Product Type: Chad Valley Outdoor Toy
Newest Review: ... this even more disappointing is that from reading reviews of it's previous incarnation it used to be so much better, with very few of these... more
Carry On Camping....or not
Chad Valley Pop Up Play Tent
Member Name: sandemp
Chad Valley Pop Up Play Tent
Advantages: Cheap, easy to put up
Disadvantages: Horrible material, no way of pegging down, too small
Before I go any further I'm going to point out that this tent was bought on the back of reading several reviews on various websites. Unfortunately the design of the tent has changed considerably since those reviews were written and had I known about these changes I would not have bought this particular tent.
==Let's Go Camping - A Parent's View==
This tent was purchased in conjunction with the matching tunnel approximately a year ago, taking advantage of Argos' two for fifteen pound offer. When purchased separately it retails for £10.79 in Argos, but is still included in the offer, making it a relatively cheap purchase at £7.50. The tent itself comes supplied in a cardboard box along with the instructions that are printed on a card band that needs to be kept to hold the tent in the closed position. This is a toy that requires absolutely no assembly, it's simply a case of removing it from the box, removing the band and allowing it to pop open before giving it a shake so that it settles in the correct position. Folding the tent back down takes a lot more effort and is something that I haven't been able to get the knack of even now. Disappointingly the only way of keeping it folded down is to somehow place the card band back around it, and unlike it's previous incarnation there is not a bag to store it in.
Once opened up the tent is a reasonable size with a base measuring 75cm square which tapers in a flattened pyramid 90cm high. While previous incarnations were made of a silky material that was shower-proof, this is made of a far more open-weave, almost rough to the touch fabric that reminds me of the material used in the manufacture of cheap duvets. Personally I feel this material makes the tent look far less attractive, especially when combined with the muted, almost dull colours that it is adorned with and the inability to keep even a light shower at bay is a real disappointment. Talking of colours, although the Argos catalogue states the colours may vary, this is exactly the same as the picture shown in their catalogue (but not this site). The base and top panel are a murky green while two of the side panels are orange and the other two blue. So I suppose, while the colours are not particularly exciting or attractive they are at least unisex. There are two entrances to the tent a circular hole that is supposed to be designed to use with the matching tunnel (although the tunnel doesn't actually fit very well and cannot be held in place) and a main entrance with flaps that can be held open with Velcro.
When we bought this tent we had a couple of quite exacting purposes in mind after reading reviews I had felt this would fit the bill perfectly. The first of these was to take on holiday with us as a way of providing shade on the beach and the other was to do the same in the garden. Unfortunately, this tent fails on so many levels. Firstly the difficulty in folding it down and lack of a bag means that it's almost impossible to transport. It's not that it's heavy, because it most certainly is not, it's just that it's large enough to be unwieldy and even if I had of managed to fold it down I'm not convinced that the card band would have survived more than a few trips. (It's only held together with a bit of tape). The second major problem is that it is so lightweight, even a slight breeze is enough to lift it in the air and send it flying round the garden. This would be fine if there was a way of pegging it down, but there isn't. It doesn't come with tent pegs and even if it did there are no loops to hold the pegs. My final real issue is the lack of even the most basic of weather-proofing. The manufacturer must realise that we live in a country where we are likely to have a shower, even on the brightest day, so at the very least it should have been shower-proofed.
As an adult, I feel this tent is a real disappointment that is really not fit for purpose, that is as an outdoor toy. We have tried to use it in the garden on a summer's day when there was only a breeze, but it still managed to find it's way onto the vegetable bed so now we only use it indoors. If I were to give stars out of five solely from an adult's perspective, I guess I would have to give just a single, solitary one star and that's only because it's easy to put up.
But as with any toy, it's really not just my opinion that counts....
==Under Canvas - A Child's View==
Although the recommended minimum age for this tent is two years, Freddy was well under that age when we bought it and indeed at 21 months is still under that age. But there are no small parts that could cause a choking hazard for younger children and full adult supervision is recommended even for children over this age. Over the last year Freddy has played with this tent on a semi-regular basis, with it not being a toy that he misses if I put it away.
Before he could walk, Freddy would occasionally crawl into the tent to play peek-a-boos, but there's really nothing about it that overly interested him. As I've already stated, we did try using it in the garden to provide shade for him, but found it completely unsuitable. In the last month or so we've found Freddy making himself "dens" in the bottom of his wardrobe or under the table, dragging a blanket and some toys in with his, so we decided to encourage his to use the tent for this instead, which has been quite successful.
Something I really have noticed is that even though Freddy is under the minimum age, when he stands in the tent his head almost touches the roof. I know that Freddy is tall for his age, but I am disappointed that he will soon only be able to sit or crawl in it. There is, however, enough room for him to sit comfortably, but it does look very crowded once he's dragged his blanket and cuddly toys in. There certainly isn't enough room for two children to play comfortably, as proved when his little friend came round for tea. Talking about that, his little friend is three and about average size and became quite frustrated that she couldn't stand in the tent. Another problem that we noticed once Freddy was playing with the tent is that it isn't as stable as it first appears. Should a child stand in it and push on the side it will topple (hence the constant supervision).
As I've said before, this tent is something that Freddy will play with when the mood takes him, but not one that he'll miss. In fact if the tent has been put away he will play in exactly the same way by making a den under the table or at the bottom of the wardrobe. It just doesn't do enough or look eye-catching enough to get his attention and it's not as if the texture of the material is even pleasant to touch. It can't even be used as a ball pit because there isn't a large enough lip. So I think Freddy would probably give the tent two stars out of five as it is something that he's not that bothered about.
==Suitability, Developmental Benefits and Durability==
Although billed as being suitable for children over the age of two, I can see no reason why younger children should not play with this. If there had been a way of pegging it down, I would have said that it would have been brilliant as a way of providing shelter for the non-mobile child in the garden or on the beach. But it would only be effective for this if you could find a way of weighting it down. As to the upper age, well I'm really not convinced that it will be big enough for Freddy by the time he is three, as he is already almost as tall as the tent.
As with any toy this tent will help your child develop in various ways, but personally I feel the same benefits can be had with a clothes horse and blanket. So although this will help your child improve the gross motor skills as they climb in and out, their imaginations as they turn the tent into some new world and their cooperative skills as they play hide and seek, they would be able to do this with a make shift tent or den.
As far as durability goes, the tent is still in fairly good condition, but in all honesty I can't say it's been extensively played with and has only been used outside the once. But the material it's made from while dull and scratchy does seem quite tough, and hasn't ripped yet. The tent has kept it's shape well, but that could be because I haven't managed to put it down fully since the first time it was opened.
In case you haven't guessed I really cannot recommend this tent, there are simply far too many problems with it. Yes it is cheap and easy to put up, but that really is all it's got going for it. It's too small for the recommended age group, too difficult to fold down, too dull, doesn't not have a bag for transporting and storage and the material it is made from is just nasty. What makes this even more disappointing is that from reading reviews of it's previous incarnation it used to be so much better, with very few of these faults. The Chad Valley Pop-Up tent certainly does seem to be a case of if it's not broken don't fix it, because this new version really has very little to recommend it. In fact while I would still recommend getting a play tent for your garden, I would say give this one a miss and spend a little more on a larger play tent made of silky material.
Summary: Absolute proof that new, "improved" doesn't always actually mean improved. Certainly this was a disa
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