Product Type: Sylvanian Doll
Newest Review: ... 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 ... more
Quality Character Treehouse Available For Immediate Vacant Possession
Sylvanian Families Old Oak Hollow Tree House
Member Name: Hishyeness
Sylvanian Families Old Oak Hollow Tree House
Advantages: Solid construction, minimal assembly, well designed.
Disadvantages: Large footprint. No accessories or dolls included. Cost.
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
Summary: One bed, one bath, two reception, patio, balcony and water features - mortgage required.
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