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My daughters fourth birthday was on the horizon and I didn't really know what to get her. At the time she was watching Tinkerbell and The Great Fairy Rescue about 5 times a day! In the film there is a little girl called Lizzy who befriends Tinkerbell - a lot of scenes in the film are set inside Lizzy's bedroom. My daughter would always comment on how lovely Lizzy's bedroom was and would make comparisons to her own bedroom (similar dolls houses etc). She kept trying to point something out to me that she 'really' wanted but I kept missing it (and she couldn't explain it properly) - eventually I realised she was talking about a black chalk board. I figured this would make a most welcome birthday present and had a search around online as I hadn't seen too many chalk boards in shops.
I came across 'My First Wooden Easel' on Amazon. It was made by a toy company called Peterkin and sold through The Entertainer. It cost a really reasonable £19.99 plus £2.50 shipping. At the time of writing this review the price on Amazon stands at £28.76 with free delivery, which I still think is a reasonable price to pay. The easel came packaged in quite a large but flat box, with a picture of it on the front.
The easel comes ready assembled - is all you need to do is screw the tray on (which holds the chalk, pens and eraser/board duster) which is quick and easy. The only downside with the tray is that it means the easel cannot be folded down, although this isn't a problem for us as it's kept in my daughters bedroom for any time she is feeling creative!
There are 2 sides to the easel - a black board and white board. This allows my daughter to use pens aswell as chalk. It also allows her to swap sides depending on how she feels and to play with her friends and cousins without arguements (very useful if you have more than one child)!
The easel comes with 6 white and 6 coloured chalks (which work well on the chalk board) and a board duster (which removes the chalk effectively). My daughter is still using the chalks a year on despite regular use (although most of them are snapped in half which is to be expected I suppose). Unfortunately no pens for the white board are provided, however I brought a pack of coloured board markers from Amazon and they work really well on it. The tray underneath is very handy as it keeps all of the pens, chalks and erasers together. It gets a bit dusty from the chalk, but that's no big deal really.
The age recommendation is 3-10 years and the height of the easel is 90cm which makes it a good size for younger children but very small for older children (especially 10 year olds!) so I'd advise buying the easel sooner rather than later to get the most use out of it. My daughter is soon to be 5 and she is a couple of inches taller than the easel at the moment. I suppose children can sit down and draw at the easel as they grow, but I wouldn't really advise buying for any child that is over around 6 years...
The easel looks nice and quite traditional but also very simple - no frills. It's made from a light wood (could easily be painted if you wanted to). It's very lightweight but also sturdy - I can easily move it around but it doesn't budge when my daughter is playing with it. The black board and white board tend to clean off well, but every now and then I give them a wipe over with some soap and water to fully remove smudges and dust.
It's a great toy for encouraging creativity. My daughter has spent hours creating masterpieces on her chalk board. She is currently at an age where she is starting to learn to write letters and numbers so she often uses the white board for practice. A very educational tool in my opinion.
My daughter has had so much use out of this easel and I'm confident she will get a couple more years out of it. I don't think it would have even crossed my mind to buy a chalk board/white board for her - I usually end up buying something expensive, pointless and that eats up batteries! I'm really pleased I bought it and have a lot to thank Tinkerbell for...