Some toys have real wow-factor and when the lovely Helen from John Crane said she'd send me a Little Cottage to review, I fell in love with the photo on the website before ever laying eyes on it in the flesh - or in the wood, that should be, as John Crane specialise in high quality, adorable wooden toys. I must admit, I'd never heard of John Crane - for some reason, I think of John Craven's Newsround every time I say their name (I'm showing my age now !) - but I'll definitely be having a good look at the rest of their range now because they are just as good as the Brio wooden toys that I've tested in the past, if not better because of their attention to detail.
The cottage arrives flat pack so, if you're going to give it to an impatient little girl for a birthday or Christmas present, I'd recommend you secretly put it all together before the crucial moment. Luckily, Nanny and Grandad were on a visit when it arrived so they (well, Grandad mainly, with some guidance from Nanny !) took over the construction part. Great timing ! It was reasonably simple, taking about 20 minutes in total, and reminded me of putting together Ikea furniture so if you're used to doing that, it'll be a piece of cake. The little screwdriver thingy in the pack is pretty useless though and will give you blisters before it's complete so make sure you have a screwdriver (a small Philips one) handy before you start.
Luckily, the girls were happy enough to discover all the little people and furniture while Grandad was slaving away putting the house together so there was no whining or impatient tapping of feet. And yes, I did just say girls in the plural. Sophie, who will be 9 next month, may have declared the other week that she's too old for dolls now, but she couldn't resist getting involved and oohed and aahed over the ultra-cute accessories just as much as 5-year-old Juliette. Oh OK, I'll admit it - Mummy and Nanny couldn't resist it either, we were all playing with them for the rest of the afternoon !
Once the cottage was built (thanks Grandad !), the fun could really begin and it was fascinating to watch Juliette filling up the house and garden and creating stories, doing little voices for the different members of the family. It really inspired her to be imaginative and kept her interest up for absolutely ages, unlike the high tech flashing-lights-and-sounds type of toys which are initially impressive but which don't keep her interested for very long.
As well as being absolutely beautiful - this is one toy that will be kept out on show, as much as a decorative object as a plaything - the house and all the accessories are very well made, solid and hardwearing with not a single splinter or rough edge in sight. The pastel colours are so girlie-girlie that they will instinctively appeal to females of any age, as our three-generation afternoon playtime proved !
Juliette has had doll's houses in the past but none that have appealed to her as much as this one. The cottage is absolutely beautiful but is also designed with little fingers in mind, as the partly cut-away roof shows.
The next day, Juliette was up and playing with her little cottage at the crack of dawn. When I went into her bedroom bleary-eyed, she happily informed me that she was pretending it was Christmas so she'd decorated her house with Christmas lights made from necklaces. Finding a toy that inspires so much creativity is absolutely fabulous so this is a toy that gets top marks from mum and daughters alike.
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £48.95
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