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Hollie's school has recently started a good behaviour initiative which, as they are currently working on healthy lifestyles, consists of a box of play time goodies for the well behaved children to choose from each week. Two weeks ago Hollie was chosen as Star of the Week and she came home with a mini soft football made by Hot Shots, it was packaged in a simple plastic bag and Hollie ended up with the black and white design as this was the only one available.
It's a very basic ball; measuring just over three inches from one side to the other and made of foam with a printed plastic covering. The diamond design (which I'm sure is the wrong word in football-speak) makes them look as you'd imagine a traditional football to look, having seen a selection of the different colours available I must say I'm happy that Hollie chose the black and white one as the others look a little cheap. Apparently you can buy the same balls in baby blue or pink, I haven't seen them myself but think these two colours would ring the changes nicely for younger children.
The balls are pretty well made considering you can pick them up for less than £2, Hot Shots is the sort of brand you'd find in Woolworths among the discount toys but these days you're more likely to come across their products in gift shops of museums and the like. Amazon currently have them for sale at £2.61 including postage, which is reasonable value if your heart is set on this particular little ball but I personally wouldn't recommend making a special 'shop' for it as there are numerous identical balls available in the supermarkets and newsagents.
The foam is fairly dense, even though we've only had the ball for a little over two weeks it's been played with fairly vigorously. Hollie uses it as a catch ball, and also to toss into the hoop of her basket ball set - it's definitely not big enough to play football with (despite its design) and is more suited to a gentle game of catch or a 'rolling' game. The recommended age is three years, as is usual for this sort of toy, and I suspect this is because the ball is such a cheaply made item that the plastic is likely to fail at some point and leave exposed foam ready to be bitten off and choked on. My sixteen month old son has played with it under supervision and I can see where he's had it on his mouth as there are teeth marks on the surface of the ball - it's obvious that eventually the plastic is going to rip if he carries on trying to bite it so I've decided it's probably not the best toy to be letting him loose on!
The ball doesn't bounce at all, but the perfectly smooth design makes it an excellent roller providing it's on a reasonably flat surface. Hollie likes to roll it across the dining table as she likes the dull 'thwack' as the ball rolls off the other side and hits the floor - the things that amuse four year olds, eh? Personally I like to use it to throw at Mark in times of irritation, but that's probably not something to be teaching the kids...
If you see the Hot Shots branded mini football for a quid or two I'd pick one up, it feels relatively high quality and the small design holds enough 'quirk factor' to appeal to children over their normal sized footballs and catch balls.