Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting a Free Kitchen Sink

Is it possible to get everything for free including the kitchen sink? I decided to find out, and follow that one famous saying by getting just that... a kitchen sink.

But where on Earth could I find a company to send me one? And worse still, I’m no plumber so how could I review it on arrival?

I called plumbers/ factory depots and wholesale stores and all of them wanted to know my experience in the trade. Likewise when I attempted to get a fishing rod prior to this I was met with resistance from every corner, as I’d never picked up one before in my life. Forgive me for wanting to try something new, but I guess it would have been hard to write a justified article, when really I had no idea what to look for.

So I resigned myself to continue through some old bits and pieces that had come my way including a massive pile of toys from the nicest PR rep I have met on my journey. I won’t include her name, as you’ll all be asking her for something but from day one when she sent over the Cube World, she has believed in what I’m trying to do.

And best of all she had a kitchen sink which she was happy to let me loose on. Better still she also had a bath, toilet and beyond all ready to be tested:

Read the sink (and toilet) review

In addition to these toys the rep also offered me several other items:

Simpson’s Uno, Simpson’s Poker set, Etch-a-Sketch TV Fun, Sunshine Buddies and Thumb Warriors.

Given my own golden rule, of having to review everything I’m offered, I snapped them all up and now in front of me were five new freebies  waiting to be played with.

The most suitable of these for my age range was no doubt Simpson’s Poker and Uno which I promptly played and reviewed. Likewise Sunshine Buddies seemed like something all ages could enjoy so I also gave it a once over. As for the rest I had a big problem:

Two of the products were designed for an age range clearly below my own I ran in to obvious dilemmas when trying to review both of these.

The first wall came from the Thumb Warriors. These are snake like creatures that you attach to your thumb and then attempt to use in a typical thumb war. A good concept really, but not designed for adult thumbs and
after a few battles Marie and I quickly achieved hand cramp and put them down.

Likewise the Etch-a-Sketch TV Fun was a new spin on the classic which you could plug in to a TV and draw anything you like (so long as it’s made up of straight lines). Having been bought up on a diet of Nintendo and
Sega I quickly found myself bored of drawing only straight, or bent lines and assumed it would be no fun for children either.

Luckily for the two products, Marie’s mum works as a full time childminder, so we had an ample supply of little testers at our disposal. So we raced down South to see if our opinions had been correct or if we as adults were unable to enjoy the child like innocence that these toys were created for.

All the way down I bad mouthed the Etch-a-Sketch and yet when giving it to a group of three children aged 3-10 I found they all lapped it up. One of them was an avid gamer himself and even he seemed to like it. They didn’t mind the fact you were essentially doing the same thing over and over. In fact they embraced it and found new ways to enjoy the toy.

One mode tasks you with carving a picture into some grass. What did the kids do? They spent thirty minutes going back and forth cutting every blade of grass on the screen. When that was done, they restarted and tried again! On hearing that I was going to take the product back they seemed gutted so I left it with them and on future visits it was still being enjoyed by children of all ages.

Great news for parents looking for a nice easy way to distract their kids, bad news for me as it meant I had been proven wrong. Likewise the Thumb Warriors went down a treat, and fitted the children’s thumbs

Coming home from this supply of pre-teen reviewers I started to wonder about the validity of one person reviewing everything. Although I was able to provide consistent opinions, it was starting to get hard to review women’s make up, coffee that I hate and toys that don’t fit my hand.

It also got me thinking on how other websites and magazines do things. Do they always pick the best person for each job? Whenever a review of a children’s movie comes out, magazines always talk about whether there are jokes for adults or something to keep the adults entertained, but isn’t this missing the point? When I go and see a soppy movie with Marie it’s great to have some eye candy for myself and a few jokes but at the end of the day the film will be reviewed on its merits to attract a female audience not their bored partners. So why are things different with children? The movie is their treat so why boil everything down to the fun an adult can have?

Are we at the stage where the time we spend with our kids is so torturous that we can’t spend one and a half hours being happy that they are enjoying a movie?

The simple truth is that most of these films are reviewed in small premier screenings without a child in site. Thus the opinions we read are those of a bunch of adults who saw it with no childish laughter or fun around

It’s the reason children’s video games score so low and why I’ve yet to see a good magazine dedicated to reviews of children’s toys. As children cannot write the reviews themselves they have no voice on what is right for them, and I think that’s a shame.

There must be a solution to all of this, and perhaps we are making positive steps by asking children what they think more and more. Would it be too much to ask to hire a junior writer and get their views, or to spend five minutes in a children’s hospital asking opinions and giving them new toys to play with? I hope not.

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My Policy

Every product on this site has been received for free, and given to me by the product manufacturer or their associated PR organisation in return for a review.

I have no other personal or business association with these companies, and all reviews are written truthfully and based on my own experience. If I hate a product I will say so (and have done on many occasions!).