by Brandt Krueger, Geek Dad since 2007If you swim in the right waters, the first thing that might come to mind when you hear the words "Ball Popper" might be Geek Guru, Leo Laporte. In this instance, however I'd like to offer up my first official GeekDads product review: The Playskool Busy Ball Popper!
I must confess to being a bit skeptical about this one when we received it as a gift, but it's definitely won me over. The design is pretty simple- press the giant red button (and who doesn't like giant red buttons?), and a fan is engaged that blows the plastic balls up through, and out of, the top. The balls then roll around and down the channel back into the fan chamber to start their voyage anew. It runs for about 15 seconds or so, all the while playing some fun, ball poppin' music (including, for some strange reason, "Rockin' Robin". Must have been a cheap license).
I was concerned by a few things right off the bat- First off, it's noisy. Between the fan and the music and the klacking of the balls down the tubes it's by far one of the loudest toys we have, not counting overly amplified toys (which usually can be turned down). Secondly, right in the manual it says, "Sometimes the balls spill over for even more interactive, put-and-take play." Sometimes, my sweet bananas. Until the batteries start to wear down a little, it's pretty much a guarantee that all 5 balls are going in all directions except down the chute, so be prepared to have to go hunting under couches every now and then. Finally, its a tube, and not unlike the toilet, our daughter has enjoyed playing the "What else fits down there?" game.
All in all though, this has provided a lot of entertainment for our 22 month old over the last 6 months or so, and it's listed for 9+ months. She has gotten tired of it, but as with most toys if we hide it for a couple of weeks and bring it out again, it's like new. I'm also a fan of toys that you can discover new ways to enjoy them over time. For instance, the "What else fits down there?" game has actually yielded some interesting results, including some plastic cookies that fit perfectly down the tube, are not only are light enough to be blown out by the fan, but also flip end over end down the channel to complete the cycle and be blown out again. Also, try holding a bubble wand over the tube to create your own bubble machine!
So here's the verdict:
Child Enjoymennt - Lots of giggles and a giant red button.
Parental Enjoyment - Fun repurposing possibilities, noisy and a lot of ball chasing, but has a giant red button.
Durability - Seems pretty solid, haven't had to change the batteries, but they are definitely getting weaker (which helps!)
Price- $24.95 at Amazon (Update- they changed the color to Pink)
Please comment if you agree/disagree or would like to add to this review. This isn't all about me, folks... this is about us. OH, and if you don't know who Leo Laporte is, you should. But maybe that's a post for another time...