Until recently I had managed to avoid buying any Play-Doh type toys for my little one. It's messy stuff and as my daughter regularly played with it at nursery and playgroups I thought we could do without it at home, but this summer I decided to allow her to spend £20 of birthday money on any toy she wanted and she chose this Play-Doh Ice Cream Shoppe, (I don't know why it's ye olde shoppe instead of just a shop). It cost £18 from Early Learning Centre, although at the time of writing it's marked at £14.40 on their website.
Contents and Set Up:
It's in a bright colourful box with a boy and girl pictured making some very artistic ice cream creations. I suspect they had adult, (professional artist), help. There's a basic instruction sheet in multiple languages with helpful diagrams.
Inside are: the base plus three attachments - swirl unit, sprinkle maker and toppings maker; four tubs of Play-Doh, (320g), in different colours - brown, bright pink, lime green and 'sprinkles' - a short lived white with colourful bits; two cones/tubs; two glass style dishes; 2 ice cream spoons; a scooper and cake presser.
The attachments need to be clipped onto the base, it's simply done, but once in they don't come out again so it won't fit back into the box. It's a bit of an awkward shape, we store ours on a wide shelf along with the other bits 'n' bobs that come with it. It's recommended to clean the unit between play. The base is decorated with over 40 moulds which the Doh can be pressed into to make shapes. There are fruits, sweets, biscuits and other shapes to add to the completed ice cream.
The central swirl unit could probably be classed as the main part. Doh is pushed in and pressed through via a pull down lever. There's a shape selector underneath to choose the shape of the ice cream as it comes out. A cone can be attached to the base and is turned around as the Doh comes out so that it lands in a circular motion, making it easier to get that professional ice cream look. The sprinkle maker has a wind up top and the Doh comes out in short 'sprinkle' segments, it's not all that efficient as the segments usually stick together and need to be manually broken up. The toppings maker isn't much different to the swirl unit, but without the swirl.
The 'scooper' is a spoon with a hole in and I'm not quite sure if there's a particular way it's supposed to be used. The cake presser is a piece of plastic which is pressed onto a part of the base to allow the good old wormy shapes to come out, (I think they are meant to be candles and you can decorate around it).
My daughter needed a bit of help at first to work it all out. She doesn't use the sprinkle maker as it's a bit awkward and she hasn't quite got the hang of it, neither have I. It was played with with great enthusiasm for a few afternoons on the run, but has since been reduced to the occasional hour or so of play. It was last in play a couple of weeks ago.
While it all looks very exciting at first, the novelty doesn't take long to wear off, it's possible we've had just as much fun eating invisible imaginary food. It doesn't take my daughter long to make her 'creations', an older child might get more absorbed in the minutae, perhaps the finer details are too complicated for a four year old. The age on the box is 3+ but I think it would probably be better for slightly older children, maybe six or seven.
The main drawback with any Play-Doh or modelling clay product is probably the fact that it can make a right mess. To try and limit this I first asked my daughter to only play with it on the table, but bits still got dropped onto the floor squished into the carpet, plus she likes to run around and dole ice creams out to people. I wouldn't suggest this as a gift for a child with ultra houseproud parents, (then again I wouldn't recommend such people have children either!). I have a large plastic tablecloth which is now used as a playmat when my daughter wants to get this out.
Another drawback, although probably more important from the child's point of view is that when it gets left out Play-Doh loses it's pliability. If it's left out for more than a few hours it dries up. It's time consuming to get all the bits of Doh up after play, inevitably some bits gets left out or are dropped then harden and become useless. As a result the supply of Doh gradually dwindles.
A third problem is that, as with plasticine, eventually all the colours merge together until you are left with brown. It hasn't quite happened to this set yet, but it's on it's way there. Of the original four colours there's not really any of the white 'sprinkles' left, there's a little bit of green and pink, but most of it has joined forces with the brown, the pristine colours of the creations pictured on the box are unrealistic.
Play-Doh is generally seen as creative, and modelling clay is something my daughter has always made a beeline for, but although she has used this to model other things, she usually sticks to making ice creams with it, so despite having all the extras, it's a toy that is played with in a less creative way than a few tubs of dough might be.
The quality and general construction of the unit is fine. Nothing has broken or snapped off, it all works as well as it did when we bought it. The main issue is probably the colour of the Play-Doh and the fact that it gradually dwindles in quantity. In conclusion
I would say the Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shoppe promises more than it delivers. It looks impressive but the reality is less exciting. In our experience the novelty wears off quickly. As a gift for a child it will almost certainly go down very well at first, but probably won't have a very long shelf life.