Reviewed by Louise Totton
They say that there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. I’d like to add another to the list. That it will rain in the school holidays, and you will spend those days racking your brains for something constructive for the kids to do, away from a screen and that will last more than 5 minutes before they start complaining that they are bored. You will then, after three hours of banging your head against the wall, give in, pass them their iPads and berate your own lack of organisation and imagination. Oh well, next half term will be different. Won’t it?
Top of the list of activities my girls request on a rainy day is craft stuff and painting. The problem is, I’m by no means organised enough to go out and buy paints and brushes BEFORE it starts bucketing it down, so painting tends to be a non-starter. I also detest mess and tend to bin stained clothes rather than keep them for future messy activities, so painting tends not to happen a great deal in our house, as much as I know the kids enjoy it.
I pretty much had my hand forced when I was asked to try out a range of painting and drawing products from Maped Helix. The kids were over the moon, I was slightly reticent, but the inner child in me was a little bit excited too.
We were sent the following:
First up is the poster paints. The first thing I would have to say about them is how attractively packaged they are. Not strictly relevant to the quality of the paint, but as they look so good, they would make a great birthday gift. All the paints have a superhero theme, which makes them really distinctive and look great. When we opened the boxes up, my girls thought they looked fantastic and were studying the individual bottles intently to read the hero paint’s name, check out which mask they were wearing, and ultimately put a little army of paint pots together whilst I covered the table with a plastic cloth and got the brushes and pots out.
Each of the sets of poster paints came in a cardboard caddy, which is sturdy enough to reuse and keep the paints nice and tidy. The kids (unsurprisingly) liked the fluo and metallic pack the best. This contains 5 paints; three fluorescent colours along with metallic gold and silver. The primary and secondary sets contain 6 pots each, and I really liked the fact that even though we had one of each set, none of the colours was duplicated; we had 17 unique colours.
Of course, half of the fun of paints over pens and pencils is that you can mix your own colours. We really liked that on the back of the packaging for the primary colour set, there was a child friendly guide to colour mixing. My girls are 7 and 5, and they found this visual aid great fun and very useful.
These are not cheap paints, and the pots aren’t large (75ml each), so I wanted to be able to get as much use out of the product as possible. The paints don’t come with either a brush or a palette, which I did find a little disappointing, so I improvised and used an old bun tin to allow me to squeeze a small amount of paint into several self-contained little pots. The kids then had great fun mixing their own colours and painting some great pictures.
The paint is slightly thinner than I would have expected for a premium poster paint, but the kids loved using them and they didn’t really notice that the colours weren’t fully opaque after the first application. The very funky packaging and the brilliant range of colours more than compensated for having to use two coats of some of the colours.
Whilst the kids were busy with the squeezy poster paint, I had a bit of a go with the water colours. These are also superhero themed, on a batman-esque shaped palette, and containing a lovely selection of 12 watercolours, along with a nice quality paintbrush.
I was really impressed with the watercolours. The colours that they produce are vibrant and rich, and I managed to create some lovely effects without having to use so much water that the paper went crinkly. The water colours are a great option for when you just want a quick activity, as they require far less setting up and tidying away than the other paints, and are significantly cheaper too.
Both the water colours and the poster paints wiped down from the plastic tablecloth with no issues, and the kids’ hands came clean easily. They only got a very small amount of a couple of colours on their clothes, but these washed out on a standard 30-degree wash.
The final product from Maped that we tried out was the Jungle Innovation Color Peps 12 Felt Pens with Holder. These are really unusual, and may well be a solution for the parents whose kids either lose pen lids or just don’t bother putting them back on.
The pens have lids that are mounted into a silicone dome. The dome can be manipulated into three different positions, but the lids remain attached. So rather than taking the lid off the pen and losing it, the lid stays in situ and the pen is added back into the dome after use.
The pens are great. The colours are vivid, and whilst the tips on the pens aren’t exactly broad, it is possible to get really good coverage on the page. They’re equally good for more intricate colouring, and my elder daughter was able to use them very successfully in her pattern colouring book. The item also looks great sat on a desk and the innovative design stops individual colours and lids from going missing, which is always good.
These were all great products. Good quality and a little bit different and quirky, which we all enjoyed. We only needed a small amount of the poster paints, so even though they’re not cheap, they’re reasonable value for money and are compact and well packaged enough that they don’t take up lots of room in the cupboard. They’re all great to have on standby for a rainy day and I’m sure they’ll get lots of use in the summer holidays.