“ Brand: Early Learning Centre / Type: Farmer playset with animals / Age: 18 months + / Type: Playsets „
We received this set free when we bought the Happyland Goosefeather Farm set, just so you understand, I don't think we would have bought it otherwise as it is relatively expensive for such a small set. The normal price for this set is £10, which I do think is a little high, but as a free extra it's not at all bad.
==Down On The Farm==
This little ad-on set came supplied in a fairly small box and was extremely easy to open. Unlike many of the Happyland sets it was simply a case of opening the box and then removing the pieces from some plastic bags. On a scale of one to ten, I would put the difficulty of removing this from the packaging and setting up at about one meaning that it is ideal as an impulse gift.
Once removed from the box, the first thing that's noticeable is exactly how small this set is. We're used to there being lots of different pieces in Happyland sets, so it came a bit of a shock to discover that there are only five pieces in this set (six if you include the straw). The main part of the set is a bright red quad bike, that as with all of the Happyland vehicles, is well made and a good size for little hands to hold. This free-wheeling quad bike features a crate of apples on the back and has room for one Happyland character who fits into place on a little peg. There's also a green trailer that connects to the quad bike via a peg and hole connector and features a removable stack of straw. When the straw is removed there's room in the trailer for two Happyland animals. Also included in the set is a single character, which has a good level of detail, including a helmet even though he is non-poseable. There are also two animals, one sheep and a donkey, both of which are well-made and look like the animal they are supposed to be.
Although I am a little disappointed with how little you get for your money with this set, I'm still impressed with the overall quality and attention to detail. Although a little cartoon-like all of the pieces do look extremely realistic. The quad bike, does look like a quad bike and I like the crate of apples at the back and I love the fact that the driver is wearing a helmet. The pieces also feel very durable and able to withstand a toddler's rather enthusiastic play. So as a parent I would probably give this three and a half out of five, because what you get is nice, but I really don't think that it's worth the full asking price. But it's not just my opinion that matters.
==Where The Sheep Go Baa==
I was really surprised at how much Freddy actually liked this set, although maybe I shouldn't have been considering that I already knew how much Freddy likes cars. As this set is so small, it fits really well on Freddy's highchair tray and he loves to play with it while waiting for his dinner to cool down. As with all the Happyland sets, the pieces are the perfect size for Freddy to hold, small enough for him hold but too big to cause a choking hazard even when he mouths them. (Which is a pretty good thing since he's sitting here right now pretending to eat the apples). Although Freddy finds it easy to push the quad bike along the floor, he does find the way the trailer is becomes disconnected so easily a little frustrating, and the bike does scoot along a bit quicker than Freddy can crawl.
Freddy likes to lift the straw pile off of the trailer and bang it about, and he takes the crate of apples off the back so that he can pretend to eat them. Apparently they taste "Mmmmm", and the bike driver quite likes them too. One real problem Freddy has, is trying to get the man to stay in the quad bike, the peg system really isn't a good idea as very young children just don't have the dexterity to push the characters into place. To be honest, even I struggle and if there was one thing I really would change about this set, it's that. The animals are also a good size for Freddy to hold, and Freddy does really love them, even trying to sneak them into bed with him. The sheep is also very recognisable as a sheep, we live in the country and there are sheep in a field next to the train station, is they are animals that Freddy is familiar with. Oh and did you know that sheep don't say Baa? It took me a while to work out what he was doing, but Freddy was sitting talking to the sheep saying "Maaaa", which was rather clever of him.
All in all, Freddy has a surprising fondness for this little set and will play with it independently for a good quarter to half hour at a time. The pieces have held up well to his somewhat enthusiastic play and chewing, he gets quite upset when they get put away and he even tries to take the pieces to bed with him. He also plays with this set in conjunction with his other Happyland pieces, especially the train set and I'm sure that this will be an invaluable add-on to the farm when he receives it for his birthday next month. The set is also played with by visiting children, aged up to about three, and when they play with it, I can see that the set is going to get a lot more use over the next couple of years. With these children making up little stories where they feed the animals and take them for rides in the trailer.
==Learning Is Fun==
As with all the Happyland sets, the Quad bike set will encourage your child to develop the imagination and understanding of the world around them. At eleven months, Freddy's imagination and role play is only just emerging, and yet he does still show those skills with this set, albeit in a very basic way. He'll pretend to eat the apples, or pretend that the man is eating them, and he'll talk to the sheep. As the animals in this set are familiar to him, he does already know what noise sheep make, but if he hadn't then this little set would have been a great way to introduce that. As he gets older, he'll learn even more about the animals as we talk about and play with them, for example we'll be taking the sheep to be sheared. Again in common with all the Happyland range, by playing with your child, this set will also help them improve their conversational skills, as first you and then they keep up a running commentary.
As for the recommended age range, I do feel that the ELC are being overly cautious with the eighteen month minimum. Although a younger child will not necessarily get the most from the set, but they will still enjoy playing with it and their emerging skills will be encouraged by it. Hand-eye and fine motor coordination is encouraged, as the child pushes the quad bike, puts the man in and out of the bike and the animals in the trailer, and gross motor skills encouraged as they chase the bike along the floor. Personally I would say that this set is suitable for toddlers of about nine months and over up to about the age of three. The whole set is so well made and the lack of small pieces, means that I have no worries about allowing Freddy to play with this, both on his own and with Mummy or Daddy.
It's really hard to make a recommendation about this set, I do think it's slightly over-priced for what you get. But, it does still have quite a lot of play value, is well made and Freddy loves it. So, while I'm giving this four stars out of five, I would really suggest that you either wait until you can get it free with the farm, or ask for it as a gift. Because it is a really nice set and a worthy addition to any child's Happyland collection, it's just that £10 price tag that sticks in my throat.