“ Brand: ELC / Type: Craft Supplies „
I bought this for my daughter a couple of months from Mothercare online (which stock toys and sets from Early Learning Centre). I bought it to take my order over the value to get free delivery. It is a Make Your Own Christmas Tree craft and activity set. It comes with everything you need to assemble the tree and decorate it. I knew my daughter would love it, I was a very bad mummy as I used it as a bribing tool to help aid the torture of potty training! I also asked my husband to help her with it. It is for recommended for ages 3+. However I think it is complicated to do, my husband assembled the whole tree (with alot of moaning and grumbling) and our daughter decorated it. Well, I say decorated, poured the glitter mainly in one place and stuck a few pom poms on! Thank goodness my husband put down newspaper first, I am not a great fan of glitter as it goes everywhere. Once the tree is finished, it does look good. It has pride of place at the moment on the top of a cupboard where little hands can't grab it. It was on sale for £2.50 which I think is a good price for some entertainment. I wouldn't however want to assist with the assembling of this set, I'm quite happy to buy them and leave someone else to deal with the mess!
Although we do craft activities on a regular basis, I do like to make them as seasonal as possible. So as Christmas approached I bought many Christmas themed craft sets to share with 20 month old Freddy, and this Make Your Own Christmas Tree from the ELC was one of them. With a standard price of £5 this is one of the more expensive sets we've bought (although it can now be found in the occasional store at half price). Although Freddy is below the minimum recommended age of three, I will say that this doesn't make a lot of difference as I would imagine that children below the age of say, ten, will want a lot of adult help and even as an adult I struggled. ==First Impressions== Within the kit you get everything you need to construct and decorate your own card Christmas tree. There is the tree trunk that is formed from a piece of card that has it's fold-lines ready scored and glues together to form a pyramid shape. There are then three sets of "branches" in the form of cut out shapes that fit neatly over the trunk. Each of these "branches" has holes punched out ready to hand the ornaments. There are also two sheets of holographic and/or shiny card (red, blue, gold and silver), a template sheet and string to hang them. To make the ornaments you need to cut out the paper template and then use this to draw the ornaments before cutting them out. There is also a small tube of PVA glue, a tube of gold glitter glue, course silver glitter, shiny pompoms and sequins. ==Construction== In my opinion the construction of the tree is definitely more a family activity than one a child can do on their own, there are some steps that definitely require nimble fingers and a high level of dexterity. The first stage is fairly easy, the instructions are clear, the trunk folds easily, the tube of glue is easy to manipulate allowing a fairly even line of glue and the glue doesn't take long to dry enough to hold the ends in place. But the next stage is unnecessarily difficult though. Rather than the star and ornaments being ready cut out, you have to first cut out the templates, then trace these onto the card before cutting these out. The ornaments are also quite small, making it fiddly to cut them out, this is not something a three, four or even five year old is going to manage with much success. The ornaments then need to be tied into placed using the supplied string (which also had to be cut into pieces). The trouble is the string is very silky, making tying knots almost impossible, it took me well over an hour to tie them all into place, and I'm an adult. I would imagine that unless the child has unheard of patience they would have given up within, say five minutes. As Freddy certainly doesn't have either the skills or patience for the previous steps, I prepared the tree ready for the final flourishes of decoration the night before. The final stages of decorating the tree are much easier and a chance for your child to go mad with glitter and sparkles. There is more than enough glue to cover the branches and stick on all the glitter, sequins and pompoms they desire. We found there were more than enough of all the different shiny bits too, even for a child like Freddy who really doesn't realise that there is such a thing as too many sequins or too much glitter. As with any pompom the ones in this kit do require quite a lot of glue to stick and the glitter is quite large grained, so it needs a good coating but the sequins stick easily. The gold glitter glue is a nice touch and we used it to decorate the trunk with tinsel. The final touch is the star that is formed from two (cut out) shapes glued together ad then stuck to the top of the tree. Although it doesn't recommend this in the instructions, I found that the best way to make it stick is to push the star onto the tree while the glue is still wet. ==Results== The final product looks pretty good and has taken pride of place on our dining room table, surrounded by all the Christmas fare. Standing about 30cm high (from base to top of star) the main structure is sturdy, the bright green is eye-catching and the foil and holographic effect ornaments catch the light in quite an entrancing manner. (Especially as it's in a position where the flashing, multi-colour lights on out full size tree reflect off the ornaments and star). The way there are so many different materials that can be used to decorate the tree also means every tree will be unique. Nobody has another tree quite like our one and as a bonus we had plenty of bits left over that we used in other projects. But the fact the string for tying the ornaments up is so silky means that these have a tendency to come loose and fall off. We've had several fall off now and I replaced each one using embroidery silk so that it stays in place. The branches are also a little flimsy, especially if they have been overloaded with pretties. ==Age Appropriate?== I believe that every child should be allowed to take part and get involved in art activities, (even those that they are considered too young for) and like to make Freddy's arts and craft relevant to what is going on around him. I therefore bought this kit in the knowledge that I would need to give Freddy considerable help, but also knowing he would love the gluing and sticking. Indeed, Freddy did love doing this activity, he enjoyed getting sticky and choosing which decorations went where, making a considerable effort to ensure that pompoms and sequins went exactly where he wanted (which is great for his creativity, dexterity and hand-eye coordination). He's also very proud of his tree and will regularly show it off as well as simply looking at the light reflecting off the ornaments. I'm also proud of the results and think it looks fantastic as do visitors. So as long as they stick to the gluing and sticking this is an activity even children under the age of three can take part in and enjoy. But the level of difficulty involved in cutting out and attaching the ornaments means this is a kit that even those children over the minimum age will need a lot of help with. From my experience with my older children, I would say that a child is unlikely to develop the necessary cutting skills before the age of six and that children's paper scissors won't cut the card very well anyway. As to tying the ornaments in place, I would say it would be an exception child under the age of eight that would be able to tie them into place and an exceptionally patient child over that age that would have the patience. So this isn't an activity that you can buy for your child hoping to get half hours peace, your help will be required. ==Final Words== Although Freddy had great fun decorating this tree I found constructing it frustrating and overly difficult for an adult, let along a child. The final result looks good and feels sturdy enough to survive storage once Christmas is over, ready for next year. But the string supplied to attach the ornaments is just too silky meaning that they regularly fall off. I'm really in two minds as to what rating this kit should have. If it were solely down to age appropriateness, then I would have to give it a solitary one star. But Freddy did have a fun afternoon sticking all the shiny bits on, the end result is special and we had lots of shiny bits left for other projects. So I think I'll give the ELC Make Your Own Christmas Tree three stars out of five, because as nice as the end result is and as fun as it was for Freddy to glue and stick, I just can't get over how difficult it is to cut out and attach the ornaments. As to whether you should buy it, I'm still going to say yes, but be prepared to give your child considerable help.
Your child can put together the cardboard tree then decorate it with the decorations provided.Not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts. Age range: From 3 years.