- 90cm x 90cm Aquadraw mat (only about 60cm x 60cm is for drawing).
- Two pens.
- Two plastic stencil sheets.
Age: Officially from 18 months but even children younger than that should be able to get something from it under supervision. Once kids are approaching school age, they'll be wanting real pens and paper, though.
Comments: Our local nursery has paints set out for the children to use whenever they like. The kids go over, paint a picture and someone other than me gets to clear up the mess. This would have been excellent if Sprog1 had ever taken advantage of the set up. Instead, he spent all morning doing jigsaws and then came home and wanted to paint. Grrr... If I ever I gave in, he invariably ended up slopping seven colours of paint on the same spot and creating a black spludge. Then he was finished in two minutes and I was left with a quarter of an hour of slimy tidying. Double Grrr...
Aquadraw was the answer. Sprog1 could scribble away to his heart's content, even in the lounge while I relaxed on the sofa, and there was no tidying and no artwork to leave lying around drying. Result.
If your kids have more artistic talent than mine, they might become frustrated, though. The quality of pictures shown on the box is realistically unattainable. The water 'bleeds' if the pens are pressed down too hard and they're quite thick anyway, so precision is tricky. Over time, the mat gets water stains as well, especially if large amounts of water are used, such as if a pen leaks or a bowl for handprints is knocked over.
This is more the level of actual drawings...
Handprints don't work that great, by the way. It's worth just sticking to the pens. I also found that the kids had moved on before they were capable of using the stencils themselves. (Gave me something to mess about with, though).
There are colourful pictures round the edge of the mat and outlines of letters and numbers for kids to practice their writing. These seem more to make the thing look attractive and educational than anything else, however. It would really be more useful having a larger drawing area.
There's now a small Aquadraw industry with colouring-in pictures and Thomas the Tank Engine themed sets and rainbow mats and goodness knows what else. This set will probably serve your needs best, but it's worth looking around.
Conclusion: Not perfect but a great way to encourage small children to draw without fear of them turning themselves and the house purple.
- No mess.
- Large drawing area.
- Even very young children can sit in the middle of the lounge and draw.
- Mat is large enough for two children to draw at once.
- Doesn't leave you with enormous piles of paper covered in scribble.
- Young children may try and suck on the pens. (Ewww!)
- If your child is slow at drawing, half the picture may have vanished before she's finished...
- ...but if she's prolific, she may have to sit around waiting for clear space to materialise.
- Mat can degrade slightly over time.
- Monochrome pictures.
- Quite expensive for what you get.
- You can't show the pictures to your wife to prove you haven't just shut the kids in a cupboard all day.