The first of our weekly reviews, where we explore some of the learning resources and materials available to home educators and review them for your benefit. This week, the Spielgaben.
What Is It?
A Spielgaben is essentially a comprehensive collection of small toys and objects that facilitate learning and play. Their website defines it as “a set of toys based on the work of Friedrich Froebel. They are designed for use with very young children by parents and educators. The purpose of the Spielgaben toys is to bring children back to the type of learning that will truly stimulate their development through uninterrupted play and discovery time.” The toys include: yarn balls and string, wooden circles, small two dimensional wooden shapes, large three dimensional wooden shapes and our favourite, plastic spheres with holes in and sticks which can be inserted. The collection comes in a wooden chest of drawers for storage, along with approximately 900 pages of teaching materials.
Who Is The Target Audience?
Home educators. It is advertised as the ultimate home educating resource, suitable for children from 3-12 years. Although it would be fabulous for any age and any child, the price I suspect will put people off if their children are also already receiving an education in school.
- Its versatility. I have used this with my four year old to build cognition and memory skills, awareness of shape and space and arithmetic, a ten year old tutee to help with multiplication and fourteen year olds with STEAM.
2. It is strongly play-based and great for independent play and projects. This flower was constructed by a six year old, based on one of their ‘Nature Inspiration Cards’, of which there are plenty. Even if you don’t adhere to the guide (which often happens with my little one, who likes to ski off-piste!) the cards provide a great starting point.
3. The learning materials. I organised the materials into cardboard wallets and there is a huge amount, beginning with early topics like colour recognition and moving towards much more complex maths, including data handling, shape and space, algebra and mental arithmetic. We are working through the Kindergarten Workbook, which is well-pitched – just challenging enough to be interesting but still fun and play-based. I have also found it quite helpful as an informal assessment tool; through observation it has been easy for me to spot areas that my little one finds easy and those he finds more challenging.
- The price. The Spielgaben is spectacularly and frighteningly expensive. The only way we could afford to buy one was a tiny discount I managed to persuade them to offer in exchange for writing a review (NB they don’t seem to care what I say in it so this is a fully honest review!) and money that was kindly given by a couple of relatives for us to invest for our son in something educational. I also use it extensively in workshops and tuition and I’m not sure I would have felt able to invest in it if that hadn’t been the case. It is only available from America so the price includes shipping and customs fees.
- The storage. The cabinet is lovely, and helps us not to lose things (which I was very concerned about and put me off purchasing it initially). However, you can’t just shove things back in the right box and shut the drawer as they don’t fit so you need to be quite methodical about where the different materials go. This is probably absolutely fine if you are naturally a very methodical and organised person. 🙂 It might also have been helpful to have the materials readily organised in folders – I didn’t really mind sitting and organising it all but I think maybe for the price I shouldn’t have had to.
- Possible environmental impact. There is an enormous amount of paper and I probably won’t use the majority of it for years so it seems unnecessary. I believe at one time they offered digital resources which would be environmentally more beneficial but I can see that it would also be irritating to have to print things off so I’m not sure what the answer is, really.
Is it worth it? It really is expensive and that’s the major downside, really, so to what degree it is viable depends entirely on your family and financial circumstances. If you have several children, or you are a dedicated home educator who is just starting out and likely to home ed for the long haul, you will get masses of use out of it and I would thoroughly recommend it. They very rarely appear on the secondhand market and I’m assuming that that’s because people just hold onto them, but I have seen a couple come up for fairly close to retail so I’m guessing that once you’ve used it you could always sell on at a bit of a loss (don’t quote me on that!). We absolutely love it and use it most days, both for play and learning activities.
Where to Buy
I hope this has been helpful. Keep an eye out for our next review – which will be something completely different!