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About two Christmases ago my parents bought the Little Tykes Musical Door bell playhouse for a joint gift between my three children then aged between one and four.
I am not sure where they bought the cottage or how much they paid but the play house currently (Sept 2010) retails online at stores such as Tesco and Asda or Amazon for between £170 and £200.
I had a girl and two boys at that time so my parents wanted a playhouse that was fairly neutral and would appeal to all their age groups. My sister has four boys so my parents bought them one that looked more like a fort or a castle.
The playhouse comes flat packed in a large box and My husband and Father set about building the playhouse as soon as my parent arrived for their Boxing Day visit. The playhouse took about 30 minutes to construct and is typical to the little tikes style and slots together. There are only about 10 pieces plus some screws. There are four walls, two roof pieces, a door, one set of shutters, a kitchen shelf that make up the complete playhouse and there are a few stickers to put on to.
What I wasn't expecting was the screws as we have many little tikes garden toys and usually they just slot together without the need for any fixings. The screws are supplied to screw the two roof pieces together and I assume keep the whole thing rigid. There are no holes to put the screws into so a drill is needed to first make the holes before the screws can be inserted. As it was Boxing Day and we were about to have a family meal we decided to leave the fixings for later in the day. The playhouse has been in our garden for almost three years now and the screws are still in a packet in the toolbox!
There is a little telephone with buttons that can be pressed that fits into the kitchen shelf and there is the magical doorbell. The doorbell needs 3 x AA batteries that are housed in a secure compartment in the doorbell. You do not get any batteries with the playhouse and you will need a screwdriver to access the housing. To be honest we have only ever put in the one lot of batteries and since it stopped working the kids haven't noticed. I can't remember what sounds it makes but there are a few different ones other than the traditional doorbell sound. Maybe we'll invest in some more batteries next summer for when our youngest (only 5 months) will be able to play outside. I think that it is a bit of a gimmic really as not having it doesn't affect the entertainment value of the house.
The house itself is made of the plastic that you would expect with a Little Tikes garden toy and is very brightly coloured and inviting to children. My youngest son who is now three loves this house and likes to go in there and make tea on the little kitchen shelf. He also likes to tip the whole thing over and flatten it on a regular basis. I know this is our own fault because we have not yet added the screws but the house does spend a great deal of time in pieces lying flat on the floor. It is so easy to slot back together and only takes a couple of minutes and is easier to move in it's deconstructed state when we are mowing the lawn anyway.
My daughter who is now six is a little too big and can no longer fit standing up in the house but sometimes in the summer we take off one of the walls and they use it for shade when they are painting or playing play dough. The whole thing is plastic so it can easily be wiped down when they have finished.
I don't think my parents would have paid £200 for this little house and that does seem a bit expensive to me. It has lasted well and so far we haven't noticed any fading or splitting but £200 is a lot of money for a toy in my opinion.
Overall a nice Little Tikes garden toy that has lasted well despite taking a lot of punishment. I would recommend a playhouse but don't think that you should pay extra for this because it has a doorbell.