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My daughter this year requested all the Sylvanian items from the ToyRus catalogue and her uncle bought it for her as a main present. Me and mum my set it up which to be honest was easier than we thought it was going to be.
The Tree house itself
It is a large house in the shape of a tree with various levels and a small pond with fish and lily pads in. Three is one room at the base of the tree and the other rooms all the same size going up through the trunk. It also has three little stage areas on the outside two connected by a little walkway and another that is sat randomly on its own. If you don't know what Sylvanian is they are little animals of various types such as dogs, rabbits and moles etc. To be honest I am very impressed with how many sets of animals there are.
The first thing we noticed when taking this out of the box was how big the box was compared to the actual product we thought is was a waste of packaging, but that aside the majority of the construction is done. You have to clip on the little bridges, and the smaller parts to the whole construction. The instructions are easy to follow however the stickers take a bit of guess work as this seems to be a vague area for creativity I presume. It took us about ten minutes to set the whole house up which isn't bad as I remember similar products with other brands taking much longer.
It is available as low as £69.99 from the internet but the average price seems to be about £85.00 and upwards.
Is it worth it?
The design is very solid and so far it has kept my daughter amused for hours. We do need to get more furniture as none comes with the house which once you actually finish furnishing it is going to cost quite a bit as the furniture rooms are about £9 each. My brother who never reads blurb on products was a bit disappointed as no furniture came for the price he paid. I would recommend it though however as there are lots of little areas to play in and encourages creative play for your child with the different levels. The bright colours on the umbrella and roof keep a child's attention and my daughter has rated it one of her best presents from Christmas.
Last Christmas, my (then) three year old daughter was being well and truly spoiled. At that stage, she was an only grandchild, and with Christmas day being held at our house, her grandparents embarked on a slightly embarrassing "gift" arms race in an attempt to outdo each other and come out with the title of bestest present (and by association - bestest grandparents).
In any event, the biggest box was reserved for the end, and as my daughter happily set about ripping off the packaging for the "Sylvanian Families Old Oak Hollow Treehouse", both grandma's eyed each other up, trying to gauge whether or not they had finished in the winning corner.
Meanwhile, the granddads did what granddad's do best - they forgot which side they were supposed to be on and happily mucked in together to construct my daughter's present. Give three blokes an indeterminate number of parts, bits and decals and one blissfully ignored instruction sheet, add in a couple of glasses of Christmas cheer, and you are guaranteed a fair bit of festive entertainment.
Happily, at some point during construction, the cold war that had been simmering between the matrons of our clan noticeably thawed and a comfortable détente broke out, aided, it has to be said, by a bit of sherry.
WHAT IS IT?
The Sylvanian Families Old Oak Hollow Treehouse ("the Treehouse") is essentially a glorified doll house, shaped like the trunk of an oak tree and meant to be used with the Sylvanian Family series of collectibles. For those not familiar with the concept, they are families of woodland animals (squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and the like) dressed up in human form and provided with various clothes and accessories. More detail can be found on the manufacturer's website here: http://www.sylvanianfamilies.com
The Treehouse consists of four levels with two "satellite" areas coming off the trunk like branches. It is open on one side to facilitate play and includes various features such as a "lake" and "waterslide" (not real obviously), a secret hatch with a ladder, and pretend vegetation (in the form of reeds and bushes). It is currently available on Amazon for £79.99 with free delivery - a reduction from its usual RRP of £84.99 - or it can be ordered direct from the web site for £74.99 - also with free UK mainland delivery.
Luckily for us men-folk, putting the thing together was fairly easy, with the hardest part being the accurate application of stickers under the influence a wee bit too much pre-dinner port. The core of the Treehouse comes pre-assembled with the bulk of the construction being decorative touches (for example handrails and banisters, patio umbrellas, weathervane, and insertion of the "reeds" into the base unit). All in all, it took only about fifteen minutes to fully put together.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
The unit has a wide circular base emulating a tree trunk and at around two feet tall and eighteen inches in diameter, it has a pretty big footprint. The material is mostly hardened plastic and the pre-assembled bits are sturdy and securely put together. In short, the build quality is excellent, but at almost £80 you'd be disappointed with anything less.
The add-on bits however, are prone to coming loose. The manufacturer recommends this toy for ages four years and up, and it's easy to see why. All grandparents (and parents for that matter) think their kid is the most precocious, clever and advanced child on the planet, but three years old (the age at which my daughter received it) was too young. At that age, it's all about dismantling things and building them up again, rather than the role-play that these toys are intended to encourage.
As such, we ended up losing various parts - such as the reeds and removable banisters - fairly quickly and the patio umbrella broke off (under some stress it must be said), leaving a jagged pointy bit where our daughter had snapped it about halfway up the pole. I should point out that a four or five year old will probably be mature enough to treat the toy with more respect, and our daughter - who is now in between those ages - now plays with it in the manner it was intended.
My one biggest bugbear - despite the fact that this was a gift - is the price. At £80, you would hope they would include some furniture, a few of the dolls, or maybe a few accessories, but unfortunately, what you see is exactly what you get - an empty house with nothing in it. My in-laws, having realised this, bought another £30 of accessories and dolls to kit the house out with, and it was then that I realised what an expensive hobby collecting Sylvanian Families and their various accoutrements actually is.
To give you an idea, the furniture sets (living room, dining room, bedroom etc.) range from £7 to £15 each, with the family sets themselves costing around £13 to £20. As such, expect to spend another £80 at least kitting the whole thing out. That's just for starters - which makes one heck of a price tag for keeping a little girl in the four to seven year old age group entertained.
The Treehouse is certainly a quality toy - its durability, robust construction and charm are testament to that. However, you do pay quite handsomely for that quality and the lack of any furniture or characters seems a bit miserly. The Treehouse itself is an empty shell without the necessary accessories, so unless you want a disappointed young child on your hands, buying a few of those along with the unit (unless you already have them) has to be factored in when considering overall cost.
That consideration aside, it has kept my daughter entertained for hours, so the return on the investment made by her grandparents has been handsomely rewarded. The sets and new families make good, small gifts and her collection has invariably grown over time. As she gets older, there is even a collectors club that she can join. Recommended - but with cost reservations.
© Hishyeness 2009
Old Oak Hollow has lots of charming details to discover including a fun slide, bridges and walkways, a weather vane, nesting box and welcome mat to name just a few.