Please note I am reviewing the Discovery Channel - Bug Barn rather than the National Geographic one shown above. Dooyoo has asked to place the review here, and both sets are completely identical except for the colour and price. Both are made by Trends UK. The main difference is that the Discovery Channel set has blue where the National Geographic set has yellow. Also the National Geographic set is selling for £34.12 where the Discover Channel one is £13.28. Personally, we prefer blue anyway, but there is no way I would pay £34 for this set.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
The Bug Barn:
This is 8" long and 4 1/2 " high if you do not count the handle. It is made of plastic with a fine steel mesh screen material which ensures plenty of ventilation, but is not quite as good for viewing as plastic. There is a sturdy handle and two screen doors which slide open easily and close securely. The very fine screen mesh should prevent any unwanted escapes - but perhaps not all wanted escapes - more under our experiences. This is my four year olds favourite part of the set as it allows him to bring to creepy crawlies
This surprisingly good, we have had many magnifying glasses in science kits and I really did not expect much based on previous experience. This has a very sturdy handle a quite good magnification + there is a small circle with higher magnification. The total length is 9 1/4" with the glass itself being 4 " across. I would expect to pay £5 - £6 for this on it's own, so I was well pleased to have this included. It is plastic, and I find the glass magnifying glasses to be the best, but one hardly expects glass in a toy for small children to run about with.
The Catch Net:
You won't be catching butterflies easily with this one. The net portion is only 5"x 4" but it is reasonably sturdy and is fun for trying to catch flying insects. or perhaps some pond or tide pool dipping. The small size of this net is perfect for transferring creatures to the bug barn if you wish though as it fits over the door perfectly. Despite being small this is my oldest son's favourite part of the set.
Not really much use in my opinion. I think it would be all too easy to accidentally injure a bug trying to lift it with these. You can however grasp an unfortunate fly with these to lower into the waiting trap of a Venus flytrap.
These are window stickers that peel on and off easily and very nice, but sadly depict American insects
We call this the bug jar. This is 2 1/2" high and 2 1/4" wide. The lens has a built in magnifying glass but this is not exceptionally strong. The lid is also vented, but this is definitely a catch and release jar, or something to catch an insect and transfer it to the bug barn. You would not want to keep any bug in this for long.
These are very basic but then it is self explanatory anyway. Unlike most of these sets, this does not include a booklet of common insects to find, but as these always seem to be for American insects, I'm not bothered by this. I have bought a number of British bug identification books so while a sheet with common creepy crawlies would be nice, we don't really need one. It has a warning that you should not stare at the sun through the magnifying glass, but I would think that is obvious.
My sons absolutely love this. They have had hours of fun searching for insects, which they bring in and identify, looking up facts about them in the books and occasionally keeping them for awhile to observe. they are learning to classify insects, take field notes and record experiences all of which I feel is useful for educational purposes, but more than that, they are really enjoying themselves outdoors in the fresh and air and sunshine. I also just find something nice about seeing my children enjoy the kinds of activities I enjoyed as a child. I like to see them play with things with out whistles and bells, computer chips and screens. I think every child should have fond memories of bug hunting expeditions.
My husband on the other hand hates the bug catching. He used to be a boxer in the army and worked as bouncer for many years so you wouldn't think a wee creepy crawly would annoy him so much - but it does. My sons often forget to put the creatures in the barn before coming in, running indoors with a millipede crawling up their arm or a spider dangling from a thread. A few have been lost and my husband found the millipedes crawling about his favourite part on the sofa as he sat down with his laptop to unwind before bed. He suspects the boys may have deliberately released them on "his spot" and in all honesty it is a possibility. They don't bother torturing me with bugs, as I just pick them up and carry them outdoors, I'm not at all fussed. My husband on the other hand squeals and shouts a bit, making him a prime target for amusement purposes. They both laughed until they had tears in their eyes and he ranted about millipedes crawling all over him. He finally gave up trying to tell them off for it as they were obviously enjoying his complaints far too much.
This toy is listed for ages 6+ but my youngest is 4 and absolutely loves this. Of course a bit of supervision would be wise, and children need to be taught to avoid bees and wasps, but there really aren't many dangerous insects in the UK.
It is possible to burn things with the magnifying glass, and my boys were burning holes in paper earlier. I think it would be quite difficult to actually start a real fire this way, but a bit of supervision is never a bad thing. As long as an adult is keeping an eye out, I can't see any harm being done.