Friday, September 05, 2008

The quest for a decent mobile.

One of the things that surprised me as a new parent is the fact that baby mobiles are so rubbish and useless. You're not asking much from a mobile: a selection of soothing melodies and a bunch of toys to spin around. There's a selection of small features you just expect to be there: volume control, a timer, on/off button.

This mobile lives up to its name. It really is poo.

The first mobile I bought was this Winnie the Pooh one. It looked quite grand and colourful so I overlooked the $59 price tag (Canadian dollars before tax). Surely it's a worthy investment. It had two tunes and a jungle ambiance, as well as a light and sound display, not to mention lovable Winnie the Pooh characters hanging off it. Bargain!

So what went wrong? The first thing we noticed was the low volume. The volume control allowed you to turn it from "is this thing on?" to "if I stick my ear to it I think can hear something." The next problem was the fact that the two musical options were essentially the same five seconds on an infinite loop. On the box they had the chutzpa to describe one of the options as "Classical music medley". The light and sound feature was actually nice and it came with a remote control which is a very nice touch.

But none of the good and bad things mattered when the mobile broke within a week. It started activating itself on its own which was not only annoying (and somewhat creepy) it was also killing the battery. I took off the soft toys and threw away the whole thing down the garbage chute.
Green Mobile: Powered by parental fingers.

We resorted to a little Winnie the Pooh mobile that came with Blake's Graco playpen. It was very simple, only one tune and no fancy light shows, but Blake loves it. The only problem, made worse by the fact that he loves it, is that you have to turn it on manually by winding it up and even then it last for only a couple of minutes which is never enough. I could forgive the lack of volume control if I could just had an on/off button.

The folding playpen didn't survive the return trip from a quick visit to LA (and ended up also going down the garbage chute), so we bought a new one which came with a similar mobile with three generic bears. On the plus side you didn't have to wind it up manually. On the minus side you couldn't turn it on at all! The three bears were just hanging there in the air over Blake's head. Even giving them a spin with your hands was futile as they came to a complete stop right away. it came with a box that had little lights on it and music options. All very unimpressive and even quieter than the original Winnie the Pooh mobile. Thankfully the windup mobile from the previous playpen fit this one as well so we still use it occasionally.

If this is a Happy Safari, why do all the animals try to commit suicide?

When we returned this week from Canada I went up to the attic to take stuff down that we bought before we left. I was delighted to discover a Happy Safari mobile. it looked really impressive on the box and I allowed myself to hope that maybe this time it will actually have all the desired features.

Well, no.

Such a shame. It's actually quite exciting with arms going up and down, three music options that don't grate as fast as you'd think, light effects and lots of interesting toys. Blake loves it and can lie on his back and dance to it for a long, long time.

So what's wrong with it? Where do I start? For one thing there is no volume control and this time the music is too loud. It's really distracting to anyone nearby and I'm not sure how good that volume is for babies (though Blake managed to fall asleep to it more than once). The toys hanging off it fall off easily with the smallest touch, which creates a hazard for the baby. And I have no idea who's the genius who decided to put the control panel facing the inside of the crib rather than the outside, as the baby can easily kick it in the middle of the night and activate it with blaring music (and a rain of toys).

My quest for the perfect mobile is over. I'll just have to accept the ones I have with all their flaws. How difficult it is to create a battery powered mobile that has a timer, on/off button, volume/mute control, toys that are secured properly, guaranteed not to break in a week, decent low/high volume range? Even better, one with an option to plug in your iPod and have complete control over the music. What can I say? I'm a dreamer.


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