Share your travel experiences! Laura Barta travels a lot and wants you to do so too. Thanks to her company Whole Wide World Toys is set to make a splash with the first of a few World Village Playsets set in various countries that bring a bit of foreign fun home for the kids to play with and learn from. China is the first stop on Barta’s tour and the $59.99 set (set for a May 2014 launch) encourages not only play, but thanks to the included 32-page storybook, allows for children to get some reading time in to go with their play.
The colorful illustrated play mat (slightly reminiscent of the great Richard Scarry’s work sans the cute animal characters) is printed on a nice fabric, making it an interesting and arty shift away from a simpler cardboard game surface. A set of fourteen story cards are included to kick off imaginations about that faraway land (and perhaps some future travel plans?). The thirteen figures of people, animals, food and transportation are set in a puzzle frame that has the name of each piece in English and Mandarin Chinese (a nice touch), and if you’d like more elements for the set, an additional $39.99 gets you an extra three wooden pieces – a shop, house and boat, all of which add even more color and life to the set.
If you’re not ready to commit, or don’t quite have the space for the set if you live in a small space, you can (and should) at least snap up the wonderful My China Travel Journal (also available on Amazon in retail and Kindle versions). It’s 32 pages with some color illustrations and photos, telling the story of Emma and Joe, two American children as they explore parts of the country, meet people and enjoy the culture of that wonderful country. Barta’s writing is crisp and lays out some nice historical tidbits that keep the pages turning.
On a side note, I also have to thank Laura for introducing me to Palais des Thés and their very tasty Grand Yunnan Imperial Black Tea, as there was a bag included with info about the game. They have two retail shops here in NYC, but I’ve never been there all the time it’s been open. Well, that may change soon enough (either that, or I’ll be ordering some tea online very soon). It may not be the trip to China I’d prefer, but I think I’ll be happy nonetheless. That said, seeing this well-crafted playset and talking to Barta made for a great experience and she’s got plans for the next playset already. Ireland is the next stop for Whole Wide World Toys, so it’ll be interesting to see how that set looks once it’s ready.