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I remember seeing these in a local shop, but they never caught my interest. We have a huge selection of duplo, some lego, wooden blocks and a some magnetix. I just didn't see the need for another building set - and I thought these looked a bit cheap as well. A few days later we ended up with what looked like mouse droppings in some baps from this store - worse still it was half eaten pack. Now I understand these things happen - and the heat of cooking should have killed any germs, but I certainly wasn't going to use the rest of the pack - so I returned it and demanded my money back. The manager wasn't in, but the fellow took the baps and my number and said a manager would call - which she did - promising to send me out a refund straight away.
Instead of just refunding my 80 pence for the bread though - she sent me gift certificates for £ 40 and a toy for each child, along with a nice Christmas card and we're so sorry this happened note. I really was not impressed with the toys - but it was nice gesture so I decided to give them to my sons thinking i could pack them off to the charity shop later if the boys were not interested.
The box we received contained 100 pieces, but it really isn't nearly as big as you would think. Most of the parts are very small. My sons were ages 2 and 5 when we received the first set. This set is meant to be for ages 3+ but since my son had outgrown putting small toys in his mouth - I saw no reason not to let them both use the toy. This would pose a choking hazard to very young children though - so as much as they love it I would recommend this toy only for children who can be trusted not to eat the pieces.
This set is intended as a building set. If any of you are familiar with the branded toys Sticklebricks or Thistle Blocks, these look exactly the same, but cost a lot less. It comes with a wide variety of shapes and sizes of plastic covered in tiny nubs or bristles. Any two pieces can easily be fit together as the bristles just interlock. Once put together, they do stay together quite well. One of the best parts of this set was a wheeled platform, which my sons have used build all sorts of vehicles, and they rarely fall part, even when crashed. But pulling them apart is easy so you can build something else.
My sons did end up really loving this toy, and two years later, it still gets quite a lot of use, but 100 pieces really doesn't build an awful lot, so I ended up buying a second set from Smyth's recently. This is the set that is you will find if you follow the link to Amazon. It is currently selling for £17.10 with Amazon, or £8.99 at Smyths. For comparison, the branded Sticklebricks will cost you £38.40 for a similar size set. I am surprised to see that Amazon has this listed as a baby toy, as it does have a large number of very small parts and the box clearly states for ages 3+. The new set did not include the large wheeled platform, or the green building base, but you can still make cars and vehicles by using small rectangles and axle shapes with wheels provided. I do think it is worth buying, but it might be worth having a look at ebay for an older set with the larger parts.
As mentioned - I really felt this toy was overpriced and not at all appealing at first glance, but I was looking through an adults eyes. After seeing my children play with this for two years I can really see the value in this. I think the biggest appeal is the tactile aspect of this toy. I have often watched my children just enjoying the feeling of running their hands over these shapes. I am hesitant to lump my children into one learning category - I like to use all styles of learning - but they certainly do have many traits common to tactile learners. that said - I feel most very young children do learn best through touch. This is a wonderful tactile toy - and a great stress buster for children as well. In addition to this, even the youngest child can easily build things. their building don't fall over like with blocks and it so easy to put the parts together and take them apart again. The wheels and axles mean they build vehicles, and I have noticed you can even buy a motorised set now. Children will learn shapes easily playing with these, and there are plenty of colours as well so you can teach colours as you play if you wish. I only wish they would create an alphabet set as being able to feel each letter like this would be absolutely wonderful.
This is a very durable toy. It is impossible to tell the difference between the old set and the new in terms of colour or condition. I won't say they are unbreakable. I expect if a child or puppy were to really chew at one it would end up damaged, but I do not believe these will ever break with normal play. the bristles have never become bent or damaged, even if stepped on or trapped under heavy furniture.
I do feel that this toy as a set is unsafe for babies - but I also realise that infants would love the feel of these toys. A reasonable compromise would be to remove all the small pieces and store them away for future use and allow an infant to play with only a few larger parts, but please keep in mind that you get far more small parts than large parts and if in doubt - it is best to leave it out. I can not just count the large parts as I have 2 sets combined, but I would guess that you would have over 20 parts large enough for an infant to play with, and this would be enough for them to really enjoy the set.
As to an upper age limit. my seven year old is usually loathe to play with anything he considers babyish, but he does still love this toy, and if I manage to get the motorised set - I'm sure that will extend its play value even more. I have to admit - I really misjudged this toy. I would never have considered buying a set if we had not been given one, but now we have two sets and I am hoping to buy more.