to much fun and hilarity. The winner of each round collects all the cards that are face up on the table. The winner of the game is the person with the most cards at the end of the game. Don’t accidentally bop the banana or you will lose a card. If a player runs out of cards, they are not out of the game, they can continue to watch for a match and bop the banana, with the possibility of getting back into the game.

Skills: Counting, addition, mental arithmetic, pattern recognition, increase processing speed, eye-hand co-ordination, fine motor control

Age: 5 to adult

Players: 2-6 

Price: R274.99

Stockists: Loot, Raru, Takealot

REUSABLE COLOUR-IN PLACEMATS by Hey Doodle

When you next visit a restaurant with your kids, be prepared with a great activity to keep them busy while you are waiting for your meal to arrive. Look no further than Hey Doodle’s fabulous illustrated food grade silicone mats that come with 9 non-toxic marker pens in a convenient travel pouch. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and re-use. You can use a sanitiser too! Each activity mat has detailed illustrations, letters or numbers, words for incidental reading and things to seek and find. Choose from four different designs:

Toot Toot Honk – transport from A to Z

Into the Wild – animals from A to Z

Dinoroar – numbers from 1 t0 10

Sugar and Spice – numbers from 1 to 10

Reusable, no mess and quietly engaged kids – it’s a win for everyone! The mats are lightweight, non-slip and easy to fold and store in the travel pouch.

Skills: Eye-hand coordination, fine motor control, letter and number recognition, figure-ground perception, building vocabulary

Age: 4-8 years

Approx price: R399 (one matt, nine colour markers and pouch)

Stockists: Timeless Toys

Pop IT!

Pop IT!, the sensory bubble popping, toy has arrived. It’s the latest fidget toy craze to sweep the world. Pop IT! is a softer, safer, silicone version of bubble wrap that does not have to be thrown away after one use…and who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap? In the same way, Pop IT! provides sensory feedback and satisfaction with less noise than bubble wrap so it doesn’t irritate others close by or children who have sensitivity to sound. Pop IT! is a calming toy that will fascinate your child while stimulating fine motor skills and eye-hand co-ordination. Fabulous for keeping kids busy in the car or at restaurants, Pop IT! is non-toxic, reusable and washable. Sanitise as required. I keep one on my desk and destress through play while I’m taking phone calls.

Turn Pop IT! into a game called Last One Loses where children take turns to pop one or multiple bubbles in a row to try and outthink the opposition to leave the last bubble to pop. Easy to learn, a lifetime to master. Check out the Youtube video below. This toy is recommended by occupational therapist and psychologists. Once you pop you can’t stop! Comes in different shapes and colours.

Skills: Eye-hand co-ordination, fine motor control, proprioception, pattern recognition, sensopathic play

Age: 3 – 99 years

Approx price: Standard shapes and colours approx. R149, Rainbow colours R179, special shapes R199

Stockists: Lilliputs in Rosebank, Dooby Scoo and Star Dot Toys in Cape Town and will be in most large toy retailers soon

Enquiries: www.popit.co.za or info@popit.co.za

MAGFORMERS TOWN SETS & MAG BUDDIES RANGE by Magformers

Magformers is a high quality magnetic construction toy range. Now you can collect five brand new town sets (hospital, mart, bank, ice cream shop and city bus) and connect them all to make a multi-faceted town. My recommendation is that the City Bus set is a must and then your child can add the town sets to that – just check out the Youtube video below to see exactly why I say this. The combination will enable your child to enjoy the traditional play patterns of a dolls house combined with a vehicle track – but magnetically! Expand imagination and play possibilities with the addition of characters called Mag Buddies including Max and Maggy, Milo the dog and a Minibot! The Mag Buddies come with Magformers magnetic pieces and figurines, making them the perfect collectible for boys and girls. Fully compatible with all Magformers sets.

Skills: 2D to 3D building, fine motor control, eye-hand co-ordination, spatial planning, imaginative play

Age: 3+ years

Price: Mag Buddies approx. R99.99 each and Town sets approx. R599.99 – R749.99 depending on the set

Stockists: Toy Kingdom

CLACK by Amigo Games

How quickly can you spot and collect yellow stars, red lightning bolts and blue footprints and where are they? This is a magnetic game that clacks when you stack. Throw the shape and colour dice together. Everyone races to spot the match on the magnetic discs spread out on the table. After grabbing the first matching disc, players use its magnetic clack to build the rest of their matching stack. When there are no more matches, throw the dice again and repeat the process until no discs remain. The player with the most discs is the winner. Keeping score is easy—just line up the stacks to see whose tower is tallest. There’s one catch though – players may only use one hand to stack their magnetic discs. A 10 minute game for 2 – 6 players. Few rules. Easy to learn. Competitive, active and social. Play slower for younger players to find their confidence.

Skills: Visual perception skills, matching, visual processing speed, fine motor control, problem solving, competition

Age: 5 years to adult

Stockists: Raru, Loot from R366.00

HAPPY SALMON by North Star Games

Happy Salmon is the simple, fast-paced action card game that comes in a salmon shaped zipped pouch that is easy to take anywhere. Packed to the gills with high-fivin’, fin-flappin’ fun.

Picture cards instruct players to do the Classic “High 5”, the unifying “Pound It” (knuckle to knuckle), the frantic “Switcheroo” (switch places) and the delightful “Happy Salmon” (forearms alongside each other and flap your hand like a salmon tail) which will have everyone in hysterics.

During the game, at the same time, everyone calls out the action shown on their top card. When two players have a match, they celebrate by performing that action together, then discard their top card. Keep doing this. The first player to discard all their cards wins!

Easy to learn, quick to play with up to six players. Packaged in a fun Salmon shaped travel pouch.

Skills: Memory skills, processing speed, eye-hand co-ordination

Age: 8 years +

Stockists: Toy Kingdom, Takealot and Loot

Price: Approx R299.99

TOWER KIDS by Tower

These educational bundles of creative fun from Tower include foam and metallic mosaics, sequins, scratch art, foil art and sand art. While keeping children entertained making fabulous pictures and greeting cards, these activity packs will also stimulate fine-motor control, eye-hand coordination, spatial planning, matching and problem solving skills. These are all essential foundations for numeracy and literacy. You child will be strengthening their eyes for reading and their grip for writing while having fun learning through play. These bundles are incredible value for money. Keep a stock of them in your surprise cupboard for rainy days or when you need to keep your children occupied while you work from home.

Skills: Development of fine motor skills

Age: 3 years +

Stockists: Takealot from R109.00

Snap Ships by Play Monster

A snap together space-themed construction system. A number of different models and sizes from small to extra-large in the collection including Lance, Scythe, Sabre, Gladius, Locust, Sawfly, Scarab and Scorpion. Each model can be built three ways by following the well-illustrated instruction booklet or download the augmented reality app for additional builds and to transport your Snap Ship into your lounge or bedroom. Models come with decorative wings, fins and engines and working shooters. TOTY award winner in 2021.

Skills: Fine motor co-ordination, spatial planning, problem solving and fantasy play

Ages: 8 years and up

Stockists: Toy Kingdom

Price: Approx R279.99 to just over R1 000 depending on size of model

Youtube:

Snap Ships At These Galactic Outposts – YouTube

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza by Blue Orange games

Keep these 5 crazy words in mind and in this particular order – taco, cat, goat, cheese, pizza. As each player turns over a card and places it in the centre everyone shouts the appropriate word. In amongst all the picture cards are pictures of a taco, cat, goat, cheese and a pizza. When any of these cards are played at the same time as the same word is called, players race to slap their hand on the centre pile. The last player to do so takes all the cards. The first player to get rid of all their cards is the winner. You’ve to to pay attention and be fast. This is a quick an addictive family game that takes just 10 minutes or so per round, for 2 – 8 players. Comes with extra cards and rules for more competitive play. Well-packaged in a handy tuck box to take with you wherever you go.

Skills: Increase processing speed and develop visual perception

Age: 10 years – adult

Stockists: Toy Kingdom, C.N.A. and Takealot

Price: Approx R199.99

Imagimags Magnetic Building Tile Set by Imagimags

Imagimags are colourful perspex magnetic building tiles, some of the largest available on the market. This high quality product with embedded safety magnets was designed by a South African teacher turned home-school mom. It includes a well-illustrated 26-page STEAM instruction/ideas booklet and has two vehicle base sets to avoid sibling squabbles. Six figurines and four bases extend the play value of this durable value-for money set. It’s one of those colourful, entertaining and educational products that you will pass on from generation to generation. It has 36 solid squares, 12 square frames, 6 square windows, 12 tall Isosceles triangles, 12 equilateral triangles, 12 Isosceles triangles, 6 small rectangles, 2 vehicles and 6 figurines.

Skills: Fine motor control, spatial planning, problem solving, together and apart, sorting and matching, understanding forces and magnetism

Age: 3 years +

Stockists: Timeless Toys for R1799.00