* Prices may differ from that shown
This is probably one of the most irritating toys my daughter owns. Why I didn't get rid of it the moment we took it out of the box I'll never know!
We bought it for Christmas just before she turned 1 because she wasn't yet walking but liked having things to crawl after on our laminate floor, and as this was advertised as a 'push and go' snail which I interpreted as 'push and zoom really fast along the floor' snail, I thought it would be great. But it really is not a zooming snail. It also says on the box that it has 'enchanting' music, which again it really is not.
So what exactly am I talking about? It's actually made by Tomy and is called a 'Discovery Swap 'n' Roll Snail'. It's aimed at babies aged 9 months and upwards. What you get is a blue activity snail (with 4 wheels) with a cute green head and an orange tail. The orange tail is what you 'push' down to activate the snail's motion and music- he rolls along the floor playing a tune.
You also get two interchangeable shells with this toy, one is a stacker with 5 pieces or rings to stack, one of which is a clear ring with beads in, there is also a squeaker integrated into this part of the toy. The other shell is a beaded toy and as the snail rolls, the beads slide around the shell. Both of these 'shells' can be used as separate toys as well as part of the snail (they form his shell and can be swapped about as you please).
The idea of the shells is that once the snail has been set in motion, the shells turn as the wheels turn and create a bit of rattle effect and also something for your child to watch as the toys spin around on the snail's back.
So when my daughter opened this on Christmas day we realised we weren't going to get as much from this toy as we'd expected.
First of all, the tail you push down is more of a button which is highly sensitive. It's not one of those self propelled toys where you have to push it down and it is propelled off into the distance. The tail button on this toy activates the motor inside the snail and off the snail trundles across your floor. It's very veeeeeery slow (as snails generally are I guess) and the music is a slow trumpety type tune which can only be described as rather irritating. It also cannot be deactivated, once you have pushed the button you have to endure the full tune until it finishes, there is no volume control or off button.
What is also irritating about this aspect of the toy is that because the button is quite sensitive, and because there is no 'off' button, my husband and I have often been clearing toys away once the kids have gone to bed and accidently activated the snail's tune, which has frequently disturbed the kids, and caused us even more pain than just having to listen to the tune.
I did also think that the two shells might have given my daughter more entertainment than they actually have. I thought the stacking shell was a good idea, but as she already had a set of stacking rings, she was not particularly impressed with this aspect of the toy, although I did actually like it because the separate rings are different shapes and sizes, one is a flower, one has stripes, one is rattle and so on, it does provide different visual experiences for young children.
But the problem with this is that for this 'shell' to be used on the back of the snail, a disc has to be screwed on the end to prevent the stackers from falling off, and no child I know under the age of 2 or even 3 is capable of screwing discs onto anything. So this shell has very very rarely been used on the back of the snail, it has generally been scattered around my daughter's toy boxes.
I also thought the beaded toy would provide enjoyment while on the back of the snail because the beads slide around as the snail moves, but more often than not, the shells have been cast aside while the snail has been used, mainly because it's quite difficult for young children to position the shells correctly on the back of the snail (the shells have circular discs which have to rest in the grooves on the wheels and it has to be exact for it to work properly), so in the end they give up and use the snail 'naked'.
My eldest daughter was not particularly interested in any sort of play aspect of this toy. The shells did not interest her, and neither did the fact that the snail moved. But what I often found her doing was pressing the button to get the wheels moving, and then gripping both wheels on one side with her hands so that the tune still plays but because she had hold of two wheels, the snail just jerked in her hands and made a constant clicking sound as he tried to move but couldn't because my daughter had trapped him. Now this she found entertaining and would do it very often, but surprisingly this has not broken the toy (much to my disappointment).
Since I have had my second daughter (who is now 1), I thought she might have found more enjoyment with this toy than my first daughter, mainly because my kids are so different and seem to find different things enjoyable. However, she was also disinterested in both the shells, but she did actually like the tune the snail plays and will do a little jig when she hears it. What I have found is that my daughters will use this toy to actually play together. When I am cooking tea both my kids will usually be hanging around in the dining room, and if this toy is within sight then they will play with it. They usually sit opposite each other and watch it travel between them. Now obviously my youngest is a bit young to understand this but my elder daughter (she's nearly 3) will help her along and it does keep them entertained for a certain amount of time.
What I have also come to realise is that this toy is, for some reason, a winner with visiting children, but not in the age range it is aimed at. My 11 year old nephew will spend ages laid on our dining room floor pressing the button and watching it travel across the floor and waiting for it to crash into the wall. Oh yes that's something as well, if it hits a wall it doesn't stop it just keeps on going even though it can't go any further. It really is a stupid toy.
So we have had this toy for nearly 2 years now and I hate it now as much as I hated the first day my daughter used it. It requires 3 x AA batteries and we have never had to change these so it obviously doesn't use much battery power which is a good thing (I suppose...)
Also in the toy's favour, it's a good quality piece of equipment because it has taken a good battering from numerous children, including my own daughter who has seemingly tried to break it on several occasions, and miraculously it is still in full working order. It still looks exactly the same as it did two years ago and it has certainly had a lot of use, so I suppose it's built to last!
Even though in the end it's actually turned out to be quite a good toy, I'm still not going to rate it highly because it has too many downsides and I don't think it's that good for the age range it's aimed at, and it's also quite expensive!
It costs £19.99 and is available at Toys R Us and other toy stores.