Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Boys and their toys

Growing up in the 70s meant that I was a generation or two before merchandising started to get a foothold into our everyday lives.  It is now rare if I venture near any shop without MiniMck being able to spot a Buzz, Woody or Lightning Mqueen.  Yes, we have let him watch films with the offending characters in them, but I never pestered my parents for a real life Baloo after watching the Jungle book or a talking Bernard after a trip to see The Rescuers Down under.

Obviously, as with children of all generations, I always had my heart set on some toy or other.   Ones I never got were a Play Doh hairdressing set, a Steve Austin Bionic Man action figure (I did name my first cat Oscar after Oscar Goldman as a consolation), a replica of James Bond's White Lotus Esprit and a Soda Stream.  Not that I was at all deprived, over the years I had a Scalextric set, an Eagle Eye Action Man, a Pogo stick, and my Dad lovingly restored a Purple Chopper and sprayed it Metalic Gold.  I did have the coolest Chopper in town! 

The one toy I did covet, and never managed to have, was a Loop the Loop and Jump track for my toy cars.  So how chuffed was I to get an email from Jacey at Mattel, asking if MiniMck and I would like to review their new Wall Track System.  Answer, well chuffed.

The offer also comes at a time when MiniMck has recently discovered Hot Wheels cars.  While on our 2500 mile holiday drive round Europe, we would give MiniMck little toy treats to get him, and us, through a long days drive.  These would hold his attention for the last few hours or so to get us to the next hotel/campsite.  However there was one gift that has remained permanently by his side.  It is a Hot Wheels lorry, with a car inside. It is red and was instantly named Mack, as in the character from Cars.  There probably hasn't been a night since when 'Mack' has had to be tucked in with him.

This has led to a few more Hot Wheels purchases since we got home, but at just over a £1 a car, they are brilliant value.  They also have so many models that it is quite easy to pass them off as characters from the film cars without paying the extortionate merchandising markup.  We now have dubious versions of, Doc, Mater, Lightening, Red and Ramone.

I decided to put up the Wall Tracks while MiniMck had his afternoon nap.  It would be a nice surprise for him when he woke up and meant I could check if the stated 20 mins construction time is realistic.  It wouldn't be a fair comparison if MiniMck was hindering helping.  I managed to get it on the wall in 18 mins and that includes allowing time for me to stop and take the occasional photo.

Setting it up is relatively easy.  You attach a template to the wall, this provides a guide where to stick attachment points which are clearly labelled, a couple of bits of track need to be put together, then the tracks  click into the attachment points.  Job done.

When MiniMck came to the top off the stairs and saw the new construction, his mouth actually stayed open in a natural expression of surprise.  He played with the tracks for ages. It has been two weeks now since I put them up and the enthusiasm has waned a little, as it does with most new toys.  Because he is a little below the stated 3+ age, he wasn't always keen to line up the cars methodically and press a button to let them automatically follow each other down the track (I found this bit really fun).  He soon developed his own way of playing with the tracks.

At the moment he is entering the world of imaginative play, so cars would go the wrong way up the tracks, meet each other, crash into each other and sometimes just hang around for a chat and  state that they are "having nice day".  Any illusions of Mini and me sharing ownership of the tracks have been quickly dispelled,  I have been left in no doubt with a terse..."get off, my toy Daddy".

The only caveat is that if your child ever turns into Destruco Boy, as MiniMck is sometimes known to, then the adhesive that holds the tracks on is extremely strong.  So much so that if they are not removed in the instructed way (which leaves no mark or damage), but yanked from the wall, then you may loose a little paintwork or plaster.  But, hey, our kids have been sent to challenge us, haven't they?