Nuts & Bolts

About

Nuts & Bolts is a quaint little standalone shop in Balestier Road specialising in open ended toys sourced from all over the world.

Open ended toys are toys which can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the child’s creativity and imagination. For example, a curved wooden board can be a rocker or flipped over to become a tunnel. It can be propped up against a sofa and used as a slide. Open ended toys are kept simple and as natural looking as possible.

The owner of Nuts & Bolts is Wei Xuan, a lovely homeschooling mama of two. Her children are her main priority and the opening hours of the store actually revolves around their schedule. As such, the store is not open daily but about twice a week. To maintain a comfortable experience for visitors, the store runs on an appointment-only basis.

Her children came up with the name Nuts and Bolts, as they used this term instead of “pins and needles”. Both children helped to set up the store by painting signs, fixing shelves, cleaning up… the entire store is a product of love by their family.

We had the pleasure of visiting the store twice and it was such fun for the children! The store has large glass windows to let natural sunlight shine through. The store itself is not large by any account, but it is well-designed and doesn’t feel claustrophobic. There are various corners where children can play at indoors. Behind the store is a grassy slope where children can run up and down and outside the store are climbing frames, large hollow blocks and a sand corner. These activities will be changed from time to time.

The first time we went there, the kids got to paint on seashells and spray coloured water on a piece of paper using a spray bottle while they painted on a mirror the next visit. 

Most of the products which are on sale are available for children to test out. Although there is no obligation to purchase, it is close to impossible to leave empty handed. The products are decently priced, taking into consideration the overheads required to maintain such a place. Play objects which promote gross motor skills such as the Wobbel board, Confidence Triangle, Large Hollow Blocks and the Step-up-step-down Rocking Boat can be placed in the home in place of electronic toys. 

A multitude of smaller toys promoting sensory development and creativity line the walls of the store. There are treasure blocks, which are wooden hollow blocks with acrylic centres that can be filled with anything from beads to feathers and buttons. Baby percussion instruments, mirrors, light pads with colourful acrylic paddles and geometric shapes… there are simply too many to list. 

Mirrors are an integral part of the Reggio Emilia approach because it adds depth and structure to a child’s learning when he is able to see the object from all angles. The mirrors sold are child safe and do not contain glass.

Wei Xuan mentioned that she likes observing how each child uses the play objects and behaves. Some are confident, some are shy, some need help while others don’t.

The children couldn’t keep themselves away from the sand area. Didi loved it so much, he put it in his mouth. Pro-tip: bring a bottle of powder if you’re intending to let your children play with sand so you can dust the sand off easily. There are no washrooms in the store so it may be wise to bring some water for washing hands too. 

It is a unique concept where children are allowed and encouraged to do what they want with the toys. There is no stress unlike in some stores where you feel like the salesperson is trailing you and guilt-tripping you into buying the products.

Over at Nuts & Bolts, it feels more like a playdate at a friend’s house. That said, it is still a store so please don’t bring your children there to play for hours without at least making a purchase to show your support!


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*** This is not a sponsored review and no compensation was received in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.

Shaping Early Childhoods

Many children in Singapore are forced into highly competitive environments as early as 4 years of age. Their schedules are chock full of enrichment and preparation classes until they don’t even look forward to school holidays anymore because they have holiday camps and more classes.

These kids go to primary school and feel bored, causing the bar to be raised even higher for future batches of students. It’s a suffocating cycle. With two very young children at home, I wish to let them play and explore and ideally, pick up concepts and develop their own reasoning through play. 

Eventually, I will have to prepare them for primary school to ensure that they know enough to not fall behind their peers and suffer from low self-esteem. Before that, setting up an environment which stimulates learning will be beneficial for their holistic development.

My own childhood was less stressful and I remember having my own huge playhouse with working fan and lights, constructed by my father from a TV box. He crafted cardboard shelves from pizza boxes for my Barbie dolls and taught me to cycle. Okay, I completed Mixed-Up Mother Goose, watched my dad play Wolf 3D and Prince of Persia, so I wasn’t all Tarzan. I felt real academic stress when I started primary school.

Here’s why open-ended play is important. How do we start? Popular beliefs of open-ended play are that “Passive toys make active learners.” and “The best toys for babies do nothing”. Rather than buy an electronic toy drum set, hand them pots and pans. Start a collection of bread tags, bottle caps, toilet paper rolls, rubber bands, pebbles, leaves… things readily available in the household.

There are many ideas available online I’m only beginning to clear out my toys. In the meantime, I try to bring them out for playdates at least once a week to socialise and explore non-digital environments. On days that we don’t go out, we sometimes let them go to the playground to climb, run and expend all that energy. Letting kids sit on grass does wonders for their immune systems. Also, you know those electric shocks you get when you brush against another person? Standing barefooted on the ground, though icky, dispels static electricity from your body into the ground.

Children are like flowers; fragile yet with the right environment, they will flourish.