Pros: nostalgic, keeps kids active and healthy, fun
Cons: very frustrating to inflate; REPEAT--very frustrating to inflate
I looked for one of these FOREVER before finally finding one when Walmart started stocking up for Christmas. Living in a small rural town, if Walmart doesn't carry it, you have to drive to a bigger city that has a Toys R Us or comparable store, or find it online. I rarely get out of town, so I just crossed my fingers and waited.
I remember having a similar toy as a child. Mine was red and had a horse's head on it, with handles coming out the side of the horse's head. I was hoping that they still made them (for nostalgic reasons), but this Hedstrom big blue ball will do. The balls were available in different sizes (some are a few inches bigger in diameter) for different aged/sized kids--since my daughter is 3 1/2, the blue one was most suitable. It's for 4-6 year olds, up to 100 pounds (the others are for ages 4 and up). I wish they made them for adults; I'd probably get more exercise!
I couldn't wait to get it home and inflate it for my daughter. When I opened the box, I was happy to see how heavy and durable the vinyl was, nice and thick and puncture-resistant. Great for indoor or outdoor use. The handle was nice and wide and great for little hands (not too big in diameter, not too small, but JUST RIGHT). :)
I unfolded it, found the little inflator 'needle', which is a long plastic white tube that fits on a standard basketball/soccer ball pump, and found the hole that it fit into on the ball. At that point, I started getting a little nervous. The hole in the side of the ball is smooth and larger than you would expect for an inflatable toy (not by much, but enough to make you notice). There are no threads to screw the inflator 'needle' into, to hold it on the ball while you inflate the ball.
You are supposed to inflate it with an air compressor (ours only fits tires and doesn't fit the included inflator 'needle') or foot pump (we don't have one). I tried inflating the ball with our basketball hand pump, but after 45 minutes (yes, FORTY FIVE), it was only halfway inflated and my arm was numb. The problem was that since there was no way to secure the 'needle' into the hole in the ball, you have to hold the 'needle' in place while you are pumping! How insane is that!!!
I plugged the hole at the halfway inflated point and left it for a few days. Later my husband figured out a way to hold our bicycle pump to the hole (oh, the insanity) and keep inflating it (I could hear the naughty words spewing forth through the wall to the garage). When it was finally close to being inflated, he stopped. And how do you know when it's inflated enough? When it's reached 53.25" circumference, measuring device not included. ARGH!!!!
They say this deflates quickly (no doubt, with a big hole in the side) for storage, but do you think I'm going to remove the included plug for anything? No way!!! It takes a flathead screwdriver or equivalent to get the plug out, and if my daughter ever figures out how to deflate it, she can figure out how to reinflate it. I'm done!!!!
Now that the frustrating part is over and the big blue ball is $%$%$%$% inflated, we can enjoy it now. My daughter is 38.5" tall. If I hold the handle while she straddles it, and then she grabs the handle (the easiest way for her to 'get on' at this point), she can lean on the ball and jump up and down and bounce in place. She can also walk forward and bounce up and down as she goes, but she's just a little too short to actually bounce from place to place yet. She kind of drag-bounces it around right now.
My nephew, who just turned 4 and is about an inch taller, has the same ball; after he struggles to get on, he does manage to bounce around like you picture kids doing when they are using it 'correctly.' So I'd imagine that in a few months, we'll be seeing more use out of this (and no way am I deflating it to wait until then).
Some of these balls are decorated with characters (Barbie, Scooby Doo, Tigger) or have devices that make noise whenever the ball is bounced, but this is just a good old basic no-nonsense blue ball. Not everything needs to be 'busy'. Sometimes simple is better, especially in today's busy, high-tech world.
I like to give my child toys that stimulate creativity and imagination, and I also like to give her toys to keep her active. I don't want to put her on the road to obesity and diabetes by getting her sedentary games like video games or computer games or sit-down crafts all the time. She needs to be active, and fun things like the Fun Hop will get her exercising without it being a chore. I'm so glad they still make these. I only wish they made adult versions!! And I wish they would work on the inflating portion of Fun Hop ownership!