Pros: encourages creativity, easy to do, inexpensive, would be a nice gift
Cons: paint is cheap, paintbrush falls apart
My daughter is into art, not heavily, but enough where she enjoys drawing and painting. when I was shopping at Toys 'r Us recently, I noticed they had the Totally Me! sets at Buy 1 Get 1 Half-Off, so I bought the Totally Me! Paint Your Own Place Setting kit for around $5 to put away, just to give my daughter something to do on a "blah" sort of day. We had a bout of rainy weather one week with storms, and that kept us indoors, so I brought out the kit for her to play with.
It's a cute little kit that comes with a plate (about the size of a small dessert plate), a bowl (again, small, but big enough to use), and a small mug (like a coffee cup, only a little bit smaller than average). It also comes with 12 small pots of paint, in colors such as yellow, two shades of blue, red, orange, pink, two shades of green, white, purple, and a few more. They are really cheap paints, the kind that may cost $1 for the lot at a dollar store, or the types that come with those toy stained glass kits (the plastic toy kits, usually costing $1). I was really worried about her using these colors and tried to get her to use some of my better paints, because I figured the paint wouldn't hold, or that it would come out of the oven incredibly dull-looking. But, she is stubborn and wanted to use these (because I did not have bright colors such as some of these), so I let her get on with it. It also comes with a paintbrush, but some of the threads were falling out before she was able to use it, so we substituted it with one of mine.
The material feels a bit like porcelain, and I am certain that it would not hesitate to shatter in a million pieces if it were to fall to the floor. We planned to use these for display in my china cabinet instead of actually using them, so I wasn't too worried about how long it would last (once I got it safely into the china cabinet, mind).
It comes with instructions, which were easy to follow. The fun part for my daughter was just painting the naked dishes. For the plate, she went typical "10 year old girl" and painted a lot of hot pink and neon green embellishments with a big blue peace sign in the middle. I urged her to make the rest of the dishes match (because, while creative, I am a touch OCD, ha), but she waved that idea away and made the cup rainbow-striped and painted on her name, while the bowl housed lots of little flowers in various types and colors. She spent a good bit of time on it, which was what I intended, because I was using it as a time-waster while it was still too funky to go outside.
After painting it, we let it sit for 24 hours out of the way, so that it could fully dry (as per the instructions). The following day, I put the pieces on a large cookie sheet and placed it in the oven. I then put it on 250 degrees for 30 minutes and then pulled it out to cool off. After that, it was ready to go. the paint wasn't as dull-looking as I thought it might be, and a lot of the bright colors remained bright and shiny. It could use a little varnish or something, to give it a sheen, but, other than that, it came out looking pretty good. I tested a small section of the paint to see if it would come off, and it didn't, but she made flat strokes and didn't let any of it rise. I don't know that it would stay on if I did that to a raised piece of paint. The directions say that if you do so "carefully", you can hand wash it (the paint is also non-toxic, by the way), but I wouldn't advise placing it in the dishwasher. It doesn't say either way about that, but I highly doubt it is dishwasher safe. I never bothered with that because, as I said, we do not plan to use it to eat out of, and are using it more of an arts & crafts display product.
The recommended age is for 8 and up, but honestly, something like this can be done by kids much younger than that. I'm thinking of something like Mother's Day or a birthday/holiday....I would go crazy over a hand-painted item from my little snuggle-monkey (<--here's hoping she doesn't see this!) when she was a tyke, no matter how it was painted up. So, this would also be good for giving to the kids to paint as a surprise for Mommy on those occasions. But, for older kids, it seems to be pretty fun while it lasts. My daughter enjoyed painting hers. I feel it was worth the price, and I would recommend it.