“ Manufacturer: ELC / Type: Craft Supplies „
I'm keen on encouraging my twin boys to play creatively and love fun creative toys. Since they have been around 1 year old I have tried to encourage creative play and one advantage when they were very young was I was able to "help" and ensure the mess was kept to one area. As they became more independent and headed towards 18 months they became very independent and Mummy was no longer allowed to touch and had to let them do things themselves. This independence made me very proud of them but also it alarmed me at how much mess two independent toddlers could cause when given less direction. Soft dough was a firm favourite but I did find that giving them pots of dough often meant they seen this as license to roll the dough out where every they fancied so I decided to buy the ELC Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set for them to encourage them to play with the dough in one specific place. ***Soft Stuff Dough and Mat*** The ELC Soft Stuff Dough and Mat is basically a soft dough play set. This includes a patterned playmat which is around 30cm long and 20cm wide, a small dough roller about 10cm long and 3cm in diameter and three small tubs of Soft Stuff dough. ELC state that the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is suitable from age 18 months and over. The Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is available from ELC stores and online. The RRP for the set is £6.00 however is often included in the ELC toy sales. We purchased this in a pre-Christmas sale in November 2011 for £4.00. At £6.00 I think this is still reasonable but at £4.00 I feel this was very good value albeit the three pots of dough are very small. ***Our Experience*** I purchased two of the ELC Soft Stuff Dough and Mat sets; one for each of my sons. Each set comes with a beige coloured roller, three pots of Soft Stuff Dough (a red, yellow and blue) and a plastic mat. On one side of the mat there is a smooth surface and on the other side indents with different patterns, characters and animals on so a child can roll the dough over it and create patterns. The mats seem to come in two different colours a green and an orange so I bought one of each colour. Both are bright unisex colours and neither more suited to a particular sex. I bought the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set for my boys for Christmas 2011 when they were 23 months old so over the ELC recommended age guidance. Personally I feel that the 18 months age guidance should be used as that "guidance" and I have been allowing my boys to play with various brands of soft dough including Soft Stuff since they were around 14 months old. Providing they are supervised I see no issues why a child cannot play with dough or this particular set. The mat, roller and dough pots are not choking hazards; the main argument is that that a young child could eat the Soft Stuff Dough. My boys attempted to do this (and still at 2 year's old one of my sons seems to feel the need to lick soft dough) but the taste of the dough is unpleasant so this should discourage them in addition to being supervised by an adult. Secondly even if they do eat the dough or put in in their mouth both my boys have been fine after. I think the main benefits of the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is that it encourages creativity and imagination. For young children and toddlers this is quite basic and really allows them to explore the soft texture of the dough and different colours with their hands and to try and make different shapes. Until my boys were around 18 months old my boys tended to just squish the dough however once they got to nearer 2 they started to become entertained for longer and I could see them playing very imaginatively as they made various shapes and creations and they would talk to me and each other about what they were making. I think the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set would be great for older children who like to play with dough and could last until a child is 5 or 6 depending on how much they like to play with soft dough. Because my boys have been playing with soft dough for a while when I opened this set for them they jumped straight in to play without needing any guidance from me. As soon as the pots of dough were opened they were squishing the different colour dough into the mat, squishing it together and making various different shapes. The roller that comes with the set is a perfect size in my opinion. It is not too small like some dough rollers so a child can roll out a reasonable amount of dough but it is also small and compact enough for very small hands to use so great for younger toddlers and very easy to store. It is also not too heavy so children can't injure themselves or their siblings with it when wielding it enthusiastically. My main reason behind purchasing this set was to bring some form or "tidiness" to soft dough play time and the main selling point of this toy for me was the dough mat. Previously my boys tended to play with dough on a children's table and chair set but I often used to find that they would be squishing the dough on the floor and on the chair. By giving them a mat to use has given them something to focus on and they now have a sense of ownership and realise that their dough stays on the mat in front of them so I do feel I spend less time picking bits of dough up from random places. The only downside to the mats is that my boys are very protective of "their" mat and will not let their sibling touch the mat and any dough that goes onto the mat. My boys tend to use the smooth side of the mat to play with but over the last few months they have started to roll out the dough on the textured side. They love to see the different shapes and patterns on the dough the indents in the mat leaves although they haven't quite worked out how to do this entirely independently and at 27 months old require some intervention from me to do this. I feel what lets down this particular set is the Soft Stuff dough. Although you get 3 pots of dough there is a very small amount of dough in each pot, probably just over a ball with a 3cm diameter which limits what a child can create. We had other dough in to play with when we opened on the first occasion otherwise I feel my boys would have been disappointed. I personally am not keen on Soft Stuff dough and prefer Playdoh as I feel it does not dry out as quickly. Because you get so little of the Soft Stuff dough in this set it seems to dry up a lot quicker and only after around 3 weeks of play (stored away correctly) the original dough that came with this set had dried up so we now use the mat and roller with other dough from the soft dough collection. Aside from the dough I feel the mat and the roller are very well made and durable and will last for a number of years. As I said earlier in my review the upper age range will depend on the particular child and how much they like to play with soft dough. I feel that although basic it is a good essential to have when playing with soft dough so a child will not outgrow it or find it too babyish. ***Overall*** I think that the Soft Stuff Dough and Mat set is a reasonable product and a good toy to buy for a child that likes to play with soft dough. I must admit that I bought the set with quite specific reasons; to try and keep my boys to play with dough in one place (i.e. on the mat) and this had worked to an extent and now when they are playing creatively they tend to roll the dough out on their own specific mat on their table rather than doing this on my floor or on other places around the room they are playing in. The mat is a decent size but compact enough so that you could fit more than one dough mat on a small child's table; perfect for when you have more than one child. The roller is also a good addition to our collection for playing with dough and means my boys have a roller each. I think my main criticism of the set is the actual dough. I personally do not like the ELC Soft Stuff dough as I feel compared to branded Playdoh it dries out a lot quicker. With this particular set I found although you get three pots of dough the amount in each pot is so small there is very little for a child to play with and what you do get, it dries out very quickly because there is so little of it. I think at £6 the set is averagely priced; the mat and roller being the main selling points however at £4 I think this was excellent value for a durable good quality ELC product which I feel will be played with for many years to come. A great little gift set that doesn't cost too much dough!