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Hands up if you remember Weebles the first time round, if you remember being fascinated with those egg shaped characters that wobbled but didn't fall down. Being a child of the seventies my hand is firmly raised in the air, I remember the hours of fun I had playing with them, trying to prove the advertising spiel wrong. Guess what, Weebles are back and they've got a brand new look. When I spotted the Weebles Airplane on sale in Argos for only £4.99 (standard price £9.99) I couldn't help it, I simply had to buy it for the then sixteen month old Freddy.
==Pre-Flight Checks - A Parent's View==
The Weebles Airplane came supplied in an open faced box that was relatively easy to open. Within the set you get the airplane itself and a single Weeble. If like myself you remember the Weebles of old, then the newer Weebles are a bit of a disappointment. The Weebles I remember were made of opaque plastic with the facial features moulded on. While retaining the classic egg shape the new Weebles are made of transparent plastic covering a layer printed with the detail. While this does mean there is more detail and there are no small crevices to collect dirt, I do still begrudge that a classic has undergone such a transformation. One thing that hasn't changed about the Weebles is their weight, in order for them to "wobble but not fall down" their bases are weighted, meaning that should one land on your toes it will hurt and if it's thrown at a breakable ornament, the ornament will be damaged. The particular Weeble in this set is a pilot in a very thirties style outfit complete with leather jacket, scarf and goggles. Although he has a smiling face, his outfit is a very non-descript brown which makes him quite difficult to spot in the toy box.
The same can't be said for the airplane, which is bright red with orange wings, blue wheels and yellow tail fin and propeller. At about six inches in length it's big enough to hold two Weebles within the depressions in the cockpit, but not so large as to dominate the toy box. The plane is easy to push along on it's three, free-wheeling wheels and the propeller can be spun. At the rear of the plane there is a ring attached to a string that when pulled makes the plane vibrate, which in turn makes the propeller shake and if a Weeble is in the cockpit it will spin.
Both the Weeble itself and the plane appear to be very durable, the Weeble has been dropped on a variety of surfaces from a height and thrown onto the floor without showing a sign of even minor cosmetic damage. The Plane is also sturdy, being made of relatively thick plastic and shows no sign of wear and tear with three months pretty regular use. Both the Weeble and the plane are easy to wipe clean, it's simply a case of using a damp cloth.
From a parent's point of view, the Weeble Airplane is a sturdy, well-made toy and once I was over the disappointment of how different the actual Weeble looked compared to my childhood, I have to admit I appreciate how easy it is to clean. So as an adult I would give this five stars out of five, especially as unlike many modern toys it doesn't require batteries.
==Ready For Take-Off - A Child's View==
From the very first moment he saw this, Freddy was entranced, finding the actual Weeble especially fascinating. Over the last few months Freddy has definitely tested the theory that Weebles wobble but don't fall down to the limit, having simply pushed it, rolled it across the floor and dropped it from various heights. The Weeble is the perfect size for his hand meaning he has no trouble manipulating it. He will easily spend half an hour experimenting and annoying our downstairs neighbour by dropping it on the floor.
That's not to say he doesn't also like to play with the plane, because he most certainly does. Being nice and chunky the plane is also a good size for his little hands which means he has no trouble pushing it along the floor or pretending to fly it around the room. He also loves to spend time make the propeller spin while making "vroom" noises or putting the Weeble into and out of the plane. Although he knows that pulling the ring will make the plane vibrate, he finds it just a little to tough to pull. Of course he has a perfect answer to this and will regularly bring the plane to me so that he can watch the Weeble spin. While I personally can't see the attraction and do try and find something to divert his attention after the twentieth or so pull, Freddy finds the action both fascinating and hilarious and will ask for it to be repeated ad nauseum.
Over the three months he's had this set, Freddy has had literally hours of fun playing with, both by himself and with Mummy or Daddy. I've also watched the way he's played with it change as both his motor skills and imagination have developed. To start with he was solely fascinated with the Weeble but as time has gone on he's definitely started to pretend that he is flying the plane, including letting go and expecting it to carry on which results in a crash land. (My fault, I should never have made paper airplanes with him). Even with all these crash landings the plane has shown absolutely no sign of damage.
If I were to ask Freddy how many stars he would give this set, I wouldn't get a lot of sense apart from his favourite phrase of "my do". But from the length of time he plays with this and his reaction when he discovers it in the toy box, I would say that he would give it at least four stars out of five, deducting the one star as he can't yet manage to pull the string and he's a typical independent toddler.
==Landing Approach - Age Range and Educational View==
The Weebles Airplane is billed as being suitable for children aged twelve months and over and I would say that is just about right. Although there's nothing that would really cause any danger to a younger toddler, I'm not sure that they would get that much out of the set. For toddlers over a year this toy provides some surprising educational benefits considering it's so basic. Firstly it helps a young child develop their gross and fine motor skills as they push the plane, put the Weeble in and out of the plane, spin the rotor and attempt to pull the cord.
Then the plane helps develop role play and imagination as the child begins to pretend to fly the plane. Finally it helps a child develop a sense of exploration as they try to work out how come the Weeble doesn't fall down. (Freddy's still not worked this out yet, though not through want of trying).
==Touch Down - Final Words==
When I saw this set on sale in Argos I was delighted and remembering my own pleasure playing with Weebles as a child I couldn't help but buy it for Freddy. And I'm delighted that I did, there's nothing like watching the simple pleasure on his face as he explores the plane and Weeble and as he needs my help to fully access it I see the delight as we interact together. I really can't help but recommend this set to any parent of a toddler between the age of one and two. It's fun, durable and yet delightfully simple and so I'm giving it four stars out of five, with it losing that one star because the string is just a little too difficult for little hands to pull.