For my daughter's second birthday, we were asked what she might like and so we suggested amongst other things something from the Early Learning Centre HappyLand range. She was lucky enough to receive the Camper set as a present.
---About the range:
The HappyLand range is created for the ELC and is designed for children aged 18 months and over. It consists of people, animals, buildings and vehicles and are supposed to help with 'stimulating imagination, improving social skills and inspiring your child to explore and enjoy the world around them.' The sets all fit together and can therefore be played with on their own or mixing them together. They range in price from £6 for a set of figures to £60 for a full set such as a village or zoo.
---About the product:
The Camper Set is a low to mid range set at £16. When we received this, it was quite hard to get out of it's box as there were lots of little twisty ties to hold it all in. When you finally get it all out, it consists of a car, caravan, tent, cooker and 3 people. The car is an open top car with space for two people to sit one in front of the other. It is green with brown wheels and blue tinted windows and no back to make it easier to put the people in. The caravan hooks onto the back of the car and is cream and blue with matching brown wheels. It has no roof and inside is a bed which fits two of the people side by side. There are two people designed to go with the caravan - a male and a female. The male has black hair, red clothes and walking shoes. He also has a map pouch round his neck. The female also has black hair with a hat, pink and yellow top and green shoes. She also has binoculars round her neck.
The tent is a brown ridge tent which is open at both ends. It has a little blue stove that comes with it which has a kettle on one side and a frying pan with an egg in it on the other. You can push down either of these to get either a kettle whistling or a frying noise. The person who is camping is male with a baseball cap and white and blue top. The stove requires two button cell batteries but these come with the set.
I expected my daughter to really like this set as we were away in our caravan when she recieved the present. However, she was more interested in her dolls house that she got at the same time than this toy. We did take it out with us several times though and she did try to play with it but the main problem was that she couldn't get the people to stay in the car. There are two person-shaped holes in the base of the car with a small point in the middle which fits into the small holes on the bottom of the people presumably to make them stay in better. However this is not the case. The holes in the people are too small and they will not fit onto the pegs very easily and especially not when my daughter tries. Instead she just gets very frustrated and throws it away. The other issue is that the caravan doesn't fit very securely on the back of the car so when she pulls them alon together it falls off easily and again she gets frustrated.
Those two points aside, she has tried to play with this item and really likes the people that come with it and enjoys playing with them with her other toys. The car gets played with on its own, but not as a set. I can also sometimes hear the stove being played with and the sound of the kettle confuses people who don't realise it's her toy!
Although this set has some big flaws, it also has some lovely touches to it as well. The tent has a pair of red socks hanging over the top of it and the detail on the people is beautiful like the fish slice held by the camper. There are deatils like the red curtains in the caravan and the egg in the frying pan. Thesounds on the stove are realistic but they are actually quite loud and there is no volume setting so can be quite annoying.
There are however some good points of this toy as it allows good imaginative play and hand-eye co-ordination putting the people in the caravan, car or tent. It can be played with on its own or as part of the Happyland range. The car can be pushed around and makes a fun toy to be played with on its own even without the people. The stove is fun to press the buttons to get the noises and they teach the correct noises which is good.
I was excited to get this present for my daughter and I expected it to get a lot of play, but I have to say it has not been a hit. At full price it costs £16 which I do think is a bit overpriced for the amount you get, but as ELC often do this at half price, I would wait for that as £8 is a decent price for this. The flaws with this toy for me outweighed the positive play that can be got from it and I would only recommend it to compliment other Happyland sets, but not as a standalone set as I don't think it is worth the money.
It's the ELC's fault I bought this, honest. They must know how wonderful I think the Happyland range is and then they put several of their sets into a half price sale just knowing that I'm going invest in them for ten month old Freddy. This happy camper set was just one of the sets that I picked up and cost a bargainous £8 (down from £16), which I think is extremely good value considering what you get in the box.
All the Happyland sets are exclusive to the ELC brand, although some of the sets are now available to purchase in Mothercare. Although Happyland is similar to Fisher Price Little People, I personally feel that the pieces in this range are just a little more suitable for young children who are just starting to develop their imagination. There are a large number of sets available and when collected your child can become the mayor of their own town or village. With prices ranging from £8 for a set of people to £60 for a starter village, this a brilliant range with prices to suit every pocket. I would put the Hamper Camper Set at about the low end of middle of the price range, while it is perhaps one of the smaller sets.
Let's Go Camping
The Happy Camper set comes very securely packed in an open faced cardboard box. As the box is open, you (and your child) are positively encouraged to try out the electronic sounds (yep folks this toy makes noises). On a scale of one to ten, I would put the difficulty of removing this set from the packaging at about eight, there are quite a few ties to be untwisted and it took me almost ten minutes to undo everything.
Once the camping set is removed from the packaging, you are faced with quite an impressive number of pieces (especially as this only cost £8). Firstly you get a pale blue and green two-seat car, that is sturdy with free-wheeling wheels and a trailer bar at the back. There is plenty of room in the car for a driver and passenger, both of which can be pushed into place via a peg. Then there is a very old-fashioned caravan that comes complete with curtains, GB sticker and even a double bed. I do like the way that this caravan has an open top meaning it's very easy to put the people to bed, and even though it is a slightly tight squeeze, two will fit in the bed.
There's also a bright orange tent, which while one Happyland character will fit in it, it's not quite tall enough, meaning it has to be placed over the person, rather than them fitting through the flap. What camping trip would be complete without eating alfresco? There's even a camping stove included in the set, complete with an egg in a frying pan and boiling kettle. And this is the part of the set that makes lots and lots of noise. Press down on the kettle and it gives off a fairly authentic sound of a whistling kettle boiling, while the frying pan gives off a little less authentic sizzling. I must say that considering this is a fairly small part, it does give off a fairly loud noise that can be heard in the next room and it's very easy to set the sounds off accidentally while moving it.
Along with all these pieces there are not one, not two but three Happyland people supplied. What I really like about the Happyland people is the way that they are not all generic 'blonde haired, blue eyed' types, just as in real life different races are represented. And they don't really stereotype the gender roles either, which can only be a good thing. The people in this set include a orienteer complete with map and backpack, a bird watcher with her binoculars and the cook with his fish slice and peaked cap.
What I really like about this set is that even though it's tough and quite basic, there's an incredible amount of extra special details. I love the addition of the socks drying on the tent, the curtains on the caravan, the egg in the frying pan and the fantastic level of detail on the people. The whole set is also extremely durable, with no small pieces. Although the detail on the people is painted on, it's survived being chewed on with no sign of flaking and all the parts have been thrown and even trodden on without even the slightest crack. Being electronic, the stove does require batteries, but a demonstration set of cell batteries are supplied, which are still going strong hidden by a flap secured with a tiny screw.
At The Campsite
Freddy adores cars, so it's no surprise that he made a bee-line for the car when he first realised that there were new toys out for him to play with. The car is light enough for him to pick up and examine before spinning the wheels. Freddy also finds it easy to push the car along the floor, even over carpet, in fact maybe it rolls a little too easily as it travels a little quicker than Freddy can, occasionally leading to frustration. Freddy also likes to push the caravan along, but we do find that the tow bar doesn't actually stay in place very well, meaning I do need to fit them back together quite regularly. Freddy finds it easy to place the characters into the car and caravan, but doesn't really have the oomph to push them onto the pegs. He also loves to bang the tent against things, not exactly how it's supposed to be played with, but it's certainly something he loves to do. Unfortunately, Freddy finds it all to easy to push the buttons on the stove, they are very sensitive and he can spend a good few minutes just setting the kettle off, which can get a little annoying.
As well as allowing him to play with this set on his own, I also spend time sitting on the floor playing with Freddy and we have lots of fun together. Sometimes I simply push the car towards him, while other times I'll chat about what we're doing as I make up and act out a little story. We always have lots of fun during this time and often incorporate this set with some of his other Happyland sets.
Although this set does belong to Freddy, it has also been played with by my friends children ranging in age from a one to four years. All these children have enjoyed playing with the set, both boys and girls and all ages, although how they've played with has obviously varied wildly. With the older children it's lovely to hear them chatting away as they make up adventures.
School Camping Trip
Although this set is billed as being suitable for children over the age of eighteen months, there are no small pieces that would make this unsuitable for young children. As far as I'm concerned as long as a toy is suitable for children under three years of age, then in the majority of cases it's going to be safe for younger children even if they don't get the most of it. All the pieces in this set are well made, durable and large enough not to cause a choking hazard, and I would say that even six month old babies would enjoy playing with the cars.
Although Freddy is considerably under eighteen months, he does enjoy playing with this set, even though his imagination is severely limited. He loves to push the car and caravan, put people in and out of them, press the pan and kettle and bang the tent against different surfaces. As he does all this he is steadily improving his fine motor skills, and as he chases the car around the room he is also improving his gross motor skills. He'll also spend ages sitting playing with this, improving his sitting and concentration. By playing with him I am also helping Freddy develop his imagination, understanding of the world and conversational skills. As well as all this the set works well with the rest of the Happyland range and more importantly is fun for a babies and toddlers aged from about six months to four years.
Time To Go Home
This little set is a great addition to any child's Happyland collection. You get a surprising amount of pieces for the money, all with added play value. I love the addition of three people and the attention to detail, while Freddy simply loves to play with the car and caravan. I love the fact that while Freddy really loves playing with this now, it's a toy that's he will still be playing with in a couple of years time. Ok, so Freddy isn't using the Happy Camper Set to it's full potential, but it's so durable that it will easily survive any abuse he throws at it while he develops those all important imaginative skills. And so I'm giving this set an almighty five stars out of five and recommending it for any child aged between six months and four years. Only go and buy it now, because while I do think it's worth the £16, at £8 it's a steal.