I was just carrying the Croco Jungle Research Station down the hall to a classroom of eager kids when students passing by said, “Whoa!!” Kids jumped right into storytelling play with hands moving quickly to operate the Crocodile’s skull cave, set out accessories (hang the binoculars atop the cave near the lookout and trap door), set up Ranger Tom’s second story station and start the adventure. “The cave looks like a crocodile; we have to climb to get up there,” they said as they explored and opened the huge jaw to reveal a wonderful hiding place for the treasure. Kids were teaching each other and collaborating on the story, “What are these?” “Those are torches to light your way. Back in the time, you didn’t have lights so you used fire to see.” The series of cage and enclosure parts are interchangeable so kids were re-configuring them, “The jaguar goes in here so he doesn’t make trouble, and this part moves in front of the lock so he won’t try to escape.” The ranger “is collecting the animals” and brings them up with a net and pulley system up for examination and care to his office stocked with a computer, dishes, knife, radio and ax. After much work with the animals, Ranger Tom took a nap in the “hangmock!” The radar brought on a group discussion about how they didn’t have internet in the jungle and how would he use his computer? Don’t you love what kids come up with? Later the ranger cooked soup over the fire in his big pot. The animals included–baby elephant, crocodile, jaguar, and monkey–are signature Schleich, with their hand painted detail that makes them so realistic for kids’ play. After years of effectively using Schleich animals to engage kids in play therapy to build their language skills, I am excited to see new sets that surround their animals to stage creative storytelling, building reading and writing skills while having a load of fun!

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