Activated by pressing down a yellow, smiley-faced knob, the main body of the toy is an air tunnel, powered by a fan that sounds like a hair dryer. Moving through said tunnel, the balls are sent up a chute where they pop up, roll around a disk, fall through a hole, and re-enter the airway, thus continuing the cycle. Toy plays 8 different tunes.
Bright colors are used throughout except for the air tunnel’s cover, which is clear so that kids can watch the balls being moved through the tunnel.
5 plastic balls are included.
We found a great video demonstration by Lucky Penny Shop, and posted it above. Take a look to watch the toy move through its routine.
The fun of this toy comes from watching the balls move through their track, as well as from the music (which we think is in large part to help distract from the sound of the fan). Occasionally, a ball may pop out too fast, leap over the disk’s edge, and need to be chased.
The interactive qualities of this toy are minimal. Its appeal comes from the visuals, noise, and repetitive actions, all which are very, very attractive to developing minds.
Not as loud as a vacuum cleaner, the fan is similar to a blow dryer. Not super loud, but loud enough that it may begin to annoy others, or be off-putting to children who are sensitive to or frightened by noise. The sound can be quieted a bit by putting tape over the vents, but we worry this may overheat the toy, damaging the circuits over time. This was the most common complaint we found regarding the toy,
The Ball Popper eats batteries like a golden retriever eats flip-flops. We suggest buying rechargeable batteries to keep this toy happy. Once the batteries drop in power, but before they are fully used up, the fan’s strength weakens, making the balls hover and gently fall onto the disk rather than popping up and out. Though initially pricier, rechargeable batteries will save money over time, as well as decrease landfill waste.
Children can, and naturally will, fit unintended objects into the toy. Usually, smaller items can be knocked loose while the toy is upended. However, there are times when something gets more solidly stuck. We suggest using an unwound metal hanger to dislodge items. The yellow slide can be popped off, allowing access to the clear portion of the air tunnel. The hanger should be able to safely bend around the curves. If that fails, the toy can be taken apart with a screwdriver, though the process will be tedious. Not impossible, just not something that we looked forward to doing during a lovely afternoon.
The recommended age is for 9 months to 3 years, and we found that age range to be pretty accurate. Some children will tire of it sooner, and some will be drawn to it sooner.
We have heard of an account of a child getting their arm stuck down the ball chute, but the newer model has little pegs located inside that prevent an arm going down. The chute itself is small enough that we are not worried about injury from this.
- Wipe down with a damp cloth
- Never submerge toy
For more information on how to clean this kind of toy, check out our blog, The Cleaning Guide for Toys.
Parts and Pieces
This toy requires at least 3 balls in order to work. The toy is set up so that a ball only hovers in the chute until the force of another ball hitting it makes it pop up. However, it also takes two balls to make it into the air tunnel, so less than 3 just won’t work reliably. For refills, plastic balls meant for ferrets work perfectly!
We understand that Playskool updated their older version, making this current one quieter. Now it sounds like a blow dryer instead of a roaring vacuum cleaner.
The balls are large enough that we are not particularly worried about any choking hazard from that.