Product Type: Tobar Novelty Toy
Newest Review: ... from a trip to London with one from Hamleys. The new one was identical to the original Tobar version, aside from an embroidered Hamleys... more
My Kind of Pet!
Running Hamster in Ball Toy
Member Name: jo1976
Running Hamster in Ball Toy
Date: 26/10/12, updated on 14/04/13 (84 review reads)
Advantages: Cleverly mimics a real hamster's movement, no cleaning or feeding required!
Disadvantages: Entertainment value is very short lived, over-priced
Despite growing up surrounded by animals myself, I've been reluctant to allow my boys to have too many pets. We do have a rabbit and a gerbil, against my better judgement, but have stood firm against allowing any more animals into the household. One of my strategies to resist repeated requests for more pets has been to encourage virtual pets and toy animals. I find the novelty wears off just as quickly but at least I don't then get lumbered with the feeding and cleaning out afterwards!
One of our toy animals in this rather clever 'hamster' that comes supplied with its own play ball. These are often out on display in branches of Hawkin's Bazaar and they always grab children's attention. There is something surprisingly calming and addictive about watching them, I must admit, so I didn't really begrudge my oldest son choosing one of these hamsters as a Christmas present for his younger brother who was around three at the time.
Like most novelty toys, this is a one trick pony (actually hamster.) The hamster itself is surprisingly rigid - having more in common with a dead hamster where rigor mortis has set in than a cute and cuddly real life hamster. Despite its realistic furry exterior, the body itself is very hard as this incorporates a secure internal battery compartment so this isn't a toy that youngsters will get much pleasure out of cuddling. Luckily, this isn't designed to be a soft toy as the entertainment value is derived from the motorised tiny wheels at the base which cause the hamster to move along slowly and generate the movement of the hamster inside the wheel. This movement is surprisingly realistic and mimics the movements of a real hamster surprisingly well.
The hamster can be removed from its ball (although the movement isn't as effective out of the plastic ball, even on smooth shiny surfaces.) The ball itself is a fairly durable affair, coming in two halves, much like a real hamster play ball, with the two pieces being easy to connect together and twist apart. Very young children might need a little help to do this. The plastic is fairly brittle, however, and won't survive a drop on to a high surface without either cracking or splitting. The first ball we owned did crack in this way and I ended up throwing it away in case it split any further.
My kids actually acquired another one of these hamsters shortly afterwards, coincidentally, when my grandma returned from a trip to London with one from Hamleys. The new one was identical to the original Tobar version, aside from an embroidered Hamleys logo on the hamster's back. This one still lives in the bottom of one of our toy boxes upstairs, unloved and forgotten.
This little toy takes a single AAA battery which lasts for absolutely ages. I suspect this is partly because the movement generated is a fairly simple process and doesn't use a great deal of power. This is also because the novelty value wears off incredibly quickly and once the recipient has been enchanted by the toy so cleverly mimicking a real life hamster in a ball, there really isn't a great deal of ongoing play value available.
In terms of age recommendations, I'd imagine most children under ten would be entertained by this active little hamster for a short while, at least. The minimum age recommendation is for ages three plus but that seems a little overly cautious to me, particularly as the hamster is generally safely enclosed within a plastic ball so any potential choking hazards are minimised. My two year old has shown a little interest in this but is a little wary as he can't quite work out whether this is actually a toy or an animal! Probably the most appropriate audience for this kind of toy would be a dog rather than a child - I can imagine this would drive them wild!
Despite its novelty toy status, this simple toy seems to command a pretty high (and largely unjustified) price tag. The hamster and ball can be picked up from Hawkin's Bazaar for £10, whereas Hamley's charge £13 for what is effectively the identical toy. I personally wouldn't recommend this toy at those prices.
As a novelty, this is entertaining for the first couple of times but it isn't a toy that is going to provide a lot of ongoing play value. If you can find one for less than £5 or so, it might be worth considering but there are much more entertaining toys on the market that will keep youngsters amused for longer.
Summary: An overpriced novelty item