“ Brand: Eco Pals / Type: Activity Toys „
I was given a thoughtful little leaving present by one of my managers when I began my third and final stretch of maternity leave. I was very pleased to be given a lovely little fabric book from Toys R Us' Ecopals range, alongside a cute little comforter style blanket from the same range. Ecopals is a range of nursery toys, exclusive to Toys R Us, made from 100% natural organic fabrics and recycled fillings. Other items include quite old-fashioned wooden toys and all the products promote sustainable and eco-friendly materials. The Ecopals range no longer appears to be available online but, when I last visited Toys R Us fairly recently, the entire range appeared to be on promotion for half price, including this little cloth book which was available for around £3. The Ecopals soft little 'book' is suitable for babies from birth so it was a lovely choice for a leaving present. The book is very small, much smaller than a typically sized baby book, making it perfectly proportioned for very tiny little hands to reach out for and, eventually, hold and play with. This is made entirely from soft padded cloth and so is very flexible and lightweight so my son was able to hold this independently from just a few months of age. Like most newborn baby toys, this has been chewed, gummed and sucked very eagerly by my little one without showing any signs of wear and tear. Being made from 100% natural organic cotton fabrics, produced without the use of any harmful chemicals, as well as only natural dyes is reassuring for parents, as there should be less likelihood of baby ingesting any nasties. The book opens out to show four internal soft cloth 'pages' each showing simple images from nature and the wider world and accompanying words, offering an opportunity for parent and baby to sit down together to look at and talk about the images. The text includes sun and sky, moon and stars, birds and trees and fish in the sea and the images are appropriately chosen for each heading, albeit very basic and simplistic. The language and imagery is fine for the newborn and early baby stages but is probably not detailed enough to hold the attention or interest of an older baby or toddler. Cute as this is, there are two major drawbacks with this as a baby toy. Firstly, the instructions recommend this as being surface wash only. I find this totally impractical considering the target age group of very young babies who are likely to put this straight in their mouths and subject it to various bodily fluids! I have, however, blatantly ignored this advice and put the book through a 40 degree machine wash without any adverse effects. The other disappointment is the limited colour scheme of the book. I think the emphasis here is on the eco-friendly theme so the book is predominantly beige, with the odd bit of brown and cream to potentially liven the pages up! I found the colours failed to hold my son's attention for very long and he tended to play with the little tags and ribbons around the edge of the book but paid little regard to the images on the pages. He had another soft book from a similar age which featured very bright and bold images and it was clear that he much preferred the more colourful offering. As a gift for a newborn, this is a lovely little product but I do think the lifespan is pretty limited and a baby will soon be ready for something more stimulating and engaging. The muted eco colours aren't particularly eye catching and, for that reason, I would recommend buying a more colourful and more detailed cloth book instead that should have a longer lasting appeal for little ones.