My sister is brilliant with kids; she runs a nursery and over the years has been on a huge amount of courses designed to make her more indispensable to the children in her care, and therefore her boss! One thing she learnt a couple of years ago was clown skills (haha!) and during that course she was taught how to make brilliant balloon animals, something I never thought I'd be able to do in a million years. Until last week when I received a Balloon Animals kit from Suck UK.
So, what makes these balloons suitable for a klutz like myself? The one and only time I attempted to make a balloon *anything* I made such a mess of it that even (then) three year old Hollie laughed and then discarded the (crap) bear I'd lovingly and painstakingly created for her. So the fact that this clever kit has the balloons marked for twisting and folding into shape means just about anyone who can follow instructions can make their very own balloon animal.
Inside the kit are fifteen balloons in assorted colours; these are made up of five swans, five rabbits and five dogs. The balloons are virtually impossible to blow up using lung-power so Suck UK have included a small hand pump, and also a step-by-step instruction booklet to walk you through creating your animals. The pump is very good; we had a false start when it refused to blow the first balloon up, but the end had simply become loose and once screwed tightly back up the pump inflated the balloon quickly and evenly. This looseness does occur here and there, it's not a problem as long as you're aware of the fact but caused some irritation the first time it happened as we were really looking forward to getting going with our creativity.
Mark and I both took a balloon - me being a woman followed the instruction booklet, Mark decided he could manage on his own and ended up making an utter pigs ear of his. Men! I found the instructions extremely easy to follow; done in simple illustration format with no long winded written instructions I was soon able to acquaint myself with the simple key, and within minutes had completed my first ever balloon rabbit. Each balloon is brilliantly marked - there's a dashed line to tell you when you need to stop inflating and then a series of circled numbers which correspond with the steps in the instruction booklet. You basically twist on (or near to) the numbers then follow the instructions to figure out which 'twists' need to be twisted together or wrapped around other portions of the balloon.
It seems a bit fiddly at first but it's a brain training exercise reminding yourself that a well twisted modelling balloon will not untwist itself if you let go of one end - the initial sight of me trying to hold onto four sections of balloon while trying to twist the fifth was very comical. Apparently. Because these are modelling balloons (as opposed to normal play balloons) they're tougher so aren't likely to tear if you're a bit rough with them, we've used twelve out of the packet now and had no duds which tells me they're reliable and made of good quality materials (rubber, latex?). The toughness of the balloon is a disadvantage when tying then though as there's hardly any stretch in the balloon; I'm retarded at tying balloons, just can't do it. But with these when I pass it to Mark to tie he also has trouble as his big fingers struggle to put the knot together.
The instructions are simple to follow, it's a step-by-step process but each animal is explained on just one small page so modelling the balloons is fun rather than being academic and laborious. Once you've done the first couple of twists each animal will start taking shape and from there you can follow it just by looking at the large illustration, the steps come in handy for intricate twists but by the time you've made a couple of animals you'll pretty much know it.
I was pleased with how the rabbit and dog turned out; I couldn't get the neck right on the swan at all so gave up on that, it was fun making it but looked naff! Alice did a brilliant rabbit and even attempted her own design (a lion) which actually turned out really well - the strength of the balloons really being tested as she unravelled it half a dozen times due to making mistakes! The animals are pretty long lasting, ours were starting to look past their best on day three and by the time we threw them away two days later one of the legs on the dog had burst and the rabbits ears were wrinkly!
Hollie had a go and made an, erm, snake - she could twist the balloon but even with help couldn't get the proportions right to actually make anything. I'd say the kit is for older children, there's no recommended age on the box and that suggests it's designed to be more of an 'adults toy' rather than something for kids. Hollie's only four but recognised the utter silliness of making a snake out of a snake shaped balloon, it was definitely beyond her concentration and ability - even Alice didn't take to it straight away at twelve but it appealed to her artistic streak so she persevered with it.
At £7.50 for fifteen balloons this is an expensive novelty, the blurb recommends buying the kit to make balloon animals for your children's parties but I'm not sure I agree with that. The completed animals aren't very big, smaller than I've even seen done by a party entertainer - potentially an embarrassing parent situation, definitely a product best kept for family/drunken friend fun rather than letting yourself get overconfident.