“ Manufacturer: ELC / Type: Painting / Age: 3 Years+ „
One of the things I love doing the most with my children on days when we are at home, is getting messy with arts and crafts. I'm not at all adverse to paint flying around pretty freely - within reason of course, and any toy that encourages creativity is normally a great addition to our craft cupboard.
That's probably why, on a recent trip to ELC to stock up with more paint, I was persuaded to buy this item, part of the ELC "Bits and Basics" range. Priced at £6, but reduced currently to £4.50, it is a set containing rollers and brushes for painting, aimed allegedly at 3-8 years. There's one roller with 3 different heads, a semi traditional brush with 3 heads, a wider brush again with 3 heads and, randomly, a clip, presumably for attaching your art to something.
It's a bad sign when 2 minutes into using a toy things start to go wrong, but sadly that was the case with this item. My three year old was keen to get going initially, but soon discovered the flaws in this product. Firstly, the rollers, which are printed with various animals, will only roll a pattern if loaded with exactly the right amount of paint. "Exact" isn't a science many preschoolers have mastered in my experience, which leads me on to the next problem with this set. From the presence of so many different attachments I had assumed we would be able to interchange them fairly easily when the set was in use - not so.
Even as an adult with good fine motor skills, I found it incredibly difficult to change the top of the roller, partly due to the fact it was covered in paint, partly due to the fact that it wasn't easy to push the roller on and then twist the top on. Several times I found out when the whole thing fell apart on further use that I hadn't done it quite correctly. This was frustrating for my child, not to mention annoying for me, I may welcome mess but I don't particularly like getting my hands covered in paint repeatedly for no reason. Changing the heads over on the other brushes was no easier, and only a little less frustrating, the fact is that the design just isn't very good. This is unusual for ELC, but with this toy it really is hard to imagine that it has been trialled with any children. It's too fiddly for younger children and older children, in my experience, will find that the brushes can't fulfil their painting ideas. My 6 year old pronounced it "too babyish" so the 3-8 year old guideline is, in my opinion, rather over optimistic. I have tried, and failed, to find something in my house to clip with the clip, which is quite poorly constructed too in an attempt to get some use out of this set.
You can, admittedly, use the brushes without changing over the heads, and the marks that the brushes make on the paper are quite original, there are a few wavy lines and the like, but quite frankly you would get just as good results using potatoes, pine cones or old lego pieces to paint with. This is, actually, probably what I should have done in the first place. We paint often but this set seems to be not used more often than it is, and it tends to languish in the cupboard as a testament to the fact that sometimes pester power is a bad thing. I am afraid I really can't recommend this item, spending some money on some paint and grabbing an old toothbrush would be cheaper and probably much more satisfying - it's a nice idea that fails to live up to its promise.