As mentioned in previous reviews, we have a fairly extensive collection of Duplo. A lot of this has been passed down to my children by their older cousins and all is very well played with. Due to the sheer amount of Duplo in our house, we don't tend to buy a lot of the newer sets (appealing though they are), but my daughter has received a few of the smaller sets as presents in the last year or so. Many of these seem to feature animals, probably because she adores her regular visits to London Zoo with her grandparents. Penguins have long been a particular favourite of my little girl, she can spend ages watching them waddle round the edge of the pool or swim gracefully through the water, so it was no real surprise when she received the Lego Duplo 5633 Polar Zoo set.
* The Product *
Lego Duplo 5633 Polar Zoo is one of the mid-sized sets from the Lego Zoo range. A quick look on the Lego site suggests that it is possibly not part of their newest range, but it is still widely available from other retailers. The box contains an assortment of different shaped blocks in shades of blue, white, grey, red and an icy-looking transparent blue (obviously meant to be the ice that the polar animals need). Alongside the traditionally shaped Duplo blocks, there is a tunnel slide consisting of three separate pieces which can be easily clipped together and a couple of fences. However, it is the figures in the box which really appeal to my little girl - these consist of a female zookeeper, a 'Mummy and Baby' polar bear and, her personal favourite, two penguins. The final element in the box is a big fish which the zookeeper can hold / throw to the animals for a tasty snack. Like all Duplo sets, the quality of the pieces in the box is fantastic and exactly what you would expect from this brand.
* Playability *
The blocks can be assembled in whatever way the child chooses to build their Penguin and Polar Bear pool. We are lucky enough to have a base plate with a pool on it, so my daughter tends to use that to construct her enclosure. At the moment, it seems to be a fairly high rise construction with the height of the slide requiring the penguins to make a daring splash into the pool, but it is also possible to design a more low-rise enclosure with a shorter slide. Obviously, like all Duplo sets, you can add other bricks from your collection to extend and enhance the models. I feel that this set is particularly good in conjunction with other animal-based sets from the Duplo range - we have a range of different animals (including a T-Rex!) and my daughter likes to create her own zoo, although she is not particularly keen on fencing the animals in. She also uses the zoo animals with the Duplo railway to make a 'Zoo Train'.
Overall, I think the playability of the Polar Zoo is excellent for a mid-range set. It has enough figures and blocks to be played with as a standalone toy, and integrates well with other parts of the range. The pieces are all well made and the smooth, yet chunky, design of the animals makes them the perfect size for a young child's hands. Putting the pieces together is great for the development of fine motor skills and the possibilities for imaginative play and creation of small world scenarious are endless, especially when used in conjunction with other sets. In my opinion, children of different ages are likely to play with this set very differently - at 18 months my daughter would have just moved the animals around and possibly put a couple of blocks together whereas now, at just three, she uses the set for her imaginative play with the creation of ever-changing enclosures, re-enacting the feeding time she has seen on her zoo visits and even bringing 'visitors' along to enjoy the show. And, in true three year old style, her enjoyment of playing with this set is not limited to the Duplo itself, the penguins have also been spotted visiting her doll family in their house and having a go on the slide in her Rosebud tree-house. They have also been out for a ride in her scooter bag on the school run - such an exciting life that they lead!
* Price and Purchasing *
Currently, Duplo 5633 Polar Zoo is available for £24.95 on Amazon but, as it doesn't seem to be part of the current range, it may not be around for too long.
* Final Thoughts *
This is a lovely set and one that I would definitely recommend. It works just as well as a play-set in its own right as it would as an add-on to one of the larger Duplo Zoo sets. The slide is a feature that I haven't seen in any other Duplo sets and the animals are very cute. I do think that the main reason that my daughter loves it so much is the affection that she feels towards the penguins (the polar bears are not quite so popular), but I think liking penguins is fairly common amongst the pre-school age group anyway. Overall, this is an extremely well made product which encourages children to use their fine motor skills, be creative and stimulates imaginative play, all things that I appreciate in a toy. I think that this is going to be a favourite in our collection for some time to come.