“ Brand: Ladybird „
**The easel ** Searching for Christmas toys I came across this art easel, and knew that my children would love it. We like to buy one present a year they can share between them, to try and encourage sharing from an early age. I purchased our easel from Woolworths for its retail price of £30. There are lots of different features that attracted me to this brand including the height being adjustable, built in paper clips, and a anti finger trap closing. Provided with this easel are two non spill water beakers, a sponge, some chalks, but no felt pens are provided so you will have to purchase them separately. It is a 3 in 1 easel so it can be used as a chalk board, a whiteboard and for painting all on one platform. When the easel arrived we were fairly impressed the main body felt sturdy enough, and although the legs appeared to be very thin it seemed sturdy enough once built. It is very easy to put together. The legs just need to be attached to the main body of the easel, and within 5 minutes it was ready to be used. When we received instructions I didn't realise we would actually need them, but on reading them it suggested prepping the chalk board so it is ready for little one to use straight away. This involved rubbing chalk across the board, and then erasing it so it created a base of chalk for little one to write over. After we had done this we found the board still looked new, but the film that protected the board before use was gone. **In use** On one side of the board is a white board designed to be used with felt pens. This is great for drawing just about anything; they can let their imaginations run wild. Also at the bottom of the white board is a small clock, which we find great at introducing the time to my children. There are movable hands on the clock, but my children prefer to try and copy a larger version on the whiteboard itself. Also there is a rundown of the alphabet in small letters on the bottom of the whiteboard. This means now my eldest son is learning to write his own letters, if he become stuck he can glance down to the bottom of the board if he needs help. We also like to use magnetic letters on the whiteboard. It provides an area where my children can rearrange the letters how they want, and they often arrange them in the correct order by using the reference alphabet at the bottom of the board. What I like is that the easel can be changed to suit the height of a child. This means all three of my children can use it easily, and it only takes two seconds to clip on the lower or higher option. As it is so easy to change the height this prolongs the life of the board, and it can grow as little one does. There are only two height options available, but both are very well positioned. My children enjoy using the board and they range in ages from 2 up to 5. The easel does sit stable on the floor, but it has been knocked over a few times. It is not too heavy so that it could cause any real damage, but I did put it away while my youngest son was learning to walk, as he would hold on to anything to support himself. The legs are a little thinner than I hoped, but they do provide a stable enough base for little one to use with the recommended age range. The chalk board is also very good, and the chalk transfers very easily and clearly on top the board. When it comes to cleaning the chalk away this is easily done too by using a sponge provided with the set. There is a large enough area for little one to draw whatever they want, and they are easily able to wipe it clean and start over. The chalks show up perfectly on the board, and it does not get too cloudy when the chalk is wiped away. The inbuilt clips on the boards are a great idea. It means they never get lost, or taken away from the easel itself. I was a little worried that they would not be able to hold small amount of paper, but I have found them to actually be really flexible. I have had a full pad of A3 sheet of paper, but it works just as well at holding just one piece. The paper does fall down if little one is too rough with it while they are creating their masterpiece, but to be honest this does not happen too often. On the sides of the board are small platforms where the paint pots sit, and you can also store your pens or chalk on here. It is not very wide meaning only a small amount of accessories can be held on it, but it does work well enough. It is big enough to hold paint pots but they have to balance on the ledge so not very practical. There is a fitted space each side of the tray for the water beakers provided to sit so children can paint both sides. The non spill beakers are a great addition to this set, as they sit in the space provided very easily by sliding them into place. Of course they have lids on so they are more difficult to spill, but it is not impossible as my children have proved. They are very easy to take out to clean, which is essential as my children tend to get them very messy while they are painting. The sponge provided to clean the board is a little pathetic. We received a tiny rectangle sponge that after a day of use was actually caked in pen and chalk, so we purchased an eraser separately, and if all fails both side can be wiped down easily with a kitchen cloth. **Summary** We paid around £30 for this easel which I think is a fair enough price. It is available from the entire home shopping companies as far as I know ladybird is exclusive to them. My children do get a lot of use out of this with three of them sharing, and it has lasted ten months so far without any major problems. It is best to stick to the age recommendation of three years, as we found it to be a little unstable with too much weight leaning on it. There are a few points that would have worked better, but overall it has been a loved addition to our house. Some of the accessories are a little rubbish, but they do not cost the world to replace. I like that it is height adjustable with a few simple steps, and that there are built in paperclips either side. It is a good size that is large enough to be practical, but it doesn't take up a large amount of space. It can be easily dismantled for storage if needed.