Flockmen are a new toy in our house, here’s a little taste of the many things you can do with them. The possibilities are endless – open ended/ loose parts, mathematical play, small world and creative play. In this review I’ll be looking at different ways I think they can help develop key skills for children and how they can foster creativity.
Importance of Resources
If you’ve visited the blog before you will probably know that I’m a big maths fan and love mathematical resources. Maths is often the subject that many adults will say – ‘I’ve never been any good a maths’. Even when I was teaching reception children (4-5 year olds) I’d have children say – ‘I’m no good at maths just like my ……. ‘(fill in an adult in their lives). It’s amazing how much these early conversations impact on a child’s self belief in what they can and can’t do.
I have to work hard at maths, but I love the puzzles and challenges it presents. I often feel that children (and adults) who find maths tricky or who don’t like maths never had the opportunity to work with hands on resources right from the start. In maths, resources help explore mathematical concepts, help to encourage a trial and error approach and make concrete more abstract problems.
Often practical resources are available to children at a young age, but as they move through their schooling they can be expected to move away from these valuable aids as they are seen not to need them anymore. From my maths subject leaders days, I’ve found that many children benefit from continuing to have access to a range of manipulatives (resources you can manipulate). It’s not a one-size-fits-all and having a range of resources that have been properly introduced and readily available for children to select from can help to considerably increase mathematical confidence.
As with many new resources I find lately, I first spotted these cute little Flockmen on Yes Bebe Instagram! I especially like resources that can be used in play from a young age and can then grow with the child into a resource for further learning. The familiarity and security of play helps children to feel more comfortable when exploring new concepts.
I purchased a set of 32 from Yes Bebe for my 2 year old, Floss. They’ve been a real success with the whole family from ages 2 to 90! They’re one of those wonderful resources that everyone naturally gravitates to and wants to have a play with. However, if you want to get serious with Flockmen then you have to wait until the little ones are in bed – otherwise they have a habit of knocking down your superb creations before you’re finished!
If you’re lucky you might find a beautifully knotty one just like this fine Flockmen in your bag!
Open Ended Flockmen Toys
Flockmen are a small family business, check out the link to their lovely story of how it all began here. When choosing resources I’m often looking for ones that are open ended and will have many different possibilities of play/ learning. Flockmen are one of these resources. Yes, there are mathematical and problem solving opportunities, but also small world play, creative possibilities and more.
I was delighted when Flockmen contacted me and asked if I’d write a post about my thoughts on their lovely people. They offered to gift me a few more Flockmen so that we could get creative with them. The natural look of Flockmen are beautiful and we’ve kept quite a few natural, but oh have we had lots of fun getting the paints and pens out.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou
Rainbow Wood Staining
Flockmen are unsealed, natural wood and therefore perfect to get creative with. First up I decided to use our Tiny Land rainbow stains on them. I’m so pleased with how they turned out. Due to the natural wood you could use a range of different media to rainbow your Flockmen – crayons, felt pens, paints, chalks, pastels.
Astronaut and Aliens
When getting creative it can be lovely to just have a play and see where it takes you, but equally good to have an idea in mind. I wanted to make some small world figures for a space themed small world play I had planned for Floss.
Here I used POSCA pens which go on like a dream. As always when using paint pens you need to let one colour dry before applying another colour right next to it. Paint, pens, crayons and pencils all work too.
Even Daddy wanted to have a go with the POSCA pens and Flockmen. He secretly loves getting his craft on! It could certainly be a whole family activity or just leave some colouring pens or pencils for little ones to make up their own characters. Perfect for making characters for story sacks.
We use a perpetual calendar to help explore the passage of time with our daughter. Lately, Floss has become very interested in the days of the week and so I wanted to introduce a resource that will help her to learn the days of the week and their order. I’m using a new product from Tiny land – toy paint. I’ve got a range of colours, but I’m also going to mix colours to make a set of Waldorf inspired days of the week with associated colours.
We’ve been using the rainbow Flockmen as part of our seasonal display in our home too. Here’s part of our Summer display for Summer Solstice. If you want to have a go at making our Summer candles – click here.
Flockmen Play Ideas
Feelings are so important and from a young age helping children to understand their feelings and the feelings of others helps them cope with different situations more confidently. Exploring our emotions through play is a safe way to help children to understand a range of feelings. Here’s a couple of other posts I’ve written with resources to support this type of play here and here.
Floss and I had lots of fun playing with Flockmen and exploring feelings. We matched up which Flockmen we thought would go with a corresponding feelings card. It’s amazing that even at 2 years old, Floss associates certain colours with particular emotions such as yellow for happy and pink and red for angry. We drew different faces on our Flockmen with pencil and made lots of funny faces.
Loose Parts Play
They’re perfect to add to a loose parts collection. Not only are they people, they are houses, walls, towers, bridges – so many possibilities. Floss is a huge small world fan and loves to make different play scenes from her loose parts and animals.
Fine Motor Skills
There are so many fine and gross motor opportunities when using Flockmen. If you’d like more information on fine and gross motor skills for children this post has a couple of really good links. Stacking and balancing with Flockmen are great for fine motor skills as well as balance and hand eye co-ordination. Using a range of media to draw and paint on the Flockmen also develops fine motor control. We enjoyed wrapping wool around the Flockmen – for a 2 year old it’s a really great challenge. For older children they could make patterns or characters using the wool.
Small World Play
As I’ve said, Floss loves small world play. There are three main ways small world play happens in our house:
- Child initiated – Floss chooses her resources and makes up her own small world play settings and characters, This is often based around stories we have shared together or experiences we’ve had during the day – meal times, bedtimes or trips out. It’s where she imitates what she has seen or heard.
- Loose parts transformation – I put out a random selection of resources for her to choose what she would like to do with them. Sometimes she makes patterns and pictures, but often she uses the parts to become small world play in a similar way to above.
- Experiences – I’m introducing something new, we’re exploring something new or consolidating what we’ve learnt. Places that children can’t visit easily are great to explore through small world – space, the ocean etc.
Flockmen are a perfect accompaniment for small world play as they can be anything they want them to be. Although called ‘Flockmen’ they are gender neutral and can take on any role for small world play.
You can check out lots of different small world play ideas here.
Mathematical Flockmen Possibilities
Do check out the Flockmen website for lots of maths possibilities – link here. For Floss aged 2.5 years, numbers and counting are a huge part of her day. Currently, she wants to count everything in sight and has a huge fascination with numerals. I’ve made a set of rainbow Flockmen with numerals, number word and corresponding dots on. They’re a great play resource that I think we’ll be using for years to come.
I get so much pleasure out of making resources for Floss. I’m lucky she really appreciates the effort that I put in and once she knows mommy has made something for her it does seem to get extra play time.
Mathematical language and exploration is another benefit we have found with Flockmen. Building towers and comparing their sizes, measuring them, building one taller/ shorter. What would you do with Flockmen?
Flockmen Freebie Resources
Flockmen have a lovely range of freebie resources that can expand the play potential of their people. Check out this link for build challenge cards, pattern puzzle sheets, personalisation outlines and Montessori maths.
Would I Buy Flockmen?
Well, I already have, and I’m so glad that I did! I’ll be looking to purchase more too as I’d like to make an alphabet and a phonics phoneme set for us to use at home. I think they’re an incredible resource with so many ways you can play with them. Children and adults alike are drawn to them and they’re a great collaborative play resource for families of all ages to enjoy together. The fact they have a mathematical purpose too is just the icing on the cake for me.
I’d love to hear about what you’ve done with Flockmen. Take a look at the hashtag #flockmen for lots more ideas of play.