Hands-on review: Thumbs Up Fun Roller Wheel
Image credit: Thumbs Up
Zero technology. Maximum fun.
Here at E&T, we get offered all sorts of products for review, most of which typically incorporate some degree of leading-edge technology or cunning engineering skill. Sometimes, though, a product arrives in the post that can boast almost zero technology, but does have a boatload of quirky charm. The Thumbs Up Fun Roller Wheel is a fine example of the latter.
What we have here is an inflatable durable PVC vinyl child-sized wheel: like an airbed or swimming-pool lilo, only circular and with a big hole in the middle. A little over one metre wide and tall, the idea behind it is simple: a child sits inside the ring of the Roller Wheel and, well, rolls themselves around the room or garden. Think of it as an open-sided zorbing ball or your child like a hamster in one of those free-roaming exercise balls.
Designed to be suitable for children up to 36kg in weight, it's a good size for any children up to the mid-teens. Actually, your humble correspondent, whose teenage years were enjoyed last century, also managed to get some adult-sized laughs out of the Roller Wheel - lying perpendicular to the degree of travel through the wheel, like a sausage stuck through a doughnut - although it's probably not advisable to do this on a regular basis, due to the likelihood of potential damage to the Roller Wheel caused by old fools horsing around. This is a product designed for children, remember.
As such, children can freely and safely climb in, over and through it, like a squashy indoor plaything, plus they can take it outside and roll around the garden or head for the nearest safe slope to get some speed up.
We say speed, because this thing can really travel when it has an unobstructed downhill path ahead and a determined, diminutive pilot providing the necessary weight inside the ring. Watch the videos below: these were taken within 10 minutes of first inflation and our test subject quickly got the hang of things.
The PVC is reasonably strong: about the same toughness as a good-quality beach inflatable, so it can safely be taken outdoors, although you would want to look out for and clear away any prickly thorns or sharp-pointed twigs and rocks lying around.
A bicycle repair-style sticky patch is included in the box, to help with any minor punctures, and a foot-pump inflator/deflator is also present. The instructions actually caution against using electric-powered pumps - like you may already have at home for camping trips, to blow up the airbeds - to inflate the Roller Wheel, but to be honest the foot pump supplied was taking forever, so for our test we did actually use a 12V-powered inflator running from a car's cigarette lighter socket to blow up the Wheel. This still took a few minutes.
Presumably the manufacturer's caution is sensibly advising people against using more powerful air compressors, which could easily burst the Wheel's seams. If you take it slow and steady, with a moderate-strength electric air pump, we can't see there being any real issues. Just don't overinflate it, especially on first use.
That's pretty much all there is to it with the Fun Roller Wheel. There is some grandiose talk of playing with the Wheel helping young children sharpen burgeoing skills such as coordination, cooperative play, physical strength, visual and auditory stimulation (there are colourful plastic balls inside some of the segments) and more, but really, it's just about having a right laugh rolling around in it. Things became more fun the more children were added to the rolling party, as they could take turns pushing each other around and then being pushed themselves, which was lovely to watch.
The Roller Wheel is tremendous fun and is an absolute child magnet for any young daredevils who clap their eyes on it. We are unapologetically including it here on E&T, despite it being devoid of any meaningful technology and also being squarely aimed at children under the age of 16. If you happen to have any of these creatures currently living under your roof, we can confidently say that there is a very good chance they would love the Roller Wheel.
With the school summer holidays beckoning - and hopefully bringing with them more of this amazing warm, outdoorsy weather - a toy such as this is ideal for any garden bathed in sunshine.
Thumbs Up Roller Wheel, approximately £30 from Amazon.co.uk