Melissa & Doug is known for its high-quality wooden toys, which range from puzzles to arts and crafts gear. What sets the brand apart isn’t just the top-notch construction, but also the fact that the toys focus just as much on learning as they do fun. Now, add Mickey Mouse to the mix, and it takes the toys to a whole new and exciting level.
I, along with my 3.5-year-old son, had the chance to try out 6 new toys from Melissa & Doug’s new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse line, each focusing on helping to teach and perfect specific skills, and all ideal for kids aged 2-3+. Here’s our take.
Shape Sorting Clock
With the same concept as Melissa & Doug’s classic shape sorting clock, this version features a smiling image of Mickey in the centre, while the hour and minute hands are shaped like his arms and literal hands.
Naturally, this toy can be used to help preschoolers learn to tell time. But there are other benefits as well. Each number comes in a different shape, and fits into a recessed slot that has the number beneath it as well. This helps kids learn their numbers, colours, and shapes, and how to match them in the right spots. It also helps build both cognitive and motor skills. And don’t worry, mom and dad, if you’re trumped by some of the more complex shapes, like a parallelogram or quatrefoil, there’s a handy legend on the back of the clock to help.
Once ready to tell time, there are minute numbers below the hour to help make it easier for kids: every fifth number is written, with four red dots in between so the kids can easily see that the number “3” means 15 minutes, number “8” means 40 minutes, and so on.
Wooden Stacking Train
Any Disney fan will enjoy this version over Melissa & Doug’s traditional stacking train, with cute images of your favourite characters appearing on the side of the blocks so it looks like they’re inside, going for a relaxing train ride. On the wheels are the signature mouse ears in bright white, spinning along as your child races the train across the floor or table.
But before you get to playing with the fully built train, you need to build it! The package includes an image of what the train should look like, so it’s worth keeping as a guide for your child to try and match. But there’s no reason he can’t play around with different combinations.
The base consists of two pieces that fit together to make the full eight-wheeled train. Other pieces come in various colours and shapes, from a cylinder to a semi-circle, square, and triangles. Kids can stack them on their own, or mom and dad can get creative with some games. You could ask them to, for example, figure out how to create a full circle with two pieces, or a square by placing two triangle pieces in the right formation. The great part is that once you’re done, the child can enjoy tons of fun zooming the train along the floor.
Standard Wooden Peg Puzzle
As a great starter toy, this Wooden peg puzzle set has eight large images of popular Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters, with thick, raised wooden pieces to place inside each, matching to the image underneath. This will help kids with both placing pieces correctly to fit within the puzzle based on their shapes as well as images. Once they’ve mastered this, you can move on to something more advanced, like the Hide & Seek wooden game.
This Hide & Seek game uses same concept of standard wooden peg puzzles, like the one noted above, but with a fun twist: tiny magnets are in the middle of each piece, which fits flush in the slot. How do you get them out? Use the magic “wand,” of course!
It reminds me of the swimming ducks game at an amusement park, where kids use a fishing pole with a magnet at the end to pick up a desired duck. When they flip the duck over, a number or prize is revealed. In this game, pick up the piece using the wand, which is designed to look like Mickey’s arm, complete with white glove and string hanging down to hold the magnet. Aim, pick up the piece, and a secret hidden image is revealed underneath. For example, grab the apple tree, and Daisy Duck is behind, holding one of the delicious fruits. Pick up the large piece with a shiny red car on it, and ta-da! Goofy is hiding underneath. It helps kids develop good hand-eye coordination since they must steady the wand and hover it right above the magnet in order to pick up the piece. And the cute pics underneath truly make it feel like a game of hide & seek. And what kid doesn’t love to play hide & seek?
Once your child reaches pre-school age, he’ll want to help with everything. My son was so excited to pretend to “fix” things that we got him his own tool set. This Melissa & Doug wooden tool set is sturdy and adorable, with 24 pieces that will allow your child to do everything from “hammer” nails, to use a screwdriver, and tighten up nuts and bolts. The child can even screw and unscrew pieces from the bolts by rotating them, helping to build those important fine motor skills. (You might need to twist the pieces a bit first to loosen them up so it’s easier for the little ones.) Of course all of the pieces are oversized, and made of wood. The set will provide hours of fun, and help to build hand-eye coordination, counting, sorting, recognition (which one is the hammer?), and problem solving: ask the child, for instance, to show you how he would secure one piece of wood to another. As with the other products, the super-cute images of Mickey and friends on all sides of the tool case, along with the convenient Mickey-eared carry handle, make it even cooler.
Ideal for kids aged 3 and older, this wooden skills board features Mickey’s smiling and welcoming face as kids help the lovable mouse get ready in the morning. There are five basic skills featured on the board for kids to practice: buttoning and unbuttoning a large button, pulling a zipper up and down, tying a lace, manipulating a snap closure, and opening and closing a buckle.
Kids can practice each skill every day, or focus on them one at a time until they master each one. Each coloured piece also comes out, so the child can take it with him to get a better grip, and explore how each one works by examining it from every angle.
Check out a full selection of Melissa & Doug toys at Best Buy Online.