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Once my two year old son got over his terror of the vacuum cleaner it became a big obsession with him. He was desperate for me to hoover all the time, which was neither practical or fun. So I investigated toy vacuum cleaners on Amazon and ended up buying this nice bright one for £12.99 inc postage. The toy is recommended for 3 years plus, but obviously parental judgement is better at deciding if this is right for your child. There are no small fiddly bits to be swallowed and I thought my son was ready for it - I was right in this case.
Like most toys nowadays it was firmly fixed into the box with a number of devilish little ties and it was a bit tricky to undo, especially with a child who was desperate to use it hanging off one leg and grabbing at the box. Once out it was easy to assemble; the long hose clicks onto the main unit, the handle clicks onto the hose and then the pipes join together onto the handle. The head of the vacuum cleaner pushes on the end. All of the connections are neither too stiff or too loose, you can yank the main unit around by the hose without it disconnecting, but with a little force it can all come apart for cleaning/storage. The tubes are quite strong, but the flexible hose is easily warped by twisting/biting/adult feet stepping on it accidentally, which is the only negative here.
It's a perfectly acceptable vacuum toy as it is, but should you wish to take it a bit further you can unscrew the flap and insert 4 "C" batteries. If you are well prepared you can get these from Poundland or similar, but we weren't and had to stump up £10 for 8 from Sainsburys for an excited boy. Once in you can press the big plastic ON button, which starts the machine whirring, lights up the ON button, the polystyrene balls in the (closed and inaccessible) chamber on top jumping and the tiniest amount of suction to start in the hose/tube. Then your little housecleaner can get busy copying mummy and daddy in cleaning the floors and upholstery. Sadly the suction is very weak and cannot actually suck up anything, which is a real shame, given the enthusiasm my son puts into vacuuming the rug. When they are done you press the OFF button and put the toy away with the real hoover for next time.
At the back of the main unit is a red flap and underneath is a pull out box which children can pretend to empty when they are finished. It needs to be put back the right way round and can be a little fiddly at first. According to the blurb on Amazon the vacuum comes with little polystyrene balls that can be sucked up and stored in the box which just sounds like a recipe for disaster for me. The vacuum tube is transparent apparently just so you can see the balls being sucked up. I am very glad that ours weren't included, either that or they accidentally got thrown away in the packaging. The suction of the vacuum as I mentioned is very weak, so I can foresee lots of lost balls turning up all over the place/frustration when they aren't being sucked up. My son is perfectly happy with the vacuum as it stands so I don't think they are an essential.
The hoover is very lightweight (1.5 kg) and hardwearing and the battery life seems to be good (three months of ten minutes or so daily and its still going). My two year old can happily carry it around after me and he puts it back into the cupboard with no problems. The only thing he would probably complain about is the lack of tools, because he likes to copy me in everything and when I put the brush or upholstery tool on my vacuum he wants it on his too. He is a little mollified by the fact that the head of his vacuum comes off just like mine so he can copy that bit at least. The vacuum head also can pivot from almost horizontal to nearly vertical, so it can be slid under cabinets etc, just like the grown up version. I like the handle on the top as it means I have to bend less far to pick it up and put it away.
I would thoroughly recommend this toy. It is very competitively priced with other toy vacuums on the market and its quality is very good. It can be used with or without the batteries and is realistic without being too 'real', its primary colours make it clear that it is a toy (which is good, I don't want him getting any ideas about using my Miele just yet. My little boy finds it a highly satisfactory substitute and is showing no signs of getting bored with it yet. I however, am a little tired of being told to 'move' so that he can clean under my feet.