Happyland is a range of toys exclusive to Early Learning Centre and I can honestly say that buying the complete village set has never made my daughter so happy! I bought this set as part if my daughters christmas when she was 19 months - she is 4 now and the toys still give her hours of enjoyment and me hours of peace lol! At first I bought her the village set for £59, my husband thought this was a but expensive for plastic people and little houses but I think it was worth every penny! The toys are over 2 years old and still in great condition and they go everywhere with my girl! I love the fact that there is so much in the range to choose from - there is the village, the funfair, construction, vets, hospital, rockets, garages, cars, animals etc. The list goes on and on! You can either buy specific sets or little people to add to the collection! It's reasonably priced and you can pick up a set for £4.99. It does say from 18 months but I do think it's suited to slightly older but just by a few months! I would recommend these toys to anyone for their kids!!!
What is HappyLand?
HappyLand is a range of plastic toys that is exclusive to the Early Learning Centre. There are many different items available from houses and shops, to stranger items such as rockets and dinosaurs! It's a great range to help young ones develop their imaginations. Most items are suitable from 18 months.
We bought this set for half price (£30) in Early Learning Centre before Christmas which we thought was a deal not to be missed and certainly made buying our daughter the set for Christmas a lot easier on the wallet! Having just taken a look on the website, it's half price again, along with lots of other HappyLand items.
The set includes the HappyLand cottage, greengrocers, and bakery, as well as a phonebox, three vehicles, nine characters including the Barley family (my favourite character is Grandpa Bonnet who for unknown reasons has a bird perched on his head) and a dog and cat. The cottage alone costs £30 and, according to the ELC website it would cost over £120 to buy all these bits together. So I was frankly delighted to pick the whole lot up for £30!
The whole lot came in a big box, that we have kept to put everything back in after we play. There are lots of batteries required as each building requires some - however many of these were included so we only had to pop two AA batteries into the house to make it work.
All the buildings and characters are made of chunky, durable plastic and are perfect for small hands to hold and play with. Everything is, as you would expect, brightly coloured, and the set - as with all HappyLand items - is suitable for both boys and girls.
Playing happy families
The house is definitely the main selling point of this set. Downstairs is an open plan living room and kitchen. When a character sits on the sofa the TV plays a tune and a light flashes - I was quite impressed with this at first but needless to say it is now becoming quite annoying and it is very loud! There is also a little phone that rings when pressed, a hob that sizzles and a doorbell 'outside' the front door (that unfortunately sounds uncannily like our doorbell so naturally causes much confusion). Upstairs is an open plan bathroom and bedroom - the bedroom has one double-bed and two bunk beds. Sleeping arrangements are interesting in the HappyLand house, and Mr Bun the Baker has ended up in bed with both Mr and Mrs Barley at various times. But we are an open-minded household so we let the consenting adults carry on as they choose!
Of the whole set, my daughter has the most fun with the bathroom and bedroom, ensuring the characters have a bath, use the toilet, wash their hands and brush their teeth before hopping into bed with one another. The downstairs does not get so much use and I wonder if this is because it is a little harder to access - the top floor has the benefit of only half a roof so it is much easier to get the characters in and out and boss them around as my daughter so enjoys doing, while the ground floor has the other floor above it, so it's not so easy to get little hands in and out. The kitchen area hardly gets a look in and I just think it's a bit too inaccesible.
Fancy a cuppa Mr Barley?
The little bakery is very cute - the shop is quite small and behind the counter are a till that makes a satisfying kerching sound, and another phone that also rings. Upstairs is a small cafe with teapots and cups illustrated on one of the walls - the characters can have an al fresco cuppa here. There is an umbrella which unfortunately doesn't fit properly into its little holder on the cafe balcony (but we have found another home for this) and also a little plastic rack of cakes which sit in the baker's window. As this is quite a small shop I think this has limited playability and although my daughter likes making the characters go upstairs for a cup of tea, I think as a standalone item this may lose its appeal rapidly.
The greengrocers is a very simple stall design, with three plastic racks of fruit and veg that can be removed, and there is space for one in the back of one of the vehicles. All three vehicles in the set have only one seat, so car-sharing is not an option in HappyLand. It is nice to have three vehicles and this is another aspect of the set that my daughter enjoys playing with, and can be used independently of the buildings. Finally the phonebox is an old-fashioned London style box (devoid of the usual calling cards and litter, I'm glad to say) and is the third thing in the set that has a button that makes a phone sound! Whoever designed this set clearly had a thing for phones ringing. My daughter, meanwhile, picks the whole box up and talks into it as if it was a mobile phone - a sign of the times if I ever I saw one.
What's the verdict?
Overall I think this is a lovely set and my daughter has played with it a lot since Christmas. She really enjoys interacting with all the characters and moving them about the house, in the vehicles and in the bakers, and it definitely helps promote interactive play. It is one of those toys where you feel like you are watching a child develop as they play with it. Of all her toys, this is one of the ones that my little girl most asks to play with, and we are getting it out all the time. I think it's been great for her language development as well, as she really enjoys chatting away to the characters and telling them what to do and where to go, and she has learnt a lot of the names of different rooms around the house and items inside the different buildings. And, if I am honest, I quite enjoy playing with it too! There are plenty of characters which is great and it's good that you don't need to buy more to make this set playable - if anything there are probably more characters than the set really warrants!
The house is definitely the best feature of the set, and I think the other elements wouldn't function so well on their own. So if you wanted to start your HappyLand collection with just one building, I would definitely recommend the house as a good starting point.
As a set, I think this is great and there is enough here to keep us going - I don't feel any need to add any more buildings for the time being. At full price, it is quite an expense but it is very durable and will - I hope - keep my daughter entertained for a few good years! At half price it was an utter bargain.
There are loads of elements to add to HappyLand which means it's great to build on, and perfect if you have friends and relatives who never know what to buy for your child. The only other item I quite fancy at the moment is the red bus! The individual bits and pieces can be a bit pricey, so do think carefully about which buildings will offer you best value for money (look out for extra vehicles and characters) and your child may get the most use out of!
If you like the sound of this, snap it up now while it's still half price!!!
Welcome to Happyland - A Village in Miniature
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to take a minute to introduce you to Happytown's mayor before we begin the tour. Although slightly younger than most mayors, year old Freddy loves taking charge of Happyland and making sure that village life runs smoothly. He can often be seen ensuring that the residents are happy, the deliveries go out on time and the phone box is working correctly.
It only seems yesterday that Happyland Village came into being, with the builders starting work on the night before the mayor's first birthday. Completely pre-fabricated out of tough, durable plastic, it took the builders a matter of mere minutes to construct the village, with the longest job being installing the electrics in the cottage (in the form or 2AA batteries). Then all that was needed was for the safety inspectors to give everything a check over and the village was ready for everyone to move in. I will say that the safety inspectors gave the whole village a clean bill of health, everything is extremely well made, with no sharp edges, pieces that can be choked on or electrics that can be accessed by little hands.
And so onto the tour, starting with the cottage which is now the happy home of the Barley family. Although small, the cottage is the perfect size for the mayor to play with and packed full of detail and fun sounds. This lovely little cottage is truly open plan, with it's open back allowing easy access to all the rooms, let's ring the front door bell and see if anyone is at home. 'Ding Dong', isn't that a loud door bell, and look here comes Mrs Barley and she has a couple of spare minutes to show us round even though she was about to jump into the car to go to the market. Be careful with the door though, it does tend to come off it's hinges a little too easily, which the mayor thinks is wonderful as he does like removing door, but the builders do get a little fed up with replacing it every evening.
Thank goodness Mrs Barley got the twins to help her tidy up this morning, haven't Poppy and Charlie done a good job, the kitchen/living area looks really smart. What's that the phone's ringing, it must be Mr Barley calling to say he's going to be late home from the school where he teaches geography. I do wish that they'd choose a new ringtone for their phone though, because it sounds just like mine and I keep thinking someone is calling me. Don't you just love all of the little fixtures and fittings in here, with the books and flowers on the dresser and TV and hi-fi on the stand. I wonder if there's anything good on TV, if someone would just sit in the armchair we'll soon find out. Ah, well it's not my cup of tea but I'm sure Grandpa enjoys watching the flashing lights and listening to the music.
Let's move on to the kitchen area and as you can see, the Barleys are blessed with a very posh built-in hob, that makes fantastic sizzling noises as dinner is cooked. I must say that this kitchen is a lot tidier than mine, the sink and draining board are completely clear and the pans and utensils are hanging neatly on the wall. Don't you just love the details in this open plan area? From the matching curtains to the clock on the wall, the Barleys have really turned a house into a home.
Oh dear, Mrs Barley really is starting to look as if she wants us to go, so let's take a quick peek upstairs and how cosy does it look up here? I believe that an estate agent would call this compact, there's only the one bedroom for the whole family. But there are plenty of beds, with a double bed for Mr and Mrs Barley and a set of bunk beds for the twins. They've even managed to cram a bedside cabinet and computer in, talk about making the most of the available space. Moving on to the bathroom and there is the bath, sink and toilet, although the toilet isn't flushing at the moment no matter how hard the mayor tries to make it work.
Now we really must let Mrs Barley get on with her shopping, but before we move on, please feel free to take photos of the beautiful exterior. Those delightful window boxes and climbing plants really are almost like something off of a chocolate box. Oh look, Mrs Barley is waving to us as she goes past in her snazzy orange one seater, oops she really needs to slow down a little that car does scoot along quite fast. Ah, there's two members of the family that we haven't met yet, the dog, 'woof woof' and cat, 'meow'.
Ok, time to move on and there's Petunia delivering groceries in her van, isn't it clever the way the trays of vegetables fit into the back of the van, but I wonder who she's left watching her stall. Ah yes I remember, Grandpa has been helping her out for the last few weeks. Doesn't Grandpa look like an eccentric soul, with that bird on his head? Secretly the mayor and I think he looks like Granddad Tumble from something special, but we won't tell him that, will we? The greengrocer's stall is the smallest building in the village, little more than a market stall really, but there's still lots of detail. The three trays of fruit and vegetables look extremely yummy, what shall I buy today, bananas or sweet corn? That's if I can catch Grandpa's attention, he is rather busy flirting with Grandma Bonnet.
I don't know about you but I'm starting to get a bit tired now, I really could do with a sit down and cream tea, so let's move on to the bakery and tea rooms. Doesn't that display of cakes in the window look good enough to eat, my mouth is really starting to water now so let's go in. Mr Bun the baker has gone out on a delivery, but as soon as we step on the doormat and the bell rings, I'm sure that Delia will welcome us and show us to the roof patio where we can take a well earned rest under the sun shade. I must say I love the crockery in the welsh dresser, it looks so oldie-worldie. Seems like it's a bit of a busy day for the bakery, the phone and till have barely stopped ringing since we got here. Looks like Mr Bun is going to have to make lots more deliveries in his van.
Thank you so much for visiting Happyland Village, I hope you've had a good day and I'll now leave you to enjoy your tea and buns in peace. Please don't forget to pick up an information leaflet before you go and please come again.
==Everything You Wanted To Know About The Happyland Ready-To-Play Village, But Were Afraid To Ask==
Where can I get my own Happyland Village?
As with all Happyland toys, the Ready-To-Play village is available from the ELC, either online, in store or from their sister company Mothercare. The standard price is £60, but it is regularly on offer at half price.
Is it easy to set up?
This is one of the easiest Happyland sets to set up, there are no plastic ties but a pair of AA batteries does need to be installed in the cottage.
Is it safe/durable?
As with all Happyland toys, the village is extremely safe and durable. Each of the buildings is made of tough plastic, the cars are also tough, while the characters and animals are made of a rubberised material. None of the pieces are small enough to cause a choking hazard and even when chewed on the detail on the characters doesn't flake off. The only possible problems are that some stickers are used as decorations and the doors come off very easily.
Does it take up a lot of space?
Unfortunately yes, the whole set will take up quite a lot of toy box space. The cottage on it's own measures, 28cm by 14cm and is 30cm high. Personally, we always put this back in the box it came in after each play.
What will my child learn?
Role play and conversational skills are encouraged as the child plays with the different pieces and makes them interact with each other. Fine motor skills are also encouraged as are observation and exploration as the child discovers where he needs to press to get the set to make noises. As there are so many pieces, sharing and cooperation are also encouraged. Even gross motor skills are rewarded as the three vehicles are pushed along.
What age range is it suitable for?
Although the recommended age for this set is eighteen months to four years, as with all the Happyland toys, I would say that the lower limit is rather over-cautious. Freddy has been playing with Happyland toys since he was about ten months old and at a year he absolutely loves this set. Ok, he's not exactly getting the most out of the set, but he enjoys pressing buttons, pushing the vehicles and playing with the characters. And his imaginative skills have been steadily improving all the time.
Does the Mayor recommend the village?
I would definitely say yes, the mayor loves this village set, there's lots for him to explore and lots of different pieces. The mayor will happily spend half hour or more exploring all the different buildings. Other visiting children also enjoy playing with this set, with the older ones making up some quite complex stories.
Does the Mayor's Mummy recommend the village?
Too right, this is a brilliant set, either as a first sojourn into the world of Happyland or as a major add-on. The amount of thought and level of detail that have gone into this set are fantastic. I also love that unlike most doll's houses, this is distinctly unisex. As to the price, while it probably is worth the full retail price of £60, I would recommend waiting until it is in the half price sale, when it becomes fantastic value for money.