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We have had huge success with busy books and so when I came across this set in Asda I decided to pick it up. Suggested retail is around £8 which I think is great value, but we were lucky enough to pick it up for £5 from Asda which is amazing for what you receive. Although this is called a busy book it isn't a book as such, more like a fact book with a play set at the back. The toy side of the book definitely dominates this set and we have found the book becomes boring very quickly. On the short pages of the book you have a picture of different characters, and then there is a poem to tell us a little information about this car. The facts are all simple and any cars fan will already know everything there is to know, but it is great for parents to learn a little more about their children's favourite characters. At first the book was used as much as the cars and the mat but now it is something that just stores the cars when they are not being used.
At the back of the book is a compartment that holds twelve small cars each character instantly recognised by little one. They are tiny and some of the details are less than perfect but it is easy to tell who they are supposed to be and my son does not seem to care. The cars are all perfect for small hands to hold, but they are so small that they could become lost very easily. The cars are formed as well as possible with four wheels that are not free moving, and detailing to both the faces and body of the cars so little ones knows who they are. They are a few cars that are less than perfectly formed with plastic bumps in places there shouldn't be but my son just says they have had a crash and that is why they are this way. All of my children's favourite characters are included as it features both the more well know cars such as Lightning himself and Holly Shiftwell as well as some of the less know filler cars from the movie.
The thing I love about this set is that the mat and cars can be taken away from the book and used completely separately. The mat is a thin piece of laminated paper that pictures different tracks featured in the second movie. It lays flat on the ground and is actually a really good size so you will need a large area for it to be laid out. Then little one simply uses the mat as a background setting and using their imagination with the small cars provided to race the cars, or create stories about whatever they wish.
The mat is split into four different sections each one instantly recognisable to little one as a different race track from the second movie. This means there is a good chance that your child will already be familiar with the different scenes, and if they are not they soon will be after playing with it for a while. Another great addition is the flag in the corner of each of the section. My son sits and tries to sort his cars into their correct country of origin and asks me to investigate the characters background a little more. It introduces maps and countries so really gets little one thinking about each country which I think is great as now my son can identify all four of the different places shown on this map.
It receives a lot of use from all three of my children and so far after a year it has stood the test of time. We have lost a couple of the cars as they are really small but other than that it is in full working order which I think is great after the amount of use it has received. The other thing I like is that it actually holds my children's attention for more than five minutes which is something that can prove difficult with a toddler. The variation in race tracks on the mat makes something a little different for little one to explore while it all joins up to make one large play mat. The pictures are all colourful and detailed so that it grabs little ones attention straight away, and the extra detailing manages to hold it for long periods.
My son was a little upset that the wheels on the cars do not actually move, but they do move around the mat very easily as the laminate provides a slippery surface for them to glide across. As the mat is laminated it makes it nice and strong so that it can withhold lay from smaller hands which is great. It has become a little creased over time with it being constantly folded and stored in the back of the box but this does not affect play at all it just looks a little untidy. It is recommended from three years plus which I think is a reasonable age range as the cars are very small so could pose a choking hazard for anyone younger, but my two year old son plays with this set with no problems.
The great thing is that it can be taken wherever little wants without any fuss. This makes it perfect for taking out with us while visiting relatives as it is so small it can fit in a carry bag, and it still holds their attention for more than five minutes. You just need to be careful that the book is secured or the pieces will fall out in transit. After a few times of being used the plastic sheet that holds the toys in the back of the book became lost. This means that they do just rattle around and without an elastic band or some ribbon to tie the book shut it will open and the pieces fall out. This is not too much of a problem if it is just being used in the house but if you are planning to take it out as a distraction then it is something you need to think about. We have lost a number of the cars now, and we have the same problem with each busy book we own just because the accessories are so small.
We love this book and it has received hours of play from my children. We now own the Thomas the tank engine, Disney Princess, Toy story and Cars 2 version of these books and each and every one of them are loved as much as the first. The small figures are perfect for small hands and the mat provides the perfect backdrop for a small child's big imagination. My son loved that some of the rarer cars were featured in this set and that he could take it along to relatives houses to keep him occupied while he is there. It has lasted rough play from my children and despite some of the cars being lost and the mat creasing a little it is in perfect condition. I would highly recommend this to any child that loves cars, and I would also recommend the other variations in the range. The retail can be anything from £5 at Asda up to around £8 at the Disney store but even at the higher price it is more than worth it.