Pros: Little Tikes quality (and yard sale resale value)
Cons: assembly not as easy as stated
My saga with the Little Tikes 8-in-1 Playground began in early November. My in-laws were generous enough to get this for my daughter for Christmas (with a January birthday there isn't a much better time for outdoor stuff) from JC Penney's, which will only ship large things like this to the store without charging an extra $100 or so.
Luckily, I had the presence of mind to take our SUV as well as my parents', and leave my daughter at home. The box came out, and was HUGE... no way to fit this into one little Chevy Blazer. So we took everything out of the box, folded down the seats in BOTH SUVs, and put the pieces in one by one. I recommend home delivery or a friend with a pick-up truck for this one. We stowed the pieces in the basement, waiting for Christmas Eve so we could put half of it together next to the Christmas tree.
So Christmas Eve finally arrives, and we discover that the pieces do NOT snap together according to the "tool-free" assembly instructions. Of course, Little Tikes Customer Service isn't OPEN during the holiday week, so I was left to call after New Year's after things settled down. I was too heartbroken to tell my in-laws that we couldn't put the half together for Christmas morning.
The ensuing call to Little Tikes had a customer service rep telling me to try using a little dishwashing detergent and a rubber mallet to get the pieces to seat properly, and that it could be because I was trying to put it together on carpeting (hello? it's WINTER in the Northeast!). I dutifully slathered the notches with Dawn, went to Home Depot for a rubber mallet (which is now being used to kill spiders and the like in the house), and start pounding the heck out of the thing in my kitchen.
Once again, no luck. Now, I'm getting upset with Little Tikes. We had TWO Little Tikes products we had problems with at Christmas, and the replacement for the first item was backordered, and now this with the playground. Grrr. So I call AGAIN, and explain I have moved to a flat surface, I have purchased the $19 rubber mallet, and I have used half a bottle of Dawn to no avail. "Well, have you tried a blow dryer?" they responded. A BLOW DRYER! At this point, I took all the pieces but two back to the basement, propped two up in the playroom to taunt me, and left things until spring.
After a few warm days, I brought my daughter outside while my husband was away on business, hooked up my trusty blow dryer to an extension cord, trimmed the little bits of plastic "overage" off the notches, blasted them with the blow dryer for a few minutes, and then vented every bit of my frustration with this $350 monstrosity using the rubber mallet.
And it was good.
FINALLY... I got two pieces together! When my husband returned, he hauled up all the other pieces, and I put MOST of it together myself. Here are my findings:
1) 8-in-1 is really a misnomer. I thought you could reconfigure the whole play set. In reality, you can place the smaller slide in a couple of different locations, and place the small pink "curvy" tunnel in a couple of different configurations by turning one half or the other. Aside from that, you have one big side with a platform and a big slide, and one small side with a door connected by a tunnel, and a small slide on one of the two sides. Not very "adjustable."
2) No tools means no nails or screws. It does not mean no tools.
3) It's TOUGH to get together. I was able to get the platform seated properly only by putting the three sides together and then pulling the two sides out with my THIGHS to seat it. (Don't even try to picture it.) It took my husband and the mallet to get the smaller slide seated properly.
4) Little Tikes needs to have customer service open on Christmas Eve. Actually, all toy manufacturers should. When exactly do they think that those of us who celebrate Christmas put these things together??
4a) I should put toys together before Christmas.
That said, here is what you get with this set:
One smaller side with four walls. One of the walls has a "house" theme going, with a little half door and window. Two other walls have circular openings for configuring the tunnel (one with one opening with notches to climb up to the tunnel if you put it there, and the other with two holes at different heights for the tunnel), and the fourth wall has notches for climbing, and an opening you can use for the small slide.
You also get a taller side with three walls and a platform. One wall has an opening for the larger slide (just have to note that both my husband and I think they look like big pink tongues), and the others have either holes for the tunnel or notches for the smaller slide.
We have ours configured so that you climb up from the smaller side, through the tunnel, and end up on the platform facing the large slide.
So far, my daughter LOVES this playground. At 16.5 months, she needs a little help climbing the notches, but has no trouble with anything else (including the slides, which seem geared toward little ones, especially the smaller one). My older nephew at 25 months had no trouble with any of it, and found it fun for a good chunk of time. I'm not sure how entertaining older kids might find this, but if you are like us, and looking for a cheaper alternative to one of those huge wood playsets that cost an arm and a leg, I think that this set and a metal swingset would do the trick nicely.
I saw this on sale literally today at Toys R Us for $249, and it might be worth it at that price. Better yet, Little Tikes stuff is a GREAT deal at yard sales, since it's virtually indestructible. But to pay full retail? I'd say look around for something with more activities for the price.