“ Brand: Bruin / Type: Soft baby ball / Age: 6 months „
My Dad is like Santa at Christmas time and always arrives on Christmas Eve laden down with a huge bag of presents for the boys. Amongst his haul this year was this 'Animal Giggle Ball' from Bruin, which is Toys 'R Us own brand of baby toys and products, bought as a present for my youngest son who is now four months old.
The 'ball'' is actually a rounded soft toy with a flattened base, allowing it to sit up without falling or rolling over. Ours is a cute orange design (as pictured above) with a cheery, smiling face. It was only from looking at the Toys 'R Us website that I discovered that this is actually supposed to be a giraffe but it really looks nothing like a giraffe whatsoever! The fact that this toy is round and chubby whereas giraffes are tall with a long neck probably explains why there is no real resemblance to any giraffes that I have ever seen. The ball does apparently come in other designs - a hippo or an elephant - which seem to have more of a resemblance to the animals that they are supposed to represent, judging by the images online.
As well as being soft and cute, the animal ball has a little musical note symbol on one of its ears which is where it all starts to go wrong. As soon as we pressed it, we were all taken aback by a loud and sudden burst of the most annoying sounding artificial laughter! We actually had a completely different baby toy many years ago when our oldest son was born which played exactly the same annoying sound and - why, I really couldn't say- it magically 'disappeared' - and never got to be handed down to his younger siblings! I can see this toy meeting the same fate sooner rather than later, via a charity shop bag, as it really is an unpleasant and irritating noise, guaranteed to drive you mad! This is made worse by our three year old who constantly wants to press this toy's ear and set off the noise. The only saving grace is that the laughter only bursts out for around ten seconds at a time, although it can be replayed again and again and again...
This toy is recommended for babies over the age of six months but I think that is widely optimistic and really don't think that a baby of that age would appreciate this toy much at all. Our four month old was just taken by surprise by this toy when the laughing started and stared wide eyed in a sort of shocked horror. I suspect this is supposed to make a young baby laugh but our little one just found it a little bit disconcerting. I can remember our oldest son (who wasn't exposed to the same levels of noise that our youngest is) used to wail every time his laughing toy was set off and I could imagine this ball having the same effect on a more sensitive (or tired) baby.
Even for an older baby, this is not the most well thought out toy as it is quite large and surprisingly heavy, due to the inbuilt battery compartment and a separate hard plastic chamber inside the toy which, presumably, emits the sound. (Why is it that most toys come without batteries supplied but annoying little novelty toys, such as this, come with batteries all raring to go! What's the betting the bloody things will last for ages too!) The hard elements are tucked away inside the toy and buried under a velcro section, so they are well padded and safe from inquisitive fingers, but the toy is still pretty unwieldy and not a weight or shape that could be easily or comfortably picked up by a little one. The only real benefit of this toy for a young baby is as entertainment for tummy time play. This ball also vibrates as it laughs, causing it to spin around even on a carpeted floor. I've placed it in front of my baby as he's laying on his tummy and he is interested in watching it spin and laugh, albeit only for very brief periods, but it does encourage him to lay on his front and strengthen those muscles ready for sitting up and crawling.
I'd say the key age group for this toy is actually a much older toddler, though. A child of eighteen months, or even two years old, would be able to handle this toy comfortably and actually activate the sound themselves and would be more likely to find it entertaining, rather than frightening. I can imagine the parents of said eighteen month old would not be quite as enthralled!
Currently priced at £9.99 from Toys 'R Us stores and online, I'd only actually recommend buying this as a gift for parents that you really want to annoy!