Product Type: Fisher Price baby products
Newest Review: ... good shape since we bought it, being a sturdy and well made item. The swing is available to buy from Fisher Price directly for £65 and it... more
Swinging With The Fishies
Fisher Price Aquarium Take Along Swing
Member Name: Hishyeness
Fisher Price Aquarium Take Along Swing
Advantages: Portable. Interactive and colourful. Good battery life. Excellent build quality. Washable covers.
Disadvantages: Can be awkward to get infant in and out. Availability.
The amount of baby paraphernalia you can unwittingly accumulate as an enthusiastic parent can be quite astonishing - some of it more useful than others. The holy grail of infant kit however, is something that is useful and durable enough to endure to the next new arrival (should there be one) or, at the very least, can be passed on to someone else who can appreciate it.
Throughout the first months of their life - until they can sit up unaided, babies either need to be held or put down somewhere. Even the most dedicated parent will soon discover that a constant stream of baby talk and facial gurning - just to keep the little bundle amused - will eventually have their brains seeping out of their ears.
As such, having an infant version of an entertainment centre is a good half-way house between cuddles and cot, and, of the many kid-orientated products we have tried and tested, the Fisher Price Aquarium Take Along Swing does the job perfectly and stands out for its excellent value.
WHAT IS IT?
The Swing is a collapsible, portable and motorised baby rocker that is embellished with various dangly bits, lights and sounds and is kitted out in an aquatic theme. It has a deep bucket seat with a safety harness to secure the baby in place and offers a number of types of sensory stimulation for keeping him or her entertained.
The product is engineered with a simple angled L-frame (think of a triangle with one side missing) from which the swing seat hangs, making an A-shape, with the main controls and the battery compartment located at the apex of the "A" for ease of access. The control section also has lights (one red and one blue) and a speaker built into the underside.
Battery life is good - the product uses four C batteries, which seem to last for a fair while (you'll know when they start to weaken as the music starts to distort) but longevity will ultimately depend on the quality of batteries you use and how often you use the electronic functions (more on these below). The batteries are housed in a casing that is screwed shut (with two small Phillips or cross-headed screws) and can be a bit tricky to put in and take out because of the way the compartment is engineered.
We often use the swing without turning it on as somewhere to deposit Baby H when we need our hands free, as the colourful get-up is usually enough to keep him occupied for a good five or ten minutes. The product is already assembled and folded when you take it out of the box - unfolding it and setting it up is intuitive and very quick to do.
The Swing offers a number of functions that can be used separately or together.
> Motorised Swing
The motor has eight speeds, ranging from a gentle rocking motion to a slightly more vigorous swing, but to be frank, there seems little appreciable difference (to an adult) between low speed and top speed and, as such, the eight settings seem a little over-engineered. You can use the motorised swing without engaging any of the other functions.
The red and blue lights on the underside of the control section above baby's head, when engaged, blink on and off in time to music.
The music can be put on separately, or in conjunction with the lights and consists of soothing, well-known lullabies. A separate knob allows you to adjust the volume to a level comfortable for baby (or as I prefer to phrase it, at the minimum level of annoyance I can tolerate). Keep in mind that the sound projects downwards because of the location of the speaker, so it will be louder for baby than for you.
There are three main interactive "toys". Two, which are fish shaped and double as teethers with different textures, hang down from the underside of the control section adjacent to the lights. There is a control setting that is intended to reward baby for exploration, as when either of these two toys are pulled, the lights and music are activated for a short time and then stop.
There is a brightly decorated small stuffed fish with tactile fins attached securely by a tether to the main part of the safety harness. Also, built into the sides of the swing arms are two small "fishbowls" filled with an aqueous blue liquid, in which two more brightly coloured fish "swim" when the swing rocks back and forth.
SAFETY & BUILD QUALITY
The product is solidly build and well put together. I was pleasantly surprised by how robust it actually is. The main frame is made of tubular metal finished in a glossy aqua colour, with the joints and swing supports made from a cream-coloured hard moulded plastic. The "feet" on each corner provide a great deal of stability and come with rubber discs to prevent the unit from slipping on wood floors or other smooth surfaces.
It is advertised as suitable from birth to a maximum weight of around twenty pounds (20lbs) or nine kilos (9kg) which, for most babies, is probably around the four to six month mark. That seems about right, as after that age, they will be trying to sit up and eventually crawl, so keeping them confined in this product would not be suitable or advisable.
The instructions recommend that baby is never put in the Swing without the harness, and given the mischief that babies can get up to - even at such a tender age - I would heartily concur with that advice. The harness - essentially a glorified lap belt that - is fully adjustable and is easily engaged and disengaged by adult hands.
CARE & CLEANING
The plastic and metal surfaces are easy enough to wipe down, but the main area that will need a regular clean is the bucket seat. It is made of a combination of polyester (65%) and cotton (35%) with a 100& polyester filler. The good news is that: (a) its wipe-able, and (b) removable and machine washable and dryable - both on low heat. The cover slips easily off its frame (after the strong Velcro straps are undone) and is equally as easy to put back on after washing.
Fisher Price also do a much larger swing, but the advertised portability of this unit was what attracted us to it. The back legs of the Swing (think of the corner of the "L" I referred to earlier) are hinged and have a catch mechanism, which, when released (which is pleasingly simple enough to do two-handed) allow you to fold the Swing relatively flat. The bucket seat is also hinged in the middle and conveniently folds in two. I say "relatively flat" because the swing arms (which house the fish bowls) are moulded in a sweeping curved, shape and prevent the unit from being too compact.
The idea here is to make it portable rather than storage friendly, although, to be fair, the folding mechanism means that it takes up about half the space it occupies when folded out. I would estimate the product's footprint at around one and a half by two feet. The Swing easily fits into the boot of our car, even when we have the Bugaboo stroller frame in the back and has made several trips to the in-laws and my parents on our regular visits to the grandparents. It's simplicity of design and ability to fold down are a real plus.
The Swing does have one main flaw that otherwise detracts from an otherwise excellently designed product. The Control section at the top of the frame makes it awkward to get the baby easily in and out without fully crouching down or kneeling - otherwise you end up either contorting yourself or the bambino - neither of which is a good idea. Other than this one issue, the Swing is a cracker of a baby product.
COST & AVAILABILITY
The Swing is now quite hard to find new, as it has been discontinued and replaced by a newer product in the Fisher Price catalogue (priced at around £60) which now addresses the tricky access issue. However, it is still well worth seeking this out and it is currently available new (for around £50) and second-hand on auction sites (for anywhere between £15 and £30). Considering it was around £60 when we bought it new, that represents outstanding value (depending on condition, cleanliness etc.).
Fisher Price have designed an fun, entertaining, interactive and motorised baby swing that is fully portable, well built and excellent value at the price point (if you can find it new). Our two children have loved it and it has given us, as parents, priceless hands-free time. The only bad points - and these are relative - are the ease of getting baby in and out, and its now limited availability. However, even if you can only find it second hand, its durability and build quality will give you an excellent nearly-new product that should give you many years of use.
© Hishyeness 2010
Summary: An excellent long-term investment that is well built, durable and fun for baby.