“ Manufacturer: ELC / Type: Crafts / Age: 3 Years+ „
This is something I found while browsing the ELC website purchasing presents for my children a couple of Christmas's ago. I had a couple of sets of fuzzy felt when I was small, and I remembered it being an entertaining way of playing that was not particularly messy. As my boys were still fairly little at the time I bought this, I was looking for a way of making pictures that did not involve getting out all the paints and glue. It's nice to sometimes have creative play without the mess.
The set looked quite good on the website, with a couple of boards to make the pictures on, and 100 pieces of fuzzy felt to stick on them.
The set was contained within cardboard box, with a plastic tray to put your felt pieces in between play sessions. I have to say, this packaging was not the best as it tore very quickly, leaving me with no way to store the pieces, so we opted for using a tupperware box. The fuzzy felt pieces were all printed onto different coloured pieces of felt. The first time we played with this I had to tear all of the pieces off the bigger pieces of felt. Each piece of felt had the exact same pictures on them, so while having 100 pieces seems initially very good, there was a lot of repetition, and some of the colours were a little bizarre, like having a green cow or a purple pond. So the creativity was not as good as I thought it would be.
The pieces are quite thick, in your hand with the picture printed onto them, so while they are good sizes for small children to pick up, they were also a bit too heavy for sticking to the boards that were provided with the kit. The boards that came with this were also poor quality and I found that the surface started to wear away so the pieces would no longer stick to them, so in the end I binned the boards but kept the pieces which we still have but nowadays rarely get used. In fact, they only seem to play with the pieces if I suggest they haven't played with it for a while.
Nowadays ELC no longer sell this, but it can be found on ebay as a rare set. There is one currently for sale at £12.50 from America. Personally, I don't think it is a great buy. It is a limited set because the boards were small and low quality so you couldn't really make good pictures and want to keep playing with it. There is no way I would pay as much as the £12.50 however rare it is. I don't know if it is just me, but I have found the fuzzy felt sets we have owned to be quite a low quality compared to the ones I remember from my own childhood. It is not something I feel is that good at all, and I couldn't recommend it to anyone.
Roughly a year ago I was facing a three hour train journey with only my two year old for company, and looking for activities that might actually keep her in her seat whilst on the train. Seeing this felt farm set in Early Learning Centre I pounced, thinking it could be the coup de grace if her other toys, sweets, colouring books, pleas etc had lost effectiveness.
In the box are two boards and nine different coloured felt squares in which the felt pieces are embedded until pulled out. The box itself barely lasted the journey. It was a thin cardboard, open at the top type which we replaced with a small bag after a few days.
There are lots of pieces, I'm not sure exactly how many, but I would say roughly around a hundred, and a quick count tells me we've so far lost near enough thirty of those. The pieces include the typical farmyard items you would expect, such as farm animals, people and buildings - no tractors though. There are also ducks, frogs, a pond with lily pads, apple trees and lots of stray apples. There are several small fiddly pieces that are easily lost and some are easy to damage when pulling them out of the original felt square - I found it impossible to remove some eggs which had chicks feet sticking out of the bottom, without damaging the feet, so we have one-legged eggs.
All of the pieces are repeated, but not on every sheet, most items have three copies. This works well with the animals which can all be used, it's good to have a few sheep, chickens, horses etc and it's fine to have two of other items, but there's also unnecessary repetition of some items. I don't see the need for three ponds for example, as these are quite big considering the size of the boards. If it was up to me I'd have replaced some of the pieces with different items, (like tractors). On the other hand, if bought for two children to play with, there would be a board each, a set of felt pieces each, plus a spare set for the inevitable missing pieces.
All of the pieces are recognisable objects with printed on features. There are none of the traditional shapes that fit together to make your own objects, so in that respect I think this set loses points for creativity, although it is still a toy that encourages imaginative play.
Of the two boards, one is green, the other shades of beige. They're made of cardboard with a velcro-ish top. My daughter crayoned over hers with thick black crayon which I haven't been able to wash off due to the fact that the boards would probably disintegrate, so we've just had to live with it - she doesn't care. The beige one has a vague hills theme going on and the green one is plain with a lighter top/bottom third which could be interpreted as grass turning to sky, or something. They are small, at 27 by 17 centimetres and have the ELC logo in the corner. There's not much room to get a farmyard scene onto one of these boards, so I feel quite dissatisfied with them. My little one doesn't mind, she just piles all the pieces on top and has them chat away to each other, but I think an older child could get annoyed by this. It would be impossible to fit all the pieces onto the two boards unless piled on top of one another.
I expected this to be basically the same as the fuzzy felt I played with when I was a child back in the seventies, but I think it's inferior. The pieces don't stay on the boards very well, If you stand the boards upright, a light shake will knock most of them off. I think the pieces are a bit too stiff because they are printed on, rather than being the traditional soft shapes. I'm not certain how well fuzzy felt ever stayed put, but I do think it was better than this.
One thing about the boards is that they can get quite icky. Stray hairs and little unidentifiable bits of fluff attach to them - much better than the felt pieces do.
So, did it have the desired effect on the train journey? Yes, tot noodle stayed in seat, job done.
Around the toddler stage children get great pleasure from sorting through similar items and lining them up. It's a stage they go through as part of their development that helps them with recognition, categorisation and other reasoning skills. This toy clearly fulfilled that instinct in my daughter and held her attention for quite a while. Most of the aforementioned train journey was taken up by sorting through these pieces, although it's not a toy I've chosen to take on a journey again. At one point it did end up all over the floor, but only once, and I don't think we even lost any pieces.
To sum up, I think there is a lot of room for improvement with this set: the boards are too small, pieces don't stick very well, it's tricky to detach some pieces from the original sheet without damage and there is too much repetition of pieces. On the plus side; it will hold a child's attention and can be good for stimulating imaginative play.
This set is currently priced at £5.00 on the ELC website, so it's not very expensive, but nonetheless there are almost certainly better quality felt kits out there. The recommended age is 3 up. I've may have made a few criticisms of this product, but despite me not thinking much of the quality, my daughter does play with it. It has provided me with the opportunity for several uninterrupted cups of tea and for that I must be grateful.