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As the name would suggest, this is a starter pack for the Bindeez system. Bindeez are little beads that, when sprayed with water stick together. They can be used to make patterns, to templates or to the child's own design.We bought it as my daughter had long been begging to have some and had played with them at friend's houses and I thought it would be a good way for her to try out this toy, as we do enjoy arts and crafts of all kinds.
What you get:
This starter set is a new release; it contains a pen dispenser with six chambers for six different colour beads, 2 transparent mats and 4 templates to put under the mats and 300 beads in the various colours. The templates are basically laminated paper pictures and double sided - with this set there were four pictures in all of cats and dogs.
This toy retails for £9.95, I paid £4.99 in Toysrus, as part of a promotion. The set contains an illustrated instruction sheet and also a little water sprayer to spritz your finished design with water. The beads are quite tiny - under half a cm in diameter.
The mats have little bead-sized dimples to take the beads, one is called a "diagonal" tray and has beads on offset rows, the other is called a "vertical" tray and has spaces for beads in straight rows. The age guideline by the manufacturer is 4+, and I tested it here with my daughter who is nearly six.
Using the set:
The first thing that has to be done with the set is loading the pen. It is quite a clever design at first sight, as you can see from the image above it has a revolving drum, this is "unlocked" by pushing a button and the whole thing swivles to load. Having looked at the manufacturer's website (www.bindeez.com), it seems previous pens could only take one bead at a time. We soon discovered on using the pen that there was probably a reason for this.
The pen was a bit fiddly for an adult to load, once loaded the child has to press a button on the end to dispense a bead, and rotate the drum with the pen with the nib pointing upwards to change the colour. We soon found that even with very very careful use in practice this didn't work - the beads all got mixed up, and sprang between the compartments. The little button to push at the end of the nib isn't the easiest to push and it is really hard to dispense the beads with precision.
Also when dispensed the beads can easily roll off and then are tiny to put in the right place. The previous pen apparently had a tool on it to aid this - no such luck here. My nearly six year old did manage ok in spite of this and really persisted when I was about ready to throw the whole thing out of the window.
To be fair once we had made a pattern it was simple enough to spray with water, and then after a wait to ease off our 2-D design - we made a few quite successfully, once dried they were fairly solid but we have found them prone to breaking up, seeing as they look like little sweets this is a worry if you have younger siblings. It does state clearly on the packaging not to use around under 3's, and also for safety the beads have been given a safe bitter taste - and it says to wash your hands after use. I did find that even after careful washing when I inadvertently licked my fingers at dinner time I could taste it - it was like that anti-nail biting varnish - yuck!
The manufacturers market this as a no-mess and no-fuss product - but I found that the beads got everywhere, worse they get sticky when wet, and even with careful use the beads end up on the floor and are end up in the most surprising places.
My daughter, bless her, was still keen to "do" something with her made items - but what do you do exactly with 4 very small cats made out of bobbles that are prone to getting sticky again with touch and falling apart - answers on a postcard please....
Overall I think it is fair to say we are not impressed.
Had I paid nearly ten pounds for this I would have been extremely annoyed - at £5 it was ok, but in all honesty 300 beads don't go far and the overall impression of this product is that it is cheap and makes something which is rather meaningless and not durable.
There is some play value and creativity in this product - other sets allow you to make jewellery and the like I believe, however it really was a bit of a disappointment. My poor daughter did her best to seem enthusiastic - after all that pester power it was the least she could do - but as a starter set this failed for us as I doubt very much we will be buying any more in the range. This starter set didn't get us started at all really - it just put us off, well me in particular, and was rather a short lived affair on all fronts.
I think we will stick to HAMA, which in my opinion is a much better product. I am afraid I can't in all good consciousness recommend this toy, which is a shame as we were prepared to love it.
(also on ciao, edited for dooyoo)