Hartbeeps and Duplo, a match made in heaven?

For those of you that don't have young children, some of this post may seem a little… well… alien. But let me assure you, in the same way that when you were little there were crazy saturday morning TV shows full of fun, games and exuberant TV presenters, for our little ones there are real life, neon headband wearing ladies that bring fun, singing and playtime to little ones all over the country. Meet the Hartbeeps Team.

The official description for Hartbeeps is ‘an innovative, fun and interactive music based educational programme for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers'. To translate, each week they hold  sessions for babies and young children and for around 40 minutes both Baby and Mum (or sometimes Dad, Nan or Grandad) are whisked along on a merry sing-along of make believe with various different toys, props, outfits, coloured lights and bubbles. It's highly addictive (both for babies and for grown-ups!) and when I was at home with the little lady on maternity leave I went every week. It was my way of getting ‘that Friday feeling’ every week. (You can read about my friday adventures here

Honestly, its all about her, I'm not really having the time of my life! 
So it’s fair to say I'm a pretty big Hartbeeps fan. At £5.50 per session its not the cheapest way to spend a morning, but it is the most professional and entertaining of any of the baby/toddler sessions I’ve been to. One of the biggest plus points for me is that they encourage such imaginative play - rubber gloves for duck feet? Sure! 

Crazy dinosaur shower caps for Mums and Babies to wear? No problem! 

I love that they have such great ideas for play without always needing special props or expensive toys. You're able to re-create some of the fun from the sessions at home, and often with things you already own. So when I read in April that they hade made a partnership with Duplo I was pretty interested to see how it would all work.

Duplo is the baby brother or sister of the mighty Lego and comes in many shapes and sizes and kits. Aimed at children around 18 months and up, you can buy a Duplo zoo, train, stone quarry and even a 3-story play house kit.

I have to admit, a nostalgic small person inside me looks back to a time when I was little when we just had Lego bricks, and we made up all of this stuff, without it having to come in a kit to be put together, but times have changed, and plastic building blocks are Big Business these days. So with Duplo being masters in creating imaginative toy sets, and Hartbeeps being the masters of imaginative play, I was really interested to see what would happen when the two were combined.

This was the stuff that I grew up with! Image courtesy of The Guardian article 'The best brick on the block' .

Last week I was invited along to a launch party for Hartbeeps and Duplo at Legoland in the Legoland Hotel.

Seeing as it’s often tricky to find words to describe the crazy antics of a Hartbeeps session, I shall let the photos do most of the talking!

It was a familiar start with coloured mats laid out in a circle
My little lady was keen to get involved
She also managed to find a puppy immediately. (She LOVES white and black dogs!)
She was keen to hold onto the sunshine and sing along
A special Monkey guest caused quite a stir!
I chuckle as I see all the dads in the background trying to get their heads round the mayhem, as the mums all sing along!

Whats in the box?! Everyone rushes over to see. 

Ahaaaa, some toys and some Duplo in the box!

A chance to sample one of the newest 'Creative Picnic' Duplo sets.
All of the children played with the toys and the Duplo.
A hamburger from the set.
The boxes help show what you can make.
But after a few minutes with the Duplo and toys we were soon up on our feet again, ready for the next song and activity.
Yep, it was time for neon sweatbands and disco lights.
And the 'Tidy Up Song'!
Just some of the props and toys - a lot of tidying!
Gift bags for all of the guests so they could try out the Duplo Learning Play Number Train set.

So what did I think?

It’s a very clever collaboration. A marketer's dream. The Marketing Manager part of me gets a little giddy when I start to analyse how clever it is. Seeing as the Mums take such an active part in the activity and play at the Hartbeeps sessions, they now get to see their children play with the Duplo first hand. They can see if their children like it, and can get exposure to toys that they might not have even thought of beforehand. Brilliant inspiration for Christmas and birthday lists. 

The 'Mum' side of me was pleased to see that the Duplo toys were mixed in with the usual Hartbeeps toys and props (of which there seems to be and endless variety) so that it didn’t feel as if Hartbeeps was being taken over by another brand. And from what I saw the children played equally with all of the toys. Although the fast paced nature of the sessions meant that just as you started to build something with the Duplo, it was time to move onto the next part of the session. On the plus side though, it did show how you could integrate the Duplo toys into other role play activities, like the teddy bears picnic, instead of seeing it as just a 'building blocks' exercise. 

Perhaps a better question to ask is whether the session was twice as much fun because the Duplo toys were there? My honest answer would be 'No', but then its hard to improve on an already (in my opinion) perfect formula. Which demonstrates that its not specific sets toys that make the kids happy, it’s the whole experience. (So fill your toy box wisely!) Although your family might think you’ve lost the plot if you put yellow rubber gloves down on the Amazon wishlist for your little one… they might find a Duplo set a lot easier to comprehend!

As a final note, here's what happened when, stuck at home on a rainy Saturday the next day we remembered the Goody Bag which had the Duplo Learning Play Number Train set in it. Again, its a toss up as to who (parent or child?!) is having more fun...! 

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