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I've now bought four science kits with Amazons Warehouse deals, and on the one hand - this has been the most fun to date ( we are still waiting on the last one to arrive), but it also is quite clearly false advertising and does not do what it says on the box. There are also so major design errors, so it isn't really fit for purpose - but we have found another use for it, and my sons have really enjoyed it. I would note that I paid just under £6 for this, and there are 2 more at this price from Amazon Warehouse Deals. I would be a lot less happy if I had paid the full price of £15.
WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE BOX:
A plastic swamp zone
Rose of Jericho plant
See through plastic volcano
WHAT IS REALLY IN THE BOX:
Instead of triops, they have put brine shrimp ( sea monkey) eggs. The box does clearly state - prehistoric triops but brine shrimp are much cheaper. I did phone up about this and the staff didn't really seem to know there was a difference, but there most certainly is.
Triops are a strange 3 eyed crustacean which have existed unchanged from the Permian period - before the dinosaurs. They are adapted to living in a puddle, and thus do not require aeration, and live in fresh water. They get about 2" long, and are really quite interesting little things. In fact, the inclusion of triops eggs was the only reason I bought this and my sons were waiting each day for the post to come to get their new triops. Sadly, having developed to hatch and complete their life cycle in puddles, they do only live a two months - and require some heat as well, but we have a small cube aquarium and heater waiting for them.
Brine shrimp on the other hand live in salt water, really do require aeration although for some reason the Sea Monkeys Brand one's seem better able to cope without it. I've tried growing the the ordinary eggs many times without success ( as fish food not pets). On the other hand, I have managed to keep sea monkeys going for several months, they may have achieved a hardier strain through selective breeding. These things are quite common - hence their use as fish food, very tiny and have nothing to do with dinosaurs and prehistoric eras. We did try to hatch them anyway though, not in the swamp as you are meant to as this would have resulted in certain death from bits of the crystal tree and lava from the volcano polluting the water, but in a large jar instead. As soon as I added water and saw the white fungus on some of the eggs I knew there was no chance of hatching. As they all sank to the bottom of the jar, I was further convinced as viable eggs float, but the children didn't want me to just pour them down the drain so we had to leave for a week. Needless to say - the time is up without a single one hatching.
A pack of brine shrimp eggs with salt and food retails at £1.50. I was lucky to find a special offer on Triops eggs - which I really hope hatch and food for £5.00, but i would normally expect to pay £9 - £11. Considering the difference in price - the substitution doesn't seem fair at all. It's like ordering a steak dinner and getting a burger instead at least it would be if the things hatched. As it is - it's more like ordering the steak dinner and getting an empty plate. Of course neither would survive in the swamp zone - so if you are going to kill off wee things I suppose you may as well go with the cheap ones. Triops are great fun but do require a larger container free from any other chemicals and usually heat as well.
The first person I spoke to at John Adams wasn't the least bit helpful. She knew nothing about the product and basically said until she could find out - and she had no idea when that might be - she couldn't do anything. She had no idea what triops were, but finally said she would have to see the box. I suggested she look on amazon or their own web site but she said this would not be possible, she would have to have a box in her hands. Did she want the box posted to her - no. She had to see one from their warehouse which is "far away". At this point I was getting slightly frustrated but she finally gave in and allowed me to speak to supervisor who was more helpful. He didn't know what triops were either, but said there appeared to be a problem with development. Perhaps they should hire my son. He clearly knows more about these things then their staff - and I'm quite sure we could develop a brilliant product. He did however offer to send something of equal value. Still waiting and hoping he keeps his word.
WHAT ISN'T MEANT TO BE IN THE BOX - BUT YOU WILL NEED:
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH THIS?
The Rose of Jericho is a very fun little plant. It arrives as a dried up ball , that looks dead. It is supposed to look like this. The plant is also called the Resurrection Plant, or dinosaur fern - and is meant to have existed from prehistoric times, but I can find no verification of this. At any rate, you drop it water and it comes to life, opening up and gradually getting greenish. If the water dries up - it turns brown again. There are a lot of myths about this plant and it is used in santeria, as well as supposedly being a miraculous plant that springs to life on Christmas Eve. Of course it really springs to life whenever you water it, regardless of the day of the year. It is a nice addition to the set and the children have really had fun with it.
The crystal tree is a cardboard tree. You pour a crystal solution over it and within a few hours crystals start to grow on the branches. These fall off with the slightest movement though, and quite a few fell into the water tray, where the brine shrimp are meant to be. The children did like this, but it's placement on the swamp zone just didn't work. I've ordered two more separately from another company which will be kept safely on a shelf - another £4.60 I'm out on this set!
The volcano is really brilliant though. The children love that they can see through it, and the addition of oil really makes a nice eruption. It's a big mess, but it is worth it. You add food colour water and oil to the volcano and then a bit of the enclosed powder, which is enough for two eruptions. Once this is gone though, you can use vinegar instead of water and baking soda instead of the powder and have as many eruptions as you like. The bubbling swamp is just more of the volcano stuff.
Finally the plastic swamp zone isn't really fit for purpose. Everything is too close together. However, my sons have had fun with this and my youngest absolutely loves it. We have kept the volcano and the Rose Of Jericho, but removed the tree and filled this small section with dry rice coloured green to mimic grass. The brine shrimp tray has a bit of sand and water coloured blue with food colour. The bubbling swamp has been filled with sand, and a plastic tree has been set beside it. The swamp had become a dinosaur island, and is a wonderful play area for my sons tiny plastic dinosaurs.
If I made this set, I'd scrap the crystal tree and the brine shrimp. I'd include some dinosaur models instead, and in place of the bubbling swamp - a large sand lump which you dig out to find a fossil either real or replica. If using replicas - they might include a few fossils. I might include some cress seeds to grow where the crystal tree was. If there were some way to make a volcano in which the lava was sealed in and moved about by means of an air pump, that would be even better.
I'm not quite certain how to rate this toy. I do not feel it is value for money at full price, nor do I feel it is fit for purpose. I also highly resent false advertising and there is no way around the fact that this package does falsely claim to include items which were most likely never included. The instructions do refer to brine shrimp instead of triops - and salt would not be included for triops. I also feel that there customer service department could have done much better, and I will be emailing them again. If they do provide an alternative product, I will update this review, but quite frankly, to sell science toys - they do need someone with as much knowledge of science as the children who will be using it on staff.
My sons would still give this 5 stars - they really don't care that I have spent another £10 to replace items that either were not in the kit or didn't work. They just love the volcano, the plant and the swamp base. At under £6, I'd be happy enough to recommend it just for this.
On the other hand - I feel cheated and lied to, and would give this only 1 star for blatant falsehoods. I am meeting in the middle with 3 stars.
John Adams did send me two more science sets which more than make up for the money spent buying replacement triops eggs. Sadly, the one of the science sets they sent was missing material as well - and the other components did not work - still waiting and hoping the seeds from the Plants with Attitude set grow.
Discover the science behind bubbling geysers, plants that wont die, real life water monsters, an erupting volcano and an amazing crystal tree as you build very own prehistoric island.