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Tomy produce Aquadraw sets in a range of different designs and with different additions to them. The basic premise for all the sets is the same - Aquadraw is a way for children to draw with water without making a mess.
What you get:
This particular set is the Rainbow set and it costs about £25, and was bought for a second birthday. It comes with a brightly coloured mat which shows through rainbow colours when water is applied to the white section. You can see from the photo that the images are designed to appeal visually to children and really do draw the eye.
There are also two pens, and 3 stampers which fit on to the end of the pens, a brush and a dipper for the brush. The two pens take water and have spongy ends - an "open" and "close" sign on the nib of the pen shows parents which way to twist. The brush is a small pad of material in brush form and fits into the dipper, which is anti-spill and contains a small amount of water.
The mat is 80 x 95 cms, and it might seem a bit pricey but I think that the mat is big enough for a couple of children to play with and the set is good fun. I find the stampers on this particular set work quite well - they are spring loaded so that the water comes through from the pens and the star, water and cloud design are quite recognisable even for the really young and achieve satisfying results for the child.
My daughter really likes the "paintbrush" too and also is happy to use her hands to paint and just a pen to scribble when she was little, though she is now starting to produce more recognisable pictures with the pen.
Compared to the other sets I have seen or played with round friend's houses (we also have the deluxe set from a school sale) I think that this set is the most attractive and would appeal to both boys and girls. The Deluxe set does have stencils and the alphabet on the mat so may be an equally good choice; the Thomas and Cinderella sets are not so good in my opinion as the motorised figure is supposed to follow the track you make and they don't always quite work. Also you only get one pen with the latter sets and this can be a problem when they play with friends.
With all these sets, despite the pen being designed so the end screws off in the opposite direction to that which you think it would, I do find toddlers do work out how to open the pen, but it is only water and a small amount at that ever so mess is minimal.
This set should last for a fair long time. The age range says 18 months but I think it would be a great first birthday present. My five and a half year old is still happy to play with Aquadraw, so to me that is a quite long lasting toy.
It does say on the set not to wash in the machine if very soiled but, after a rather messy cake incident at a birthday party I did in fact wash our mat in the machine with no ill effects - like I said this is not advised though.
It could be helpful to know also that you can buy replacement pens for this, and the other sets at a small charge - you can contact Tomy, details on www.tomy.co.uk. This will prolong the use of your set should you need more pens.
Overall I do recommend Aquadraws in general and this particular set specifically, I like the fact that it is nice and simple and encourages children to be creative without the need for batteries like the Thomas and Cinderella set. I think anything that can encourage creativity is generally a good idea and in my experience children like this toy very much.
If you like this....
I also recommend the mini-aquadraw mats for taking to restaurants, the dora one is excellent, you might also consider the deluxe set as an alternative to this one, but don't buy the aquadraw teddies unless you particularly want to encourage your child to draw on things that are not things you are supposed to draw on!
An aquadraw is one toy that is worth the money in my opinion.