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My infant son was blessed with a number of weird and wonderful "developmental" toys this Christmas, one of which was the "Whoozit Starz Lights & Sound" from US-based company Manhattan Toy. I'm not sure who dreams these things up, but I'm sure a healthy dollop insanity is a key requirement for the job.
I don't remember having anything quite so colourful and wacky when I was a child, so, either science and the understanding of child development has moved on dramatically within a generation, or we are in the midst of the greatest confidence scam in the history of infant entertainment. I suspect it's a combination of the two.
WHAT IS IT?
That's a hard one. To be frank, I'm not sure where to begin as it's such a visual fiesta of brash and bold colours, designs, textures and gizmos. I suppose the best way to describe it is as a "sensory toy". The main body is a plush yellow star with a black and white eyes, purple mouth, big fat red nose and various appendages extruding from it. These include two small soft stars with LED lights embedded in them, a bright blue teether, and two smaller rings covered in a crinkly material.
Dangling from the bottom is a plush circular "target" made of concentric black and white circles on one side and the trademark "Whoozit" face on the other. When you pull this down, it slowly retracts, activates the simple music ("Twinkle Twinkle") for around fifteen seconds, makes the body of the star vibrate and activates the small LED lights in the two smaller "satellite" stars. The volume is pitched a little high and can be startling to a newborn, although the sound quality is good and clear (if basic).
Ours was a gift, but the item is currently available from various e-tailers on Amazon for between £12 and £15. It is suitable from birth onwards. The item is not machine washable - it has to be wiped clean and air dried. It has a strong black Velcro strap at the top so you can hang it from the handle of a car seat, rocket or crib rail. It comes with a label, but no other external packaging, so it's probably wise to wipe it down before use.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
It is well put together with firm and secure stitching and quality materials used throughout. The appendages are anchored deep with in the main body, and emanate from holes large enough for little fingers to explore the silky, shiny lining within. The colours, swirls and patterns are visually stimulating and our little one happily stares and coos at it for a fair while (ten minutes or so) before losing interest.
He's just about starting to use the teether and explore things with his mouth and fingers, and I am happy to say that it wipes clean easily enough. The entire product is made of plastic and polyester fibres which obviously reduces absorbency and resists stains better than natural materials.
The battery pack for it is embedded deep within the main body, but there is no way to access it, so once the battery goes, the lights and sounds will no longer work. I'm sure it would be physically possible to get into and perhaps organise a replacement, but we have similar toys which give access through a Velcro closure so this seems an unnecessary oversight given the cost of the item.
On balance, this is a quality toy which is well made and visually interesting for baby. However, I am a bit disappointed that the battery pack is not accessible, and whilst I am sure that it will outlast my child's infancy, I would have hoped, at the price, to be able to use it with any subsequent children, or at least pass it on to someone else. In a perfect world, I would have liked a removable, replaceable battery - which would also have made the item machine - or at least hand - washable.
The price is also a bit steep - at £15, it's hardly a bargain - and as such, whilst I am happy to have received it as a present, I am not sure I would have paid the full RRP myself. That may sound a bit in the miserly side, but kids accumulate so many things, the cost soon adds up. If you can find this for a tenner, I'd say its worth the outlay.
Recommended - but with reservations.
© Hishyeness 2010