“ Manufacturer: ELC / Age: 3 Years+ / Type: Painting „
Early Learning Centre is one of the few shops that I never really go to as it is within our local Mothercare store and I tend to just forget it is there. A couple of months before Christmas I was stood queuing in Mothercare and noticed a stand at the front with reduced items on and this one caught my eye, the set was half price reduced down from £8 down to £4 which is a great reduction. My eldest daughter loves all things crafty so I was sure she would like it and to be honest if it was useless then I didn't really mind for £4.
The set comes packaged in a really strong cardboard box which I was really pleased with as I think a lot of sets seem to come in flimsy packaging and then you struggle for somewhere to keep all the pieces but this one is really well packaged. The box is very colourful being mainly a bright purple in colour but then has Magic Maize written across using different bright colours for each letter and then a picture of a little boy playing with the set on the front with all the brightly coloured pieces around him. It states on the box that the set is aimed for ages 4-8, my daughter is 5 and she can play with the set easily so I would think a 4 year old would be fine with the set too.
==Inside the Box==
When you open the box which is sealed with a little circle of tape you find there is a strong plastic bag with a press close top on it which contains hundreds of coloured pieces of magic maize. You also get in the set a double sided piece of A3 paper folded in half which contains the instructions, 6 different picture cards, a pack of 8 crayons, a dip bowl and a sponge.
The dip bowl is a green bowl made of plastic and then there is a bright yellow sponge which fits perfectly inside the bowl, you have to wet the sponge and place it into the dip bowl to use the set, kind of like what office staff use for wetting stamps. The piece arte like soft polystyrene and they are both pastel colours and bright colours so you get a really good mix, there is orange, blue, green, white, yellow, purple and pink in the set. The pictures in the set are really great as they are nice and simple and then the actual outlines of where you should put the maize are actually marked making it very easy to use, you get pictures of a Mouse, an Octopus, a vase of flowers, 2 cacti, a Hedgehog and a rainbow. The instruction sheet is very easy to follow and has a number of diagrams to make it simple for a young child to follow that cannot read, the crayons are a great range of colours as you get red, pink, yellow, orange, blue, green purple and brown and the crayons state on them that they are non-toxic.
==Using the Set==
If you wants to use the pieces to make up the pictures then you need to colour in the picture first around the sides of the marked pieces as obviously these will be covered with the maize, it wouldn't be possible to colour the picture are the maize has been stuck on as you wouldn't be able to get your crayon in properly. Once you are ready for the maize pieces you simply select a piece the colour you want and then dip it into the wet sponge, you have to be careful not to over wet the maize pieces as if you do they turn into a sticky messy goo, once dipped place the maize onto your picture and like magic it will stick which to be honest all of us were pretty amazed with the first time we played with the set.
You can make models with the shapes if you wish but I did discourage Sophie from doing this as I didn't want little random maize models all over the house! You can attach the maize from end to end or side to side simply by dampening the piece on the bit you want to stick and you can also curve the maize and stick 2 curved pieces together to create a ball.
The pieces are so soft you can flatten them out and then cut actual shapes from then or you can pinch a certain part of the piece to change the shape, the pieces are about 1 ½ inches long each so you can have fun making different shapes with them. Some of the drawn pictures require small circle shapes which means you have to use scissors to cut the end off a piece of maize to achieve the circle shape, we have found that you have to make sure you use sharp scissors to cut the shapes otherwise the pieces flatten as they are so soft.
Sophie really loves this set and she has played with it loads since Christmas, she finds it very easy to create the picture and she has tried making her own pictures out of the pieces too which she was really proud with. She isn't happy with the fact I won't let her cut the pieces herself as of course Mammy never cuts them just how she wants them but there is no way I am letting her loose with sharp scissors. Sophie likes to create pictures with the pieces and then getting us to guess what it is she has created which sometimes can be quite hard to make out but she is getting better with her pictures and she is really proud when we can see what she has created with them.
I love this set and think it encourages creativity and imagination which of course are great skills for a child. I think the claim of no mess is a little too far as your child does get sticky fingers and the dye from the maize does end up on the tips of the fingers but it washes off easily so it isn't an issue. I love that the water is in a sponge too so there is no pot to be knocked over which Sophie often manages when she is painting. I expected that after a while the maize pieces would dry out fully and drop off the pictures but Sophie did one of the pictures on Boxing Day and the pictures is still perfectly intact and the pieces are not loose at all so it looks like the pictures have great staying power too.
The set is really great quality, the pictures are on thick cardboard and the crayons are string and nice bright colours, there are plenty of pieces in the set so once all the pictures are completed there are plenty of extra pieces for your child to make their own creation. There is very limited mess and the set makes great pictures for a very small price in my opinion.
My Daughter who turned 4 just before Christmas is really into her crafts lately, especially cutting and gluing. On a Christmas shopping trip to the Early Learning Centre, I spotted the magic Maize Starter Kit, which caught my eye with a badge which stated 'sticks with water, no mess', so of course, this appealed to me!
The kit comes with 1 bag of magic maize, 6 pictures, 8 crayons, 1 dip bowl, 1 sponge and of course the instructions.
The maize is basically like the quaver looking stuff you find protecting your items in large packages sometimes! They are squishy cylinder shaped pieces which come in a few different colours. The instructions are easy to read and explain that you can squish the maize down, roll it into balls and also flatten them or cut them into other shapes.
The pictures which come with the kit are on card, which is handy as you stick the maize with water so paper would rip easy. They are very cute, child appealing pictures such as a vase of flowers; a hedgehog and a rainbow are included. The pictures have pre-drawn shapes inside them to make it easy for younger children to know which way to stick the maize and which size and shape they need. These starter kit pictures mainly just include sticking the maize as it is or as a ball, which is fine for a starter kit as it helps younger children to grips with it.
Kids can colour the pictures first with the crayons, before sticking on their maize, or the instructions state the crayons can be used to draw your own picture outlines to stick maize to your own pictures and designs.
To stick the maize, you need to just dampen the sponge, and then place it inside the bowl so there are no drips onto your floor or surfaces. You basically just press the maize slightly onto the sponge so it is a tiny bit damp, and then place it where you want on the card. This is so easy to do, and not messy in the slightest, which is great.
Now I did wonder how long the maize would last on the pictures and maybe they'd fall off easily but this really isn't the case! My Daughter did all 6 pictures on Boxing Day morning, and now on New Year's Eve, they are still stuck there perfectly fine. I have pushed a few of them to see if you can push them off easy, but none have come away from the card, so they do need a pull to get them off which is good as they aren't just knocked off.
So, all in all, I would recommend the Magic Maize to any parent who would like a mess free craft session! They are so easy to use. My Daughter was able to squish them and roll them and flatten them, but just turning 4, it is a bit fiddly for her to cut them, but of course this is handy for older children or adults when helping younger children.
I did read a review on Mothercare by one Mum who said her 5 year old daughters kept turning into sticky wet goo. I can't see how this can happen unless you dip them completely into water!
They are 4 years and over, but I would say a 3 year old could use them fine, in my Daughter's case, she would have done anyway.
This is a Starter kit so it does not include a lot of pictures, but I didn't expect it to as of course it is a Starter Kit. I didn't want to buy the larger kit and it go to waste, and at £4, this wouldn't be missed if the starter kit wasn't enjoyed.
The pictures are available to buy separately, but I would just buy a load of card, which is like photo card and my daughter could draw her own pictures and stick her own designs, so this is good.
The Maize bag has 100 average pieces of Maize. Bags can be bought separately. I haven't seen them in ELC or Mothercare but have seen them in Hobbycraft for £2 which is a good price.
I did buy as said earlier for £4; this was half price in the Christmas Sales. £8 is a bit dear for what it is in my opinion, but still affordable. The bumper kit comes with feathers, glitter, straws etc. for £15. You can buy from Early Learning Centre/Mothercares stores and websites.
I first purchased the Magic Maize Starter Kit form the Early Learning Centre when my daughter was almost 2 years old. I love the Early Learning Centre as they make great products for little ones and they have a great arts and crafts section for small kids - which at certain times of the year (now included!) has 20% off all their art and craft items.
The item I am now going to review is from this department and it is the Magic Maize starter kit. I found it fantastic to stimulate creativity as well as get my daughter using her imagination and making various items.
In the box you get a few sheets of card with pictures printed on and a couple of plain ones. The ones with the pictures pre printed can be used as templates to stick your magic maize to. The templates include a flower, hedgehog, rainbow, butterfly, octopus and boat. You also get a small bowl, sponge and some child safe plastic scissors as well as your magic maize. You might be surprised to see that I haven't mentioned glue -well thats because you don't need any! Simply dampen the sponge with tap water and sit it in the bowl to catch the drips. You then just dampen your magic maize and it sticks to paper or to each other like magic. Your only limits are your imagination. If you don't want to make a flat picture oin paper they can also be used to make little models and sculptures. They do shrink a little bit when they dry though so your model might not be as large as you inititally think.
Now you know how it works, you will agree I'm sure that its fun for kids, easy peasy and theres hardly any mess. The magic maize sticks are all about 5-6 cm long and chunky so are easy for little hands to get hold of. They are nice and soft so again easy for little ones to cut and shape them. They can be squashed and stuck, no problem! They are very brightly coloured - be aware that the colour does run a bit and can stain clothes - we haven't had any that has actually stained and has washed out no problems. It does colour your hands a bit too until you wash them.
The magic maize is obviously available from Early Learning Centre and is currently on offer for £6.40 (usual price £8). I think this is pretty good value as it is something my daughter enjoys doing, doesn't make a lot of mess, has minimal set up and packing away and is very easy. It is recommended for 3 years plus but I think that with a bit of supervision it is fine for a younger child provided that they aren't still into the eating everything stage. I suppose they are quite tempting like this as they do look and feel like a big coloured wotsit!!
There is also a refill kit and and a few other themed kits available too. The refill kit is only a couple of quid so if you didn't want to spend that amount I'd just use a normal sponge and some paper with it! You can buy similar ones elsewhere (I use yellow moon) as they are a massive box and work out a lot cheaper.