Working in a toy shop for six days a week, year in year out, I like to think I can spot a toy that our customers will love. I’m not talking about bargains, but about beautiful toys. Quality and expansively educational. While our toys are educational, they don’t only teach what you will learn in a classroom. They demonstrate design and function, form and creation.
Each year we select ten outstanding toys to showcase. You can see a summary here, but today I am going to tell you why we have selected one of the wooden toys featured in this year’s Top Ten; Facemaker blocks.
Facemaker blocks are beautiful to hold, smell and see. They even sound good when they are stacked together. Created by UK artists David Goodman and Zoe Miller, these blocks are the toys that designers choose when they shop at Flying Penguin, and often they keep them for themselves. I know one customer who stores her Facemaker blocks in her wardrobe and only brings them out for special play sessions, encouraging the sense of wonder in her children that the blocks inspire in her.
Each of the six sides of the Facemaker blocks is painted with a solid pattern in black, red or white. By choosing one side and sitting it next to another block, you can begin to make patterns that will eventually form a face. The shapes painted on each block have been carefully chosen so that an amazing array of faces can be created. Perhaps you will chose to make a smug pirate, a surprised elf or a smiling girl with black hair. The possibilities are endless and will engage a creative 7 year old for a long time.
There’s a name for toys that don’t have a predetermined outcome, solution or single result – open-ended toys. Open-ended toys encourage creativity, a quality that is sometimes referred to as the highest form of intelligence. A creative person is the sort of person who will find a unique solution to the problems that life presents, entertaining and inspiring others along the way. While play is how children learn, playing with open-ended toys will always encourage creativity, and also do something to offset the culture of instant gratification that computers and electronic games foster.
Facemaker blocks are made of rubberwood – a wood widely regarded as sustainable because it makes use of the wood from rubber trees when they no longer produce rubber. The 25 blocks in the set are hand printed.
Come in and have a play with the Miller Goodman blocks we have open on the shelf, or if you are too far away from Newtown, play this video which shows the endless possibilities that Miller Goodman blocks can inspire.
Last year the Flying Penguin team launched our inaugural Top Ten Toys. When deciding which toys to include, we considered what our customers love, which new products stand out from the crowd for innovation and design, as well as products that have stood the test of time. And we made sure our supplies of these Top Ten treasures would last through the Christmas period.
Last year customers loved our Top Ten Toy choices, and they are amongst our biggest sellers 12 months later. Here is last year’s Top Ten. All but one of these is in stock right now, and the tenth is coming soon!
This year we have sifted through hundreds of amazing toys and chosen 2012’s Top Ten. We have tried to cover all age groups and various toy types. Over the coming weeks, I will review these toys in turn. I think you will agree; each of them is a winner!
Jackie, Brenna and I are so excited to be launching a new website.
You know, we came to Flying Penguin via a very indirect route. Jackie and I, like most people, were busy working for other people. Day in, day out. Helping other people reach their goals and dreams, without really thinking about our goals and dreams.
Don’t get me wrong, some of our work was really rewarding. We both have done some great community and volunteer work and found colleagues who will be our friends forever. Like, I set up The Women’s Library Inc way back in the early 1990s. And Jackie was the first-ever Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer for the NSW Attorney General’s Department. But we both had dreams of building our own little business.
Meanwhile little Brenna was not so little anymore and was ready for a weekend job, in between babysitting and playing with the very much loved children in her life. And then three years ago, the opportunity arose and we were able to scrape together the capital to start a business. Knowing that the Newtown shopping strip was really long, but lacked any quality educational toy shops, we set about researching quality toy suppliers, website businesses and leasing opportunities. We started thinking about how we could establish a business that would fit with our values and really provide something different for people who were looking for kid’s toys, Sydney and beyond.
In August 2009, Flying Penguin Extraordinary Educational Toys was born. We started selling baby toys online and were elated when the first order arrived (thanks Cecelia). Then an order arrived from someone we didn’t know and I could barely believe it! We were on our way.
We opened the doors of the Newtown shop in October 2009 and were blown away by the local support that day. A friend videoed the entire shop for us (thanks Ig) and Brenna organised a flash mob to mark the occasion. But Jackie and I were too busy to watch it. And by the end of that exhausting day we knew people were happy to see our little shop in Newtown. We were so very grateful.
So, now we find ourselves at the end of the renowned “tough” three year new business set-up period and moving on with a new image. We set up as the GFC began and have ridden its wave until now, with retail starting to look a bit brighter. We’ll keep looking for the best sustainable and traditional wooden toys, but we now have even more to show you, and a vision for bringing the best new, high quality and beautifully designed toys to you, both online and in Newtown….and beyond.
Thanks for sharing this ride with us and welcome to those of you who have just met us. We hope you will find us personal, honest and unique.