|E's friend (15 months)|
Whilst it is described as being suitable from 2-4, I've found that kids are able to use it purposefully from about 13 months or so and the 4 year-olds in my life are able to master it (and therefore bored with it) in about 3 minutes. My 7 month-old, O, enjoys mouthing it, but he isn't very particular.
I used this often when E was learning basic shapes. He enjoyed finding the shape I asked him for and figuring out which set of pegs it fit on before he was using spoken language. I could also see he was developing a sense of humour as he deliberately put the pieces on the wrong pegs and waited for my reaction - laughing at his own joke (he takes after his father).
With his developing interest in numbers and counting I've put it back into rotation and he enjoys sitting near me and talking me through what he's doing - 'Look, I put the green one here. One peg. Oh. Oh! This one has two holes.'
The board and pieces are constructed of wood and are great quality. After 1.5 years of play (and quite a lot of being chucked on the floor) it still looks new with no chips in the paint or dents in the wood.
If I used a star system, I'd rate the quality as 5 stars.
In terms of environmental responsibility, Lakeshore doesn't seem to have a policy or any information on their website. They do have a Responsible Manufacturing information page which outlines how they ensure that their manufacturers comply with labour laws and do not engage in slavery or human trafficking (I may be naive, but I would assume this would be a given and not a selling point!). I have contacted them and asked for any information about environmental protection measures. I shall update* this post if I receive a response. Until then, I assume that the wood is not sustainably forested and they aren't doing anything to mediate the environmental impact their products or manufacturing processes are making.
UPDATE: Lakeshore have got back to me and confirmed that the Sort-A-Shape is not made with sustainable materials. They've written that they are always looking at ways of improving and the do sell some bamboo blocks. Some of their nursery furniture is also Greenguard certified - complying with low-emissions standards to improve quality of indoor air.
Overall verdict: Useful educational toy that deserves space on the shelf. Fantastic quality, but I would look for an eco-friendly version from a different company or get one second hand.