Not every day is ideal for a real picnic, but any day is perfect for a pretend one!
The Shapes & Sharing Picnic Basket from LeapFrog is an adorable, educational, interactive picnic basket designed for babies ages 6 months and up. The set comes with the picnic basket itself, along with two cups, two plates, two forks, a small picnic blanket (about the size of a bandana), and two sets of four plastic food pieces.
The food pieces include a sandwich, a cookie, an orange slice, and a watermelon slice — shaped like a square, a star, a circle, and a triangle, respectively. These distinct shapes are just the start for the learning potential with this toy, as kids can fit the shapes into slots on the included plates or into holes on the top of the picnic basket (which functions as a shape sorter). The shape sorter only takes up half of the lid, though — the other half is a hinged lid that kids can open to get the food pieces out.
The basket features three play modes, which all utilize the food pieces and shape sorting top in different ways. There is also a butterfly button on the side of the basket, which is another important component to some of the play modes.
First up, there is “Music” mode. In this mode, the basket will sing about the different food pieces that kids place in the shape sorter. Kids can also press the butterfly button or open the lid to hear the basket sing songs about colors, shapes, or using manners!
In “Shapes & Colors” mode, kids can put the different food pieces into the shape sorter to hear the basket identify the shape of that food or one of the colors that is on that food. When kids open the lid in this mode, they will hear “open,” “shut” or “up,” “down” as they raise and lower the flap.
Finally, “Picnic Time” mode puts kids’ knowledge to the test. In this mode, kids press the butterfly button to hear the basket request a food that is a certain shape or features a certain color. If kids put the correct food into the shape sorter, the basket will respond with a cheer. If they get it wrong, the basket will compliment them on the attempt but encourage them to try again.
In all three of the play modes, kids will be using their brains, expanding their vocabulary, and honing their fine motor skills as they identify the names, shapes, and colors of these foods. It does take a bit of physical pressure to push each piece through the slots, so younger babies will likely need an adult or older sibling to help them push the shapes through. It provides a great opportunity for cooperative, hands-on learning.
While the forks and cups don’t play a direct role in the three play modes, they are integral to this toy’s unofficial fourth mode: imaginative play! Even if the interactive elements of the basket are turned off, this set is a fantastic option for role play, as kids pack up the contents of their picnic, select their picnic companion (be it a friend, family member, or beloved toy), carry the basket by its handle, find the perfect spot to lay out their spread, and pretend to dig into this well-balanced picnic meal.
Aside from its learning and developmental benefits, this toy has a few other features that parents will appreciate: There are two volume levels to choose from and all of the pieces store inside the basket for easy clean-up!
Overall, this toy has a lot of play value for under $25! And it is sure to stay a favorite for a while, as kids become able to play with it more independently and start to take advantage of its imaginative play potential.