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Elefun box.

Price: £13.

  • Plastic hairdryer/elephant hybrid.
  • Long, foldable plastic trunk. ('Over a metre long!').
  • 30 light-weight bow-ties that look vaguely like butterflies.
Gameplay: When Elefun is switched on, the butterflies fly up the trunk and out the top. Players must attempt to catch as many as possible. Once Elefun is empty, players can grab butterflies off the floor and put them in their net.

Elefun contents

Object: To end the game with the most butterflies.

Game length: The box suggests fifteen minutes but this is enough time to unpack the contents, read the instructions, do the fiddly initial threading of the nets, find a screwdriver to open the battery compartment, nip to the shops to actually buy the batteries, play the game and then watch an episode of Tom and Jerry. Even though the butterflies don't shoot out all at once, each game really only takes a couple of minutes.

Number of players: 2-4 officially, although certain types of children might become obsessed with obtaining a one-player high score.

Age: 3+ but my pet three-year-old just stands around holding out the net hoping the butterflies will fall in. Even quite old children could probably be persuaded to have a go, though (for a bit, anyway).

A 'butterfly'.
Comments: It's a game centred around an elephant sneezing butterflies. Surely that's the weirdest thing ever. Yet, after years of Cartoon Network and CBeebies, elephantine Lepidoptera influenza barely even registered as odd until I thought about it quite hard.

I really need to watch less In the Night Garden.

Bizarre concept aside, this has been one of the surprise hits of Christmas. Sproglette has been really taken by it and the batteries are charging up yet again as I type.

The butterflies tend to come out five at a time and the game is almost over in seconds. Frequently, however, one or two butterflies will get stuck swirling around in the elephant and take twice as long to come out as all the rest put together. This is frustrating and, even then, half the time needed to play is spent counting butterflies and putting them back in Elefun for the next game.

Catching the butterflies can be tricky, even for an adult. Younger children will struggle to capture a single falling butterfly. It is possible to tilt the trunk in the direction of a distressed toddler, increasing their chances of scoring, but you may still find yourself haunted by a plaintive whine of 'Awww... I didn't catch any...' The game always becomes a case of who can pick butterflies off the floor the quickest. Older children do better at catching but then there's more likelihood of a fight breaking out over the ones that got away.

Fortunately, trying to catch the butterflies is great fun and the mechanism works reasonably well. Played properly, most of the work of resetting the game is done by the kids themselves as they collect up the butterflies to score points. The trick is getting them to play it properly. Sproglette is quite happy to watch the butterflies launch, catch three by accident and then supervise me picking up the rest ready to start again. Grrr.

There's an emergency cut-off switch which kills the fan if Elefun is lifted off the ground. This helps minimise dubious experimentation and scalpings.

Elefun in action


  • Fun and challenging.
  • Involves counting.
  • Children are delighted by being rained with butterflies.
  • Clearing up is part of the game.
  • Requires four C batteries (not included).
  • Yes, four.
  • The fun bit is over very quickly.
  • Having to play it repeatedly may drive you insane.
  • When the batteries run out, you'll be forced to stand in the middle of the room throwing papery butterflies up in the air while small children leap around you squabbling.
Rating: 4/5 if you have suitable rechargeable batteries, else 2/5.

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