I bought the Happy Giddy Net for my two youngest children after reading a review on here and becoming a little bit intrigued, it's such a simple thing - a net for catching butterflies and such, made a little more exciting with the use of a cute character and smart brightly coloured wooden handle. The kids have never shown much interest in what's outside in the garden other than Hollie being terrified of wood lice and her two year old brother having a complete obsession with ants (ant, 'nother ant, 'nother ant, 'nother ant to infinity), but just recently we've had quite a few butterflies in the garden as they seem to be attracted to some of the flowers we planted at the beginning of summer - I haven't seen butterflies in numbers for a few years so decided now was the time to see if we could collect one or two and have a closer look at them. Aesthetically it's absolutely gorgeous, reminding me of the dipping nets we used to buy from beach kiosks when I was a kid on holiday with my mum and dad. Of course, being Melissa & Doug it's brightly coloured and looks absolutely stunning - the handle is a caterpillar (Happy Giddy) with such a cheerful face that you can't help but fall in love with him, we all know the connection between caterpillars and butterflies so I think it's great that such attention to detail has been shown. The net is bright orange and spans roughly 8" from side to side, it has a long drop down of mesh below the hoop which is much kinder to the delicate winged creatures you're hoping to catch and gives them plenty of room to either flutter around or settle once they've been caught. Hollie likes to add a few leaves to the net before going butterfly hunting, I'm sure this isn't necessary but anything to hold her interest has got to be a good thing - the net is strong but very soft (again to protect the butterflies) so if your child is thinking of adding greenery I'd recommend you check to ensure only soft leaves are being used to avoid damaging the mesh. Overall this is a strong toy with the designers obviously being well aware of the battering it's likely to take when given to young children to run around swiping the general garden area. Ours is only just over a month old but it's been used practically daily since the heatwave began and the butterflies started showing themselves, mainly by six year old Hollie and only occasionally by David as he seems to enjoy catching Hollie more than butterflies - much to her annoyance! She's used it with a couple of friends who are six and nine, when played as a group they had great fun and enjoyed catching the pretty white butterflies which were in the garden that day - when, during the day, they had individual goes I noticed the older girl wasn't half so interested as when she had the little ones to entertain but then I suppose it's an age thing and this is geared more towards younger children in my opinion (although, being a little contradictory here, older kids and adults can have the same level of fun with it if catching butterflies is their thing). There's absolutely no damage (yet) to the net, the handle is solid wood but the way my kids bang it around I was expecting there to be at least a little denting to the wood by now - but no, I'm looking it over right now and it looks as good as the day it arrived in the post with the colours still vibrant and everything looking exactly how it should. So, what have we done with it? Our net has mainly been used to catch butterflies and some whopping huge moths which have taken up residence in our back garden over the past few evenings; we're not bug hunters by any stretch of the imagination so I improvised with a clear plastic box to tip the bugs into if the kids wanted to have a closer look, although mostly we just looked at them while they were inside the net and then let them go again. You can see well enough into the net despite the bright colour, this is obviously easiest in the sunlight outside as the sun shines through the small holes in the mesh but really if you want to check out specific markings of a butterfly to identify it you'll need to transfer it into a box (remembering the importance of air holes!). I personally find transferring to be awkward and I'm so terrified of hurting the butterfly that usually I'm far too gentle with the tipping process and they end up flying away into the house - more wary of the net this time and far less inclined to be caught! The best way to use the net, for us at least, is to catch the butterflies and release them direct from the net to avoid hurting or stressing them - we accidentally killed a large moth when Hollie twisted the net a little suddenly and that was awful, I played it down to Hollie as I didn't want to put her off her new toy (it was only a few days after she had it) but secretly I felt terrible about it as it was such an impressive 'bug'. Thinking back we've caught at least twenty butterflies and numerous moths (lots more than butterflies, but if you go for the large moths they're just as fascinating and almost as pretty as butterflies), all of which we've had a look at and tried to identify online as well as taking time to discuss the various attributes of the creatures. We've mainly caught what I call cabbage butterflies (those fluttering white ones, I'm sure they have a more impressive name) as they seem a little more inclined to fly into the net than their colourful cousins, yesterday we spent a good twenty minutes trying to get hold of a glorious orange/red butterfly which just wouldn't let us come close enough to nab him - teaching Hollie an excellent lesson in patience, and also that you can't rely on wildlife to do what you want! A few days ago there were no butterflies to be found so as it was just David and his dad they set about catching the uglier side of bug-life, I was quite impressed when I got home and Mark told me what they'd managed to grab - although I was pleased to have been out when he described the horror of a daddy long legs losing all but one of his legs as he flapped around trying to get out. They also collared some flying ants and managed to get no fewer than eight into the net in one go, apparently these bugs loved it and Mark had trouble getting them to vacate the net afterwards - thankfully his common sense kicked in and he didn't bring those particular 'delights' anywhere near the house and let them loose at the very top of the garden. They also caught a couple of those vivid green bugs with the flat bodies, I have no idea what these are but they seem to be in abundance this year and are attracted to the net (the colour?) so tend to be easy to catch - a big spider from inside the shed also found its way into the net, making me doubly glad I was out as it sounded humongous! When I originally read Broxi's review of this net I saw her comment about not wanting to dirty the net using it in water, and I thought this was a shame as the dimensions would be perfect for catching the tiddlers we see at our local duck ponds. Looking at the net now I have it however I can see what she means, if you're not fussed about dirtying it then by all means take it pond dipping - the wooden handle probably won't like it and the net WILL become dirty, but I doubt you'll completely wreck it unless you leave it immersed in water for a period of time. Frankly I think you're far better off to use this for its intended purposes (bug collection) and buy the kids some proper pond dipping nets if that's what they're interested in - I personally won't be using this one in water as I want it to remain bright and cheerful, but of course the option is there should you make the call for water play. One last thing to remember is that butterflies aren't for everyone, something we learned last weekend when my phobic sister sat down to be greeted with a very large moth which Hollie had decided to set free next to her. Lots of screaming and shaking of hands later brought it home to me that butterflies/moths are as terrifying as spiders to some people (my sister can pick up huge spiders with her bare hands, but quivers like a leaf at the sight of the tiniest moth) - teach your kiddies to be considerate of other peoples feelings with this (and any other bug related toy really) and everyone will be so much happier. Even now as I write this I still can't quite believe how cheap the net was, I paid £5 for it from Amazon which included delivery and think that is an absolute BARGAIN considering the fun Hollie and David have had with it - not to mention the educational aspects and the fact that this simple outdoor activity has freed up a good bit of *my* time as although they still need to be supervised I can do that with my nose in a book while soaking up the sun instead of having to chase around trying to entertain them during this looooooong summer holiday! The manufacturers recommended age is three, but I have absolutely no qualms about letting two and a half year old David play with it even when his big sister isn't around - the fact that it's just under 60cm long means it's unlikely to gouge out his eye when he falls (surely the reasoning behind the age recommendation) and he certainly wouldn't get his big body entangled in the net. I suppose the biggest risk is that he'll trip over the stick as he's dashing around with it, but the child thinks he's Usain Bolt so maybe that will teach him that he doesn't have to run everywhere! Highly, highly recommended - even by this city girl who has no previous experience of bug catching.
Happy Giddy, the caterpillar featured on this net, is part of Melissa and Doug's Sunny Patch range of toys. As far as I can tell, this has no connection the children's television programme "Sunny Patch", but I could be wrong. He has a large green plastic head, and a body made from wood which has been covered in what appears to be a colourful striped paper which is very well sealed in a clear plastic covering, with an orange plastic handle and an orange metal hoop with a large orange net. The net itself is 9" across and the total length of the toy is 23". The net is very soft and quite deep as well, stretching out to 18", by my measurements. Melissa and Doug are probably best known for wooden toys, but they sell a very wide range of educational toys. No matter what type of toy I buy, I have never had anything from this company that I was not 100% satisfied with. Melissa and Doug toys always seem to have a difference, a special touch above and beyond the usual mass produced toys. They sell the type of toys I would make for my own children if I had the ability. Melissa and Doug are real people, a husband and wife team - although they were only dating when they started the company in 1988 from Doug's parents garage. The company is American based but their toys are widely available throughout the UK. We have always bought from amazon, but you can find their toys at ELC and Toy R Us as well. We bought this to add to my sons every growing bug hunting kit. Butterflies and moths have very delicate wings which should not be handled by human hands. My son's bug guns could easily damage these very fragile creatures, and while they enjoy hunting bugs very much - we do like to return most of them unharmed to the place we found them after a quick observation. Moths caught indoors are one exception, they get turned lose, but outside rather than in. Flies, which can also be caught with this net, however suffer a more gruesome fate, as food for our plants. My youngest son chose this toy from Amazon, and it was clearly the caterpillar which attracted him to this net. My oldest seemed well pleased, and when offered his own net, said he was just share with his brother. I think this may be because he feels to old to ask for the caterpillar one, but secretly prefers it to the plain green. In addition to net, my son has the matching bug house. There are several other products available with the same character as well as a whole range with other insects for outdoor play. I have read another review where this was used in water for pond dipping or rock pool exploration. I'm sure it could be used for this, but I feel the net would end up mucky and possibly discoloured. My sons have used this only for catching flying insects, but they have caught quite a few different insects. They returned from a butterfly hunting expedition with houses packed full of butterflies and dragonflies which we photographed and fed melted ice lolly on a sponge before I made my husband take them back to the exact spot the insects were collected to release them. It isn't fair to take them away from their homes. All of the insects captured have flown away easily when released, and I do not feel the net has harmed them. Of course some parental supervision is required to teach children to be kind even to these little creatures. An unsupervised child could easily bring a collection home and leave them in a bug house or other container to die, or unintentionally damage a butterflies delicate wings. Worse still, some children are deliberately cruel to insects. I do realise some must be killed, and in fact we kill insects to feed plants and salamanders, and at times baby insects for fish ( midge larvae). I think any of us will kill the offending fly, not to mention fleas or head lice, but wanton cruelty is never a good thing and allowing children to torture even the smallest creature is encouraging character traits one might well regret later. Supervision is also wise to make sure children are not hurt. Hunting dragonflies near a pond alone would be very dangerous, and of course it is not an especially good idea to catch bees or wasps in this, or anything on a patch of stinging nettle. Children should be taught to use this both safely and humanely. My oldest son says this net is a good choice because the large net makes it much easier to catch things. My youngest says it is nice because it has a very colourful design and a caterpillar, plus you can reach way up high with it, and see the bug you catch in the net before you put in the bug house. I very much appreciate the fact that this is very well made and has survived some very enthusiastic pouncing on hexbugs and demonstrating how to catch bugs - they are more gentle where living things are concerned. Of course we do live in Northern Ireland and sunny days are not nearly as many as we would like. We have also used this to catch a tennis ball indoors, but do be careful to avoid anything breakable with backhand swings. We play on the landing where there is nothing to break. My son has also asked for some plastic bugs to catch indoors. I've ordered a wee walking cockroach to torture my husband with. He says he has started to have nightmares about bugs. We have no sympathy. Funny enough, my children don't really seem to understand nightmares well, both saying they can't remember ever having a bad dream. We have tried catching hexbugs in this as well, but they really aren't much fun for long as they are a bit too easy to catch. I'm looking for plastic butterflies now that could be thrown in the air or swooped about on a string and scooped up making this a bit more fun for long rainy days. I bought this from Amazon for £4.99. As always with items bought directly from amazon, postage was free. Amazon has two separate listing for this and the second listing shows this as £6.49 + £6.13 for postage. Needless to say I recommend the cheaper one. Just be sure you have the right listing if you choose to buy.