Product Type: ELC baby toys
Newest Review: ... They describe Happyland as, "A place where children's imagination can run wild. ELC offer a range of fabulous buildings, characters,... more
ELC HappyLand Police Station
Member Name: sandemp
ELC HappyLand Police Station
Advantages: Well made, durable
Disadvantages: Somewhat limited play value, no police car, how long is it since the police used side-cars?
==Hello, Hello - A Parent's View==
The police station came packaged in the standard Happyland box, with an open front to allow the sounds to be tested before purchase. Removing the station from the packaging was a bit of a palaver, there were those ridiculous plastic ties to be untwisted and plastic that needed to be peeled back from cardboard. Although it did only take a few minutes to remove the packaging, I would suggest keeping the child's attention diverted while opening this.
On removing this from the packaging, I was slightly disappointed by this set and the number of pieces it contains. The station itself is fairly small, measuring just 14cm by 9cm and standing 18cm high. Made of durable plastic, the cream and pale blue exterior does feature a fair amount of detail, but no where nearly as much as some of the other Happyland buildings. The rear of the station is open allowing little hands easy access to the interior and there is a single opening door on the front. The two windows are firmly fixed in place and do not open or close. I do like the little notice board on one of the sides, but I don't like that it's a sticker rather than being painted on. The only other real detail on the exterior is the very old-fashioned blue police lamp and a sticker declaring that this is a police station.
The interior of the police station is also quite sparsely decorated, there is a desk with a phone and computer on it, a bell above the door and clock, coat hanging on a coat hook and map on one of the walls. Considering that it's always been the little details that have impressed me with the Happyland toys, this building just doesn't quite cut it. Being a Happyland building, it comes as no surprise that there are buttons that when pressed activate different sounds. When the telephone is pressed it gives off a loud ring, that does sound quite realistic, while the doormat will make the sound of a bell ringing. What is disappointing here is that there are no sounds specific to a police station. The lack of a siren is particularly disappointing and really the available sounds could be from any shop.
Along with the actual police station, there are a few other pieces in this set. There are a total of two police characters, a mad in a fluorescent jacket who appears to be directing traffic and a woman who is standing in the classic "'ello, 'ello, 'ello" pose, with her hands behind her back. In common with all Happyland characters these police officers are non-poseable, made of a tough rubberised material and about 10cm high. There is also a police dog, who appears to be either a bloodhound or a basset (I'm not quite sure which). Personally, I feel it would have been better if the dog had been a breed that was instantly recognisable as a police dog, such as an Alsatian. The dog itself, is instantly recognisable as a dog and is made of the same material as the characters.
The final pieces in the set include a set of traffic lights and road closed sign, both of which are made of fairly tough plastic, but the detail is formed from stickers which could cause a problem with inquisitive little hands. The very last piece in the set is a motorbike and side-car, which can hold a total of two characters. This free-wheeling bike doesn't feel nearly as sturdy as other Happyland vehicles that we own. Also, while the character is held securely in the side-car, the method of holding the rider in place on the bike is a little on the insecure side.
All-in-all, from an adult's point of view the Happyland Police Station is a little disappointing, especially when compared to other sets within the same price range. Although it is very well made, there just doesn't seem to have the same level of detail, or thought gone into it. The lack of a siren is very disappointing, as this would at least have signified that this is a police station rather than just another shop. The dog is also not instantly recognisable as police dog, and I really don't get the inclusion of the motorbike and side-car. When was the last time that the police used these? I'm sure the only place any child would see a police bike with side-car is on the television in the programme Heartbeat. In fact I was so disappointed with the bike (and lack of car) that I went out and bought the emergency vehicle set, so that Freddy would have a police car.
So as an adult, I would give this set a mediocre three stars out of five, but it's not just my opinion that counts, is it?
==What's Going On Here Then? - A Child's View==
As always when he receives a new toy, Freddy was initially keen to explore the police station and he spent a good few minutes discovering the different sounds that it made. He loves to press the phone and say "hello", in fact he maybe loves this bit a bit too much as the phone does ring quite loudly. The doormat is a little harder for Freddy to press than it is in the other buildings, but he can manage it. One of Freddy's favourite things to do with his Happyland building is to try and remove the doors, so far the door on the station has survived quite well, only having come off the once. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, as Freddy does get a little frustrated that it won't come off and I am a little worried that he might break it.
Although I am disappointed with the motorbike, I must admit that Freddy loves pushing it along and putting characters into the side-car. He hasn't worked out how to put a character on to the actual bike though, and every time I've helped him the character has almost immediately fallen out. So I really can see this becoming a source of frustration when Freddy is a little older. I must say that Freddy loves the dog, who he often tells me is a "woof woof". I've had to put the road signs away though, because Freddy has a habit of chewing on them and the stickers have started to come off.
Although Freddy has played with this set on it's own, it doesn't really keep him entertained for very long and is very limited even when I spend time playing with him. The police station, is much more entertaining when used in conjunction with other sets, when we can chase cars with the bike and use the siren on the fire station to make the nee-naw sounds. This really isn't that popular a set with visiting children either, especially those old enough to realise what a policeman is, as they just want to know where the police car is.
So from a child's point of view, again this would probably get a mediocre three stars out of five, as it really does have limited play value.
As with all of the Happyland range, this police station does encourage your child's imagination and understanding of the world around them, it's just I do feel that this is a little limited in it's scope and could actually be a little confusing. Let me explain what I mean by confusing. We're very lucky where we live, there is very little crime and we rarely see a police officer, let alone a police car, so Freddy's experience of what the police are, what they do and what they drive is limited to what he sees on the TV (virtually nothing) and this set. So while I've been able to spend time talking to him, telling him that the police keep us safe, as far as he's concerned the drive round in very old-fashioned motorbikes with side-cars. Which obviously isn't true, but he's still at an age where everything is black and white, and children don't grow out of this stage until they get to about three to four, which is the upper age range for this set.
So while I have watched Freddy's imagination begin to develop while he plays with his Happyland sets, this one included, I can also see that I may run into difficulties when he starts to insist that policemen should drive motorbikes with side-cars. As well as encouraging role play, this set also rewards fine motor skills and exploration as the child discovers what he has to press to make the station make noises. Gross motor skills are also encouraged as the motorbike is pushed along.
As to the recommended age group, as with all the Happyland toys I do think that the lower age of eighteen months is being a little on the over-cautious side. Freddy has been playing with Happyland sets since he was ten months old and there is nothing in this set that would concern me if given to a younger child. The whole set is well made, with no sharp edges or pieces that are small enough to cause a choking hazard and the battery compartment is securely hidden behind a screw closed compartment. The upper age group of four years is probably about spot on, as although older children will have a sneaky play, at the age of four they are probably ready to move on to the more complex world of Playmobil.
All in all this is a rather disappointing set from the Happyland range and one that I really don't think is worth the full asking price of £16. I'm really glad that it wasn't actually me that bought this, but I won't be telling Nana that Freddy doesn't like it quite as much as his other sets. As to my recommendation, well, if this is the first Happyland set that you are buying for your child, then chose a different set (the Post Office is brilliant). If, however, your child already has a good number of Happyland village buildings, then what village would be complete without a police station. Only wait until the ELC are running one of their regular offers, at the moment the police station can be picked up for £12.80 which is much better value for money. As to stars out of five, I think both Freddy and I are agreed that this really doesn't deserve more the three out of five.
Summary: Not the best Happyland set
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