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Drawing was my thing when I was a wee nipper. I loved to doodle on pretty much everything around the house, much to the infuriation of my father. I can't remember what age I was, but one Christmas I got a Magna-Doodle, and thought it was the most magical thing ever. No crayons. No paper. No mess. Draw and erase endlessly. Since then, this children's drawing toy has been manifested in various incarnations, and this is the one my parents choose for their granddaughter, the Tomy Chuggington Megasketcher. Here are my thoughts on this nifty doodling toy.
--The 21st century Magna-Doodle--
My old traditional blue-framed Tyco Magna-Doodle is a distant memory now, but I have always been aware that the design of this toy still was abundant on toy shelves. From £1 cheap and flimsy miniature knock-off's, all the way up to this, the GTi of magnetic doodlers if you will. The magic I speak off is actually rather simple. Magnetic particles are placed in a think white liquid which hold them in place. A magnet tipped pen or magnetic stamps are used to pull the particles to the surface, displaying lines and shapes. A magnetic bar on the back acts as an eraser, pulling the particles back into the liquid. Older or cheaper designs use a matrix of hexagonal cells to keep the liquid in check. This created a surface which was not smooth and clear, but newer designs, such as this are made such that the liquid remains in place and give a smooth and clearer surface. The High-Definition Doodler!
This version is a themed tie-in to the popular children's CGI animated show Chuggington, shown on Channel 5's Milkshake and makes no shame about many idea's 'borrowed' from another very famous show based around trains. Chuggington is set in a more modern era however, where the anthropomorphic train engines are more prolific and live in a world which is designed for them more than a human society. To be fair, it doesn't really matter what this toy was themed around, it's merely an additional revenue stream to the franchise, and that's why it will sell quite well and at a rather inflated price.
Magna-doodle (Fisher-Price) is used as a reference to the inspiration behind this product, and it's manufacturers are not associated with this item, which is made my Tomy.
--Price and Packaging--
This toy comes to you boxed solidly in thick card, decorated with the images of the Chuggington characters and of course the easel itself. Cardboard inserts support and protect the toy from damage, so all is well and good whilst in storage. It's all rather large however, and much bigger than the size of the easel. All of the materials used are fully recyclable.
Now onto the price, and again the branding issue rears it's expensive head. At full price from branches of Toys-R-us and such like, and on-line retailers like Amazon, it's normally £21.99. Deals and offers can be found, but it you browse for the basic version of the same easel with no branding, it's around £15.99! It's a lot less attractive to the children of course, because Wilson, Coco and company are not adorning the packaging or toy. That said, it's not a huge price compared to other toys on the market that provide a lot less entertainment, and are just highly priced because of their branding. As always, shop around to find the best deal, it can be found at under £16 from some retailers.
--Design and Durability--
With a nice bright and bold colour scheme of blue and red, with Chuggington pictures and an emblem of the three primary characters of the show in the bottom left corner, the overall design is fun and attractive to a child interested in the program it's themed around. It all fits in well with the branding, with even another character used as a grip for the erasing bar. It's a nice shape too, curved smooth edges and a nice shape for using on the lap. I'm not sure about the emblem which blocks part of the drawing area however, this is annoying for both parent and child, and the stamps which print train silhouettes can get stuck in there storage compartment on the top border. It's big enough to incorporate plenty of drawing space, approximately 8 x 10 inches of doodle board, and the overall size is about 13 x 16 inches. Large for easy storage and car journeys, but fine for the home in general.
A high quality plastic is used in the build, which is good to see, and is very hardy the rough and tumble a 3 year can dish out. The strength of the drawing area too is well built and sturdy, and can tolerate being stepped on, slightly bent or falling off a dining table or bookshelf. It's well made, does have a good lifespan, and is also light enough for small arms to carry with easy effort. The handle on the top edge is a nice addition for this. The erase arm can work a little loose over time unfortunately, and the tip in the magnetic pen could be a little more robust, as it wears out and make it's use a little more difficult.
--Quality and Safety--
Staying with the magnetic pen, this seems to be the only part that lacks the quality and weight of the rest of the materials used. I feel it's too light, and has an element of flimsiness about it. It is tethered to the board so that is doesn't get lost, which is a good idea, but the string that attaches it is strong but too short, and does not allow the pen to be used at all angles all over the drawing area. The pen nip is also a possible danger to eyes as it's quite sharp at first, so a little supervision could be required for a younger child. The rounded edges and good built quality make it very difficult for anything to be broken off though. This good strength comes from the ribs in the reverse, and while they perform well, can be painful to tiny feet (and adult feet!) if stepped on, if the board is left discarded upside down. Safety wise and taking all into consideration, I think it's fine for a 3 year old unsupervised.
Since the drawing area is smooth without the typical magna-doodle hexagons, the pictures that can be drawn can be very good, sharp and easy of the eye. It's also very clear and bold, and it maintains this clarity through many cycles of erasing and re-drawing. It's a high quality board, that takes a fair bit of punishment before is starts to degrade. It's also able to be wiped clean if felt-tip pens or crayons get drawn onto it. Over time, it does start to warp away from the border, so erasing can take several slides, but it still returns to a clean slate afterwards. I would think that extended use would make the outer layer start to peel away, but this would not happen for quite a while. The stamps, while they perform fine, are detachable and so can get lost easy, but they are big enough not to be accidentally swallowed by a curious young mouth.
Apart from the fact that you could buy the very same drawing board for nearly half the price without the Chuggington branding, this is a high quality children art toy, and I have to admit that the branding can make it more appealing to your child, and more inclined to start doodling trains and tracks and so forth. It is really only limited by your child's imagination, with the added bonus that it creates no mess and can by re-used over and over. I always thought the original Magna-doodle was a brilliant tool for children to discover drawing, and with the standard of quality raised with this, think that even more so. A fine product with few problems that is hardy and entertaining.
Thanks for Reading. © Novabug