* Prices may differ from that shown
When I was a kid I had a Fuzzy Felt set, and it was great, I had lots of shapes to mess about with and make my own pictures. And because of my fond memories, I wanted to get my eldest daughter a set (now age 4) last year, but what I found was that instead of creative sets of Fuzzy Felt, manufacturers are increasingly moving towards Character driven sets, such as In The Night Garden, Peppa Pig, Disney Princess etc. And whilst these are nice to look at, they don't really inspire a child; well I don't think they do anyway.
I really struggle to part with cash for cheap characterised items for kids, because I am convinced they just slap a favourite TV show on it and think this will pull in the pundits, and I think most of the time it works...well sadly not for me!!!
Anyway, I digress. I was in Toys R Us last year and I happened to come across this Toy Brokers Fuzzy Felt Starter Set. And I couldn't believe my eyes, I read the box and it said it contained 200+ felt shapes, plus a board, and also a work station where you create your masterpieces which also contained 2 handy storage drawers to keep all your felt shapes safe. There was also a clear plastic lid on top of the work station so that once you had created your masterpiece you can close the lid and preserve it for all to see. Until the next time you want to create something.
It was priced at £19.99 but I had a voucher so I ended up paying about £16 for it in the end which I thought was still a bit pricey but I was willing to take the chance on it, much better than paying a tenner for some felt Iggle Piggles.
My daughter was very excited when I showed it to her, and she has actually had quite a lot of fun with the set. However, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing and it does have it's good points, but also a few bad points. I really think it could be improved a great deal to enable children to get the maximum enjoyment from it.
* You get a lot of shapes which come in all different sizes, and 4 different colours. Shapes include circles, squares, diamonds, arches, stars, flowers, ovals, rectangles, triangles...think of a shape and it's probably in there.
* Included in the set are some picture examples of the type of thing you can create using the felt shapes. I think there are about 4 A4 sheets of these with a whole manner of different creations including lorries, cars, caterpillars, flowers, rocket ships...and they lay out the shapes you will need, and then show you how to arrange them. These are great as a starting point for kids to show them what is possible with the world of Fuzzy Felt.
* The storage drawers are a great idea because as you know there are over 200 shapes in the set so it is fantastic that you can pack them all away in the unit provided and they won't slowly get sucked up by the vacuum cleaner...
* The whole thing with the set being contained in the one plastic unit is a great idea; it's a neat solution to the problem that Fuzzy Felt can sometimes create. The felt shapes are safe within the drawers, the board sits flat on the top of the workstation, and the plastic lid keeps your pictures safe if you want to keep them for a while. Yes it's a great idea, but...I will explain more in the *bad points* section!
* There is one hell of a lot of shapes, and yes I know I also used this as an advantage, but there are that many shapes that they all get stuck together in one messy clump and it can be difficult to find a particular piece that you need amongst the masses.
* Some of the shapes are very small and can easily be lost.
* The quality of the felt is not that great, some of the more delicate shapes are easily misshapen or even torn in two by eager hands.
* The plastic workstation is very badly designed. The plastic drawers are very difficult to open - there is one of each side of the unit and they do not under any circumstances slide out gracefully from inside the unit. I have to use brute force to pull them out and this usually means that most of the shapes contained with the drawers end up all over the floor, so the neat solution I mentioned above, is not a neat solution at all because you end up at the same place you would without this handy storage space!
* The plastic lid is also difficult to lift open once you have clicked it into position.
* Both of the above points in my opinion completely ruin the toy. The poor quality felt I can handle, the massive amount of shapes I can deal with; but the fact that the unit is so difficult to operate is just such a huge disappointment. This means that my daughter cannot play with the set without my assistance. If she fancies having a play with her Fuzzy Felt, she first has to come to me to open the drawers and lift the lid, and then again if she happens to close the drawers or the lid whilst she is playing. It always requires adult intervention, and even I find it hard to use, so how can the manufacturer expect a child to be able to operate it?
My daughter has not complained about it so I suppose I should be overjoyed with it, but to be honest I have noticed she does not reach for it as often as I would like, and I am not entirely sure this isn't down to the fact that she cannot get into it all by herself.
So despite me being really excited about this being an original Fuzzy Felt set, I am so disappointed with it that I am going to struggle to recommend it to others. The variety of shapes and colours are great, and they stick really well to the board, but the plastic piece of rubbish that it is all housed in just completely lets it down. I am considering ditching the plastic, and just saving the board and keeping the shapes in a plastic box. It would make things a lot easier.
Rethink the plastic and maybe you'd have a winner.
I cannot find this on the Toys R Us website, but I did buy it from their store last year. It is currently available on Play for £17.99 (January 2011).