To get us started, we came home one day last week to discover a very jingly cardboard box stuffed behind our recycling bin. I turned and said ‘Ooh what’s this?’ and weirdly, the little lady instantly replied ‘Bigjigs!’ (How did she know?!?)
Inside we found the nicely packaged ‘Music Set’ which retails for £14.99. The description for this set states that it includes ‘A colourful xylophone, two handbells and two castanets’. However, purists out there would state that the wooden instrument with metal bars is actually a ‘Glockenspiel’. For the record, I was pretty sure it was the other way around, but my husband works in the music-production industry as a composer, and was quick to point this error out. Never one to be satisfied until I can find more solid evidence, we quickly did some research online and found that the word ‘Xylon’ is actually the Greek for wood, and it was in fact the toy industry who began the misnomer – who knew! Technicalities aside, my initial impression was that this was a lovely little, well-made wooden music set that was bursting with colour.
I was very impressed with the very eco-friendly feel of the packaging, even down to the little brown twisty ties holding the instruments in. Much nicer than those tight bits of sharp plastic that force you to dig out a wrench, shears and hammer just to open the damn thing. Everything about the Bigjigs packaging felt well planned out, especially when these products are meant for children. I felt happy to let our little lady hold the box herself and attempt to open it, and it was a nice to be able to get to the items inside quickly. Top marks to Bigjigs for frustration-free packaging!
So, now for the important bit – what did we think of the instruments? Well.. as I said before, with Mike being in the music industry I must admit that our family is naturally a bit more fussy than most when it comes to sound quality. Not me – I couldn’t tell the difference between a wailing wizard and a fine-tuned piccolo, but Mike hears everything. I hate to admit it, but the first thing he noticed with the xylophone glockenspiel is that it didn’t play real notes – which is weird because it actually has the notes written on it. Even I can tell that when you play a scale on it something doesn’t sound quite right, even though I wouldn’t be able to tell you what or why. Have a listen yourself in our first video below. The toy is still fun to play with and isn’t so loud that it hurts your ears when you child bangs it with all the sugar-induced energy they can muster, but I do think there is room for improvement. It would also be nice if the beaters could somehow slot into the back so that they didn’t separate from the instrument, but that’s a very secondary niggle – I do agree that it is far more important that even toy instruments are made to sound authentic (otherwise what are we teaching our children?) I’m not a musical person at all so have had to come up with this analogy to try and help myself come to this decision – It’s a bit like having a toy designed to teach the alphabet, only the letters are all in the wrong order.. makes sense?
Moving on to the ‘clackers’ and ‘shakers’ (aka castanets and handbells) – these went down a treat and I can see them shaking and grooving their way into our play time for years to come. A friend of mine saw our quick video on Instagram and even commented that her set is going strong seven years later, and I can very well believe this. They make a great sound, are satisfying to use and fit very nicely in both teeny toddler’s hand and those of the grown ups.
Our little lady loved carrying her new toys around, then lining them up only to then move them again. It was also very cute seeing her proudly take them over to show her new best friend – our very daft cat, Logi. I certainly think we could all get very used to putting fun to the test, although I’m not sure how much longer the T-shirt will fit.
So, the moment of truth.. Did these colourful new toys make it into the box of favourite things? You will have to watch the video to find out for yourself…