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After using a less robust chalkboard with my Daughter, I wanted to purchase a product that also had a whiteboard and magnetic function. I chose Melissa and Doug as I have many of their products and they are normally of good quality. This product also came with the chalk and some magnetic letters. I also purchased magnetic numbers and lower case letters to be used together. The board itself is approximately 12" x 16" and has a brightly painted wooden frame with a rope carry handle. On one side it has a black chalkboard which is magnetic and on the other side there is a whiteboard that can be used with any dry wipe pens (one is included in the pack). A set of wooden magnetic upper case letters also come with this set, some chalk and a board eraser. My Daughter started using this product immediately and I primed the chalkboard by rubbing chalk over the entire blackboard and rubbing it out. I found that it was then far easier to write on and clean afterwards. My Daughter started to use the letters provided by drawing around them on the blackboard using chalk. I think I would have preferred the magnetic side to be on the whiteboard side and it would be less messy (chalky letters!) and easier for her to draw around. The whiteboard pen provided ran out fairly quickly, but I had already ordered an additional set in different colours (my Daughter is obsessed with purple, so I knew immediately that she would not be satisfied with the colour provided). All pens we have used so far, wipe off easily with the eraser provided. I have written this after over one years use. The product is still being used and is in great condition, the only thing is that one of the sides of the board has come off - but I will just glue it back in place with wood glue.
With all the high tech gear out today, simple learning toys like blackboards can be easily overlooked. There are a number of electronic gadgets that fill the same role, with whistles, bells and fancy features, do children still need blackboards at all? I think they do. For all that so many of the electronic toys look wonderful for education, I've found my sons are very exciting with the latest gadget for awhile and then quickly grow bored with it, while the more simple , old fashioned toys get brought out time and time again. I chose this toy because I have come to trust Melissa and Doug products. They tend to be well made toys with some educational value, and we've had a few chalkboards that were horrible, so I wanted to go with a brand I could trust. This toy is 12" x 16" which is big enough for children to draw or write, but not so big as to be very difficult to store. It has a wooden frame which is brightly painted in bright colours, and a small rope in case you want to hang this on the wall. It combines a black chalkboard with a white dry erase board. Surprisingly, the black chalkboard side is magnetic while the white board side is not. A set of wooden magnetic letters came included. You do only get one set of upper case letters which limits the words you can spell but you can buy additional sets if you wish. You also get a three pieces of chalk a dry erase pen, and a small eraser. I did read a few complaints about this product before purchasing and had a few concerns, but these turned out to be groundless, and I found this a very well made product. One issue was the wooden letters. These are not beautifully hand carved wooden letters, but a simple press-board with a weak magnetic backing, and what looks like a brightly coloured paint over the surface. I did read that a child had managed to chew the coloured layer off, but this is not meant for children under three years of age, and we have not had any problems with the letters. They can be wiped clean with a damp cloth, but I would not want to submerge these in water. I would love beautifully carved hard wood letters, but knowing these usually sell for at least £3 each, I realise this would have increased production costs far too much to consider. Another complaint is that the blackboard is painted on and this is quite possible, I really can't tell for certain, but it does not scratch easily and is actually quite nice. In all honesty I would prefer a genuine slate, there is a nice feel to real slate chalkboards, but I wouldn't expect it for £10. The magnets are not terribly strong, but more than adequate for the intended purpose, and many toy manufacturers seem to be using weaker magnets after the safety scares with some of the newer more powerful magnets. I did end up with piece of chalk broken when we first opened this, but chalk breaks easily. I'm sure I could have written Melissa and Doug for a replacement, but it just doesn't seem worth it for one bit of chalk. The dry erase pen is still working for us, which is quite good as these often run dry quickly. Only one colour is included, but I feel the main toy is the chalkboard/ dry erase board. I did notice some people felt the board didn't wipe clean very easily and I think this may be the chalk they are using rather than the board. I have used Melissa and Doug chalk and Crayola without problems, but I have noticed pound shop chalk can be more difficult to erase on another chalkboard. I use the good chalk for indoor use and the pound shop chalk for outdoors. The chalk, pen and magnets give the child something to play with right away, which is lovely, especially if this is a gift, but you will need more chalk eventually. Extra pens and magnets will add to the fun. Of course it would be lovely to have a full set of thick chalk and another full set of coloured pens. A built in drawer would be nice, and a few sets hand carved letters would have been lovely, but we really can not expect all of these things in this price range. If Melissa and Doug added everything people seem to want, I'm afraid this would have been priced well out of our budget. As it is, I feel that it is an excellent product which represents very good value for money, and that parents can personalise as they wish with extra items. We've used this primarily as a chalkboard and a place to play magnet games. It's wonderful with picture magnets from books, letter magnets for spelling, and brilliant with pattern blocks. We do have a white magnetic board for the pattern blocks, but it is nice to have two so both boys can play at once, and the children do like the fact that this a different colour. It has also been used for drawing and writing with my youngest proudly writing his name on it. It is even fun for an old fashioned game of Hangman. This would be handy to just hang up and leave messages as well. When the dry erase side has been used it has wiped clean easily, and this would be handy for messages as well. I always like toys that can be used in several different ways and this fits the bill, from basic school work like learning to write and simple maths, to drawing games, score keeping and basic art work, as well as serving as a good base for magnet games. I got a good deal on this at £10 from Amazon Marketplace. It is currently £11.95 including postage directly from Amazon, with private sellers ranging from £11.84 to £26.68. Please note that Amazon has two ads for this, and one is £15.87 delivered but that is from another seller. For some reason, the eraser by itself is being offered by a Market place seller at a whopping £128 ! Even up to about £15 - I feel this would be good value for money. Of course the eraser at at £128 is insane, but Amazon sells it for a more reasonable £2.36 if you should need a replacement at some time. This is available from several other locations including Tesco @ £11.95 with free shipping if you collect in store.