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My eldest daughter is very creative so when it comes to buying her presents I do try to find new creative ideas for her rather than just the usual drawing and painting. I had actually seen this advertised on TV before Christmas and thought it looked interesting, when Sophie saw the advert herself she pointed it out as something she would like to ask Santa for in fact apart from Socks it was the only thing she actually asked for by name.
I bought the set from Amazon as I had some credit on there and they were no more expensive than anywhere else but the set is available from toy shops and Tesco had it online too. The set cost me £17.99 before Christmas but it has now come down a fair bit and currently is selling for £14.84 with free delivery on Amazon.
The set came packaged in a tough cardboard box which sad as I am always impresses me as it means you are not going to end up with loads of parts for something and nowhere to store them. The box is pretty attractive and has definitely been created to jump at children from shop shelves, there is the Disney logo in large at the top and then pictures of Princess Aurora, Belle, Cinderella and Snow White. On the other side of the box there is a picture of a little girl playing with the set and the pieces of the set in front of her and finally there are 3 little circles with three diagrams in it on what to do with the set.
My daughter was excited as soon as she saw the box but to be honest from the little pictures on it the box filled me with dread as it appeared that you would put the sand in the tub and shake to get it to stick to the pictures which made me expect a lot of mess.
==Inside the Box==
To open the box was simple it was just held down with a small piece of sellotape, inside the box all the pieces were well packaged with pieces of cardboard wrapped around them an taped into place for protection and the bags of sand all rolled in and themselves and then taped into place.
The box contains a purple plastic box which is curved to make it easily to hold, you get a purple lid which fits inside the purple box which has 5 slits in the top of it each one with little rubbers either side of the slit and then there is a bright pink lid which fits onto of the purple tub again with 5 slits in it and each one is numbered 1-5. When I saw this part of the contents I was intrigued and I must relieved that we weren't literally going to be pouring sand into the tub itself. There are 5 bags of sand with the set in light pink, dark pink, light blue, yellow and cream, each lot of sand is in a plastic bag which has a funny purple clip across the top of it and the bags are numbered from 1 to 5. You get 10 pictures of the princesses that are pictured on the front of the boxes all in different poses but pretty much just the head and top of the body of each one and then finally you get a set of instructions.
It took a while to get all the pieces unpackaged from the little pieces of sellotape and pieces of cardboard they were wrapped up in to which Sophie did keep bugging me wanting to know how long it would take to set up, this set is supposed to be for ages 4 years and up but there is no way a 4 year old could use this set on their own.
==Setting up the Box==
Each bag of sand has a length of purple plastic at the top of it holding the sides of the plastic bag in place and then each piece plastic had a thick and very sticky piece of sellotape across the top of it, if you don't have long nails then a pair of tweezers is required for this set in more ways than one. Once you have peeled the sellotape from the top of the bag you have to slide it into a number slot on the underneath of the purple lid from the pot, I have long nails but due to the stickiness of the tape I struggled with 2 of the bags. The bags are very easy to slide into place on the underneath of the purple lid and they can only slide in one way so you cannot put them in incorrectly which is great. The instructions show you exactly how to set up the box and they are very easy to follow as no doubt I am not explaining this very well. Once you have all the bags in place you have to lower them into the purple tub and push the lid into place, place the pink lid over the top which clips down at the sides and then you are ready to go.
==Using the Set==
I asked Sophie to pick which picture she would like to do first and as there was a choice of 10 she took ages to decide typically, finally we settled on a picture of Snow White. The pictures are constructed in such a way that any colours needed for the picture apart from the colours of the sand are already coloured on the cards and then there are little numbered pieces to remove where the coloured sands will sit to complete the picture.
The instructions tell you to do the pictures in order of the numbered pieces so therefore from 1 to 5 but I personally cannot see why it makes a difference which piece you do first and Sophie has done some of her pictures in the wrong ordered. Not every picture uses every colour of sand which I forgot to tell Sophie so she spent a while looking for number 2 on one of the pictures and couldn't understand why she couldn't find it. Taking the numbered pieces off the pictures is really not very easy and as Sophie bites her nails she cannot do it herself but to be honest I don't think many children of her age would be able to as some of the pieces are not quite cut completely and if you are not careful then they pull up the next sticky piece which means you then end up with the wrong coloured sand on the wrong bit of the picture.
Once you have removed the required numbered pieces from the picture you have to slide the card into the right numbered slot on the tub, once the picture is slid far enough in you will have about 1 inch of the card showing which has a purple header on it with the Disney sign. You have to shake the shaker maker 20 times to get the sand to stick to the picture and then once you have done this tap the top of the tub and gently remove the card. Sophie was really impressed when she saw what had happened when we pulled her picture out and was excited to see what would happen with each colour as we went along, light blue is colour number 1 and is used a lot on Cinderella for her dress and then pale pink is colour number 2, you do find that even though you have already covered the first numbered area with sand it does pick up some grains of sand from the following colours but it actually gives a pretty nice effect. I personally was concerned that the set wasn't going to provide entertainment for Sophie for a decent amount of time for the price.
Sophie loves this set and loves the pictures she has made however she doesn't like that she can only play with it if someone has time to play with her, we even tried giving her a set if tweezers to use but she wasn't able to use them so she does require adult help. Sophie has put most of the pictures she has done in envelopes and either already given them to people or is going to give them out on people's birthdays which I think is a lovely thought but also I was really pleased about as I didn't want sand covered pictures all over. Sophie spent ages going through her pictures when they were finished and telling her younger sister who each character was and even went to show our neighbours her creations so I know she was really pleased with what the set did.
I think the set is a really great idea and it isn't anywhere near as messy as I expected it would be however you do still end up with sand flying around so you do have to hoover up after use. Some of the pictures Sophie has come to me and asked me to help her do as if the area you are filling with sand is at the top of the picture it is harder to get the sand to stick and you pretty much have to turn the whole tub upside down and shake which then means more sand is flying about. The pictures are really good when they are finished but you do have to be really careful not to pull up the next stickered area as even if you press it back down some sand still manages to get underneath and we have ended up with one picture where the Princess has got a multi-coloured skirt on as the sand has pushed further and further underneath on each different colour which I actually think is a lovely effect but just not how it is meant to be.
The set is really sturdy and the tub has actually been dropped by Sophie's younger sister and it still didn't come apart or lose any sand which I was impressed with as when she dropped it I actually didn't quite dare look as I was expecting multi-coloured sand all over.
I would recommend this set as long as you are able to help your child with it, it is fun to do and actually provides about 6 to 8 hours of entertainment so wasn't as short lived as I expected it to be. My major problem with the set is that the sand does shed from the pictures so once they were all finished we put them over the sink and blew hard on them to remove the excess so it didn't end up constantly making a mess and I don't think people would like to open an envelope of loose sand from her. You can get refill kits for the set and once you have got the tub it apparently works with any sets however I actually haven't seen any other character sets for this apart from the Disney Princess one which is a shame so I hope they are going to release more sets in the future.