Monday 8 March 2010

Petit Artisan Craft Kits - African animal toys to paint

I have to admit, when I first looked at the Animache African Animals Craft Kit, I was a bit dubious about how entertaining the kids would find it. To me, it seemed a bit basic. Even the youngest kids these days are used to high-tech electronic toys and even arts supplies are ultra-glittery, flashy, glitzy, fluorescent, fruity-smelling ... or whatever else marketing people can think up to make their products stand out from the crowd.

Well, when you open the Animache kit, you don't get any gimmicky extras - you get two brown papier mâché animals, about 10cm high/long, five little pots of paint and a paintbrush. And it all comes in a nice sturdy cardboard box that the manufacturer says you can recycle by painting it pretty colours - hmmm I wonder if the kids will go for it ?

Well, surprisingly (to me ), yes, they did ! The fact that it is so basic means that they have to use their imagination - Sophie went running off to get a Playmobil figure to sit on the camel she'd just painted and had fun giving him a googly-eyed expression. So top marks to the Petit Artisan company for fulfilling their "Little Hands, Big Ideas" and "Making Kids' Ideas Happen !" marketing promises.

The papier mâché models actually remind me of the kinds of things you can find in crafts shops, to paint or embellish however you choose, that are very appealing to adults. These animal kits, that also come as dinosaurs, pets, farm animals, horses, or jungle animals, are great for kids because they can use them for imaginative play later on. The crocodile and camel are soon to be living (and wreaking havoc no doubt) in amongst Juliette's Little People toys, apparently ! They are lightweight but surprisingly sturdy so they should withstand any amount of rough-and-tumble/dinosaur-fighting/camel-jumping-all-over-everybody fun and games that your children can think up.

As well as the fact that they produce quite quite realistic-looking animals, I love the company's green and fairtrade credentials. "The Animache toys, hand-crafted in villages in the Philippines, are totally safe and CE marked." The animals and the box are made from recycled paper and cardboard.

The information on the box says that the African animals kit is "easy", "suitable for ages 4+" and will provide 45 minutes of activity. While I agree with the first two, I would say that 45 minutes is a bit excessive - Sophie (who's off school suffering with shingles) finished her camel within about ten minutes, but she did only paint one model, leaving the other one for Juliette to do when she gets home from school.

I love the Blue Peter-esque arts and crafts aspect of the kits and the fact that the kids have to use their imagination to have fun, both while painting the kits and afterwards to play with them. I do find them a bit overpriced, at £9.99, but if you have a good look around their website, there are some great deals on, which allow you to buy them for much cheaper, especially if you buy more than one.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £9.99

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