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My little girl adores Ben and Holly the TV series, and so she asked for a number of the play sets. We have had a few of their toys before and to be fair they were nothing but rubbish. I really was not sure about buying this castle as with previous experience the toys are poor, but as she really wanted it I decided to take the plunge. We managed to purchase ours on sale for around £15 which seems to be half the recommended retail. To be honest I think the price we paid is fairer than the full asking price. There is slight assembly to putting the castle together but it only takes a few minutes to build it which was not too bad. The castle sits on a sturdy base and can be opened and closed easily. Even my two year old son can open it independently.
We hadn't realised that you need to apply the stickers yourself to the castle which was the first downside. As she opened it she was desperate to start playing, but had to wait patiently while mummy added the stickers. This proved to be very tricky to do neatly especially for the ones that need to be added inside the castle rooms. This took around 30 minutes to do which is a long time to keep a four year old waiting. The other problem is that the stickers have already started to peel just a few months into play. I had a feeling this would happen as the same problem arises with any toy where the stickers are not put on in the factory which is very annoying.
Secondly the castle is a lot smaller than I thought it would be. It is tiny compared to the advertisement of six rooms to play in, but my daughter still thinks it is magical. There are six rooms but they are very small leaving little room to actually play. I was a little worried as it felt flimsy on first appearances but it has lasted very well. This has been very well received by my daughter and she will sit for ages playing with it. Considering the amount of use it has received it has lasted well.
The small parts like the figures and the wand can be lost very easily, and I do think you should stick to the age recommendation of three years plus. The figures do not stand up independently without a lot of balancing (despite having bases), which even for my four year old girl is a challenge. She doesn't seem to mind this now but at first she was a little disappointed. The figures can also be difficult to sit in the chairs although smaller hands seem to be able to master it a lot better than mummy. Also the arms and heads barely move and are tiny so they can't really do much. Saying that it is the small size of the figures that my daughter seems to love, and they do remind me a little of Polly pocket from when I was younger.
You do receive a full cast of 6 figures to play with (main characters anyway) which for a play set is unusual as they want you to buy them separately. They are also made of plastic and to be honest a little boring, but my little girl loves how small they are. Other than that the pieces of furniture are actually stuck to the castle. At first I thought this was rubbish. Especially when you are trying to squeeze the stickers into place but it has been a godsend. We had a similar Peppa pig castle and my little girl managed to lose the pieces each time meaning I needed to hunt them out before she could play. With this set we have no problems it is ready to play straight away. Yes the figures are small so can be easily lost, but they can be stored inside the castle. You do have to remove the stairs so you can open and close it but this isn't too bad and they are easy to click back into place. ( For mummy or daddy this is tricky for children to do.)
The interactive part of this set is that Holly's wand casts spells around the castle. To be honest these were better than I thought and using the wand you push magnets which make the magic happen. You do need to place the wand in the correct place, but after time my four year old found this easy. Next to each area where you can cast a spell is a small star so little one knows where to the magical parts are, and where to put there wand. In the bedroom you can open a chest of draws, and then there is a fridge in the kitchen, a trap door also on the bottom floor, fire in the front room to light, and a bath in the bathroom to magically draw. All of these things are very simple but my little girl thinks it is amazing. She never gets bored no matter how repetitive it becomes to do the same sequence over and over again. They are also great for pushing imaginative play as she will often make up stories in each room, and include the special feature in some way.
The castle looks lovely once all the stickers are in place. It resembles the castle from the programme perfectly. The rooms are a little small, and lacking a lot of room to play but there are lots of them to make up for that. My little girl absolutely loves this set and plays with it every day. Not only will she play with it every day, but it can hold her attention for large periods of time. We only own one other set which broke very quickly but we do still have the wand and figures from it and they are compatible with this set. Likewise the elf tree and other play sets from this range all work on the same basis, a magnetic wand, so they can be mixed together.
We were pleasantly surprised with this set. After many disappointments with other toys from the same brand we were worried this would be a big useless piece of plastic too. It is annoying to have to add the stickers yourself, and you do need to check when they peel so you can remove them to prevent a choking hazard. Other than that it has been very durable despite receiving hours of play from my little girl. I do think the age range is suitable at three years, but if you're three year old is prone to putting things in their mouth I would steer clear as the figures are tiny. There is not a huge amount of space, and despite the furniture being fixed it is the perfect backdrop for your child's imagination. Retail at £25-£30 is a little high, but now it has been released for a good while it seems to be on offer everywhere. The magic spells really seem to mesmerise my little girl even after she has played with them over and over again.