Pros: A Little People castle! A fun playhouse for both boys and girls.
Cons: Additional pieces must be purchased separately. Weird floor-plan.
My very favorite toy from my own early childhood was my 1974 Fisher Price Castle. When my son was born I was determined that he too would have a castle. Although he does have another castle toy now (more on that below), he recently saw the new Little People Lil' Kingdom Castle at the store and was nuts over it (he kept telling me, "Mommy, I really NEED this!"). Because Fisher Price castles hold such dear memories for me, how could I say no!?!
The Lil' Kingdom Castle is a medium-to-large sized play set from Fisher Prices Little People line of toys. At its tallest point the castle is approximately 15 inches high, and when closed its width is roughly 19 inches. A King and Queen are included. The King's hair is gray and includes a beard! The Queen has long brown hair fashioned in a braid that runs down her back. They are both dressed in royal garb of purple with red capes, and each wears a golden crown and carries a gold scepter. The 3rd figure is a white horse that they can ride. Some furniture is also included with the castle, namely a round table complete with food molded in, 2 additional purple thrones, and a large circular bed (circular so that it fits neatly into one of the turrets). Two rounded castle-esque fence pieces are also included, and can be attached to the little posts or other fence pieces that come on just about any Little People set these days.
The castle itself is made up of 3 turrets. The middle turret is the tallest. At the bottom of the middle turret is a red drawbridge-door (complete with a cute lion-face holding the knocker). On the second floor is a throne and balcony. When you press down on the flag at the top of the turret the trumpets play a little fanfare, the lights by the front door flicker, the drawbridge lowers, and the King's throne rotates out onto the balcony. At the very top of the red-roofed turret is a little ledge containing what appears to be the King's treasure (something that thrills my son, who loves looking for treasure).
The smaller turrets on either side of the main-turret open up to reveal rooms. Each turret-half is attached to a full-circular floor, so when you open one you essentially reveal 2 whole rooms per-turret. On one side the opened turret reveals a winding yellow staircase to take you to the 2nd floor or ramparts, as well as stickers on the wall that represent the kitchen and dining areas. On the other side the opened turret reveals a stable for the horse (complete with a little yellow fence to wall-off his stall) and the bedroom (with a closet-sticker on the wall). The stable has a barred window that can be opened from the outside of the castle (something my son loves to do - although he also loves shoving the King and Queen in through the window). There is a little play-space at the top of each turret (otherwise known as the ramparts).
Only minor assembly was required (install the batteries, the fence-pegs, and the top of the tallest turret, including the trigger mechanism for the door/lights/music). I'm happy to say that the stickers were all pre-applied (I hate applying stickers on toys - I always manage to get one lopsided). Assembly took only 5-10 minutes, and the only tool required was a Phillips screwdriver (note: our assembly may have taken longer than normal because my son, at 2½, is going through a tool-loving phase and wanted to "help" with the screws).
The Kingdom Castle requires 3 "AA" batteries (not included). Fisher Price recommends this toy for children ages 2-5.
Because my own Fisher Price Castle was my favorite toy from my early childhood, I knew that I had to give my son a castle as well. Shortly after he was born I saw that Fisher Price was phasing out their "Great Adventures Magic Castle" in favor of their Imaginext Castle (which is geared toward even older children). Even though my son was only an infant at the time, I snatched up a "Great Adventures Magic Castle" and put it into storage until Christmas of last year (when my boy was 2). That castle has indeed been one of my son's favorite toys - he puts it into a corner of the room and gets behind it, claiming that he's "inside" his castle. It was also around Christmas of last year that I started seeing the Little People Lil' Kingdom Castle in stores, but I forced myself to not buy it because I knew that my son was already getting a castle. Still, there are some differences between the two that make them both appealing. The Lil' Kingdom Castle is geared toward younger kids and includes furniture for "playing house", if you will, whereas the "Great Adventures" castle is more about good guys vs. bad guys fighting for control of the castle. The Lil' Kingdom Castle also includes the adorable Little People figures that my son still enjoys playing with, whereas the "Great Adventures" castle has smaller-featured figures geared more for pre-schooler's hands. Eventually I was in the store with my son who saw the Little People version of the castle, and when I saw how much he wanted it I could hold out no longer (because quite frankly I wanted it too).
My son has always been fascinated with toy houses, loving to open and close the doors and shove the "people" in and out. I try very hard to not discriminate or make a distinction between "girl toys" and "boy toys", but I'm afraid Fisher Price's Home Sweet Home toy was so girlish that we hated to get it for our little boy. The Fisher Price house I had as a kid was blue and yellow (decent enough cross-gender coloring), however the current version is a little too pink for my taste. The castle is an excellent "house" toy for my little boy, because now he can open the drawbridge, window, and turrets and "play house" if he wants. It is a very good toy for either gender.
I do think there is a slight design flaw in the way the Lil' Kingdom Castle is set up. If you go through the drawbridge door there is a decent-sized floor space for Little People play on the other side, however if you open the turrets they open to the front of the play area (on either side of the drawbridge) - hence some of your play area is in front of the castle and some of it is in back behind the castle. I would have preferred it if the turrets opened up in back, so my son could get behind the castle and play in all 3 turrets at the same time. As it is now he must constantly move from front-to-back of the playset as he moves his Little People through the various rooms of the castle.
My son does love his castles. He does not think that the horse should stay in the castle, however. He likes to remove the fence from around the stable (so I guess I'm glad that that piece is easily removed) and make the horse stay outside. He also loves to trigger the fanfare and make the King whip around in his moving throne. He still hasn't quite gotten the hang of removing the furniture before closing up the turrets (or rather putting the furniture in the outermost room so that the turret can be closed).
I have noticed a recent downsizing trend in the Little People playsets. Fisher Price's not-so-new scheme is to break up what once came all in one set into smaller sets that you have to purchase separately. I've seen this with the slightly older sets my son has now (the barn, the amusement park) that have been recently re-released as smaller sets with add-ons that you must purchase separately. This can be both good and bad, I suppose. Good in that the sets are smaller hence they take up less storage space, and good in that you really don't have to buy all of the accessories for a set - bad in that I like getting more bang for my buck and not having to buy multiple pieces to get all of the fun. There are 4 add-on sets you can purchase for the Lil' Kingdom Castle. The mid-sized Watchful Woodsman set includes a "Merry Man" in green, a cute dragon in a little cave, a horse with cart, and a small treehouse/fort playset. The mid-sized "Night at the Ball" set includes a prince & princess, a horse-drawn carriage, and a dance-stand. The small Sir Lance-a-Little set includes a knight in armor, another horse, an apple crate, and a cute dragon. The small "Maiden Mary" set includes mother and baby unicorns, a vegetable crate, and the maiden herself.
I don't know why, but the Lil' Kingdom Castle seems to only be available in a limited number of stores. Fisher Price doesn't even list it on their site (yet... but it's been out a good while now) or in the pamphlets of Little People merchandise they include with the toys. I know that it doesn't fit into the "neighborhood" type products they've been putting out lately, and doesn't include the 5 kid-characters from their video series, but neither does the Noah's Ark set and you can find that one on their site and in their marketing paraphernalia. Wal-Mart is the only store that seems to carry the castle line of Little People toys (granted it is the biggest chain, but why not sell it in Target or K-Mart too?).
Even with the 2 castles my son now owns, neither one is as cool as the one I had as a kid. The newer ones might look a little fancier with more molded-in details and more electronic magic (lights and sounds), however my old one has more "playability". Mine came complete with a dragon in his cave, a carriage for the King and Queen, a secret hiding place behind a movable staircase, and a trap door that dropped unsuspecting Little People down into the dungeon below. My son loves these features when he plays with my old castle, which is still at my Mother's house - I don't know why Fisher Price cannot include some of these fun features in their newer toys.
+) It's a castle!!
+) Push the flag to trigger lights, sounds, open the drawbridge, and swivel the throne onto the balcony.
+) Open the 2 side-turrets to reveal additional play space
+) Furniture included (round table, 2 thrones, and a circular bed)
+) Comes with 3 figures - a King, a Queen, and a white horse
+) Additional castle-themed sets can be purchased separately to extend play
+) Only minor assembly required, and all stickers came pre-applied
+) Because it folds closed in sections, it doesn't take up as much space as some of his other Little People playsets
+) On/Off switch for lights & sounds located on the underside next to the battery door
-) I wish some of the additional sets didn't need to be purchased separately (namely, I wish that they had included the knight and the dragon along with the castle).
-) Strange floor-plan requires your child to move in front and in back of the castle walls to get to all of the play-space
-) Still doesn't have some of the fun features that my childhood Little People castle had.
As much as I tried to resist it, I'm really glad that we have the Lil' Kingdom Castle. I highly recommend it for any child, as it is very gender-neutral and promotes lots of fun and imaginative play.
Related Little People Reviews:
Ramps Around Garage
Christmas on Main Street
Fun Sounds Playground
RumblIn' Grumblin' Dump Truck