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As a mum of two girls I can't say the Lego Friends range really appeals to me - it's pink - as in decidedly girlie, stereotype ridden and pretty low on actual construction but, whether I like it or not I have to admit that the six year old is enamoured. This set, a present from Granny, is probably her favourite of all that she has and has been played with a lot in the six months she has owned it. The Beauty Shop comes with 221 pieces and is about £25 to buy new. Quite a few of the pieces are not for construction purposes but for play, so that 221 figure actually equates to a lot less than you would think. Making this took the 6 year old about an hour with minimal assistance - Lego have designed the build well, there are two bags and the shop is built first before the inside is kitted out. She enjoyed constructing the shop as well as the details that stand outside it - a fountain, a sign and a bench. There was nothing too challenging about the build and the instructions were clear, there were 50 steps in all. The shop itself is, it has to be said, a lot smaller than you would think from the picture - by my measurements a measly 12cm tall, by 16cm. There's no big board to put this on but instead a small pink base. That said, there's quite a lot of pleasing detail in the shop - there's a revolving mirror and chair, a mini cash till complete with lego money and plenty of little accessories such as bows, hearts and sunglasses that fit onto the two minifigures' heads and count as lego pieces whilst actually being very small and quite easy to hoover up. The two characters supplied, called Sarah and Emma apparently, are rather Barbiesque, and, weirdly in my eyes anyway, have hair that comes off and is interchangeable. Even more strangely they have giant lipsticks (8 of these in the set) that they can clutch in their little non-revolving hands and a supply of girlie accessories such as a hairdryer, a brush and a tiny mirror. The six year old likes playing with these items and doesn't seem to mind that their legs are just jointed at the bottom and move as one. The shop does promote imaginative play - she will play at customer and hairdresser and get the characters to talk and buy lipstick from each other and she will quite happily use the items with the other sets she has. As you would expect from Lego everything is pretty durable, although there are quite a few stickers with this set they have worn well so far and it's a bonus that you get quite a few unusual bricks, albeit in girlie shades such as purple, pink and a baby blue. Overall then this is a good toy to build with a fair bit of play potential after construction. It's a bit of a shame it has an over-promising big box, and doesn't involve more building and less playing with lipsticks and make up, but it's not a bad set. I can't say I particularly like the message behind the whole series (glass ceiling anyone?), however my child enjoys this set and it's not been a five minute wonder, so on that basis I recommend it.
Lego have finally realised that it's 2012 not 1912 and thanks to the shock discovery that girls like playing with Lego too they've realised there's a 50% share of the toy market they've been missing out on for years. So for all the little girls who've had to make do with building fire stations, space ships, boats and borrowing their brothers Lego there's now a girly version called Lego Friends. My 7 year old niece is a huge fan of Lego and loves these new Friends sets although she still really likes Lego fire engine sets as well but there's nothing wrong with a girl liking firefighters after all I still like firemen as well although my reasons are very different to my nieces! When she came to stay with us recently she brought along her latest Lego Friends set the Butterfly Beauty Shop along with another Friends set Olivia's Tree House. The beauty shop set contains 221 pieces in total and comes with 2 Lego Friends dolls called Emma and Sarah and is suitable for ages 6-12. The instruction manual that comes with the set gives clear easy to read instructions and diagrams and although some of the parts are quite small and fiddly my niece was able to build this herself in just over an hour with only occasional help from us. The hardest part of building this set was adding the stickers as some of them are tiny and hard to put on straight. The beauty shop has plenty of play value after it's built up you have a bright girly coloured shop with a "glass" archway entrance, large shop windows with advertising stickers and a bench, fountain, flower beds and advertising board for outside of the shop. The building is 3 sided so you can access the inside from the back of the shop. On the inside there's a till, mirror,beauty chair,make up stand and the set comes with plenty of accessories such as money, lipsticks, hair, hairbrushes, hairdryer,handbag and hair accessories. The set also has some nice touches such as the swiveling chair, opening till drawer and the transparent lego blocks acting as lights above the mirror. My niece happily played with this set for hours after it was built either making up stories for the characters or moving stuff around and swapping parts with other Lego sets. She loves the fact that she can change the dolls hair or add bows etc to it and the fact that the dolls can hold some of the items such as the handbag, money, hairdryer and lipsticks and doesn't seem to mind that the lipsticks are nearly the same length as the dolls arms and the hairbrushes are nearly as big as their heads. The Lego figures have had a makeover for the Friends sets and are now more doll like. Gone are the bright yellow faces and square bodies,arms and legs of the usual chunky brick Lego men the Lego Friends figures have normal skin tones,shapely figures,pretty faces and trendy clothes. The figures still have clamp shaped hands and holes under their feet so they can stand on Lego and hold Lego accessories. My niece loves the new Lego figures especially the fact that you can still take their hair off and replace it with hair and hats from any other Lego sets although neither doll looked too impressed when their flowing locks were replaced with a Harry Potter hairdo and Rons ginger locks from my nephews Hogwarts set. The only thing she doesn't like is the fact that unlike normal Lego figures the legs can't be moved independently so you can only have the figure standing or sitting so she can't pose the figures to look like they are walking. Also the hands don't rotate so the dolls look like they are trying to throw a javelin rather than brushing their hair. What I really like about the Lego sets is after the fun of building the set kids have a toy they can play with rather than building a model that ends up on a shelf gathering dust. Like all Lego sets the pieces are interchangeable with other Lego sets so when kids get bored of it they can change it around or use the parts to make something else. The only downside I've found with this and other Lego sets we've built with the kids was it was smaller built up than you would expect from the size of the box it arrives in. On the plus side it doesn't take up much room so kids can leave the sets built up and create a mini village as they get more sets. There are plenty of options in the Friends range with prices ranging from £5 for the small accessory sets like Emma's Splash Pool through to the large sets such as Olivia's House which costs around £70. The Lego Friends Butterfly Beauty Shop currently costs £20-£25 depending on where you shop.