“ Brand: Early Learning Centre / Type: Garage and car set / Age: 18 months + / Type: Playsets „
I bought this originally as it was on offer. The recommended age was 18months + and my daughter was around this age when I bought it. She was car mad at the time.
Happyland is a brand which I believe is exclusive to ELC and is also sold in some Mothercare stores.
It was easy to remove from the packaging which makes a nice change to childrens toys, and it doesn't require batteries. The garage is sturdy, and has been played with alot. With the actual garage building itself, the door opens and the back of the building has been left open so the cars can be driven in and out, there is also a petrol pump which has a spinning guage. The set came with a red sports car, a blue pick up style car with a tow hook and two figures, the mechanic and the driver. The tow truck has been the favourite here, all sorts of vehicles have been towed along using this!
I think this set appeals to a wide range of children, younger children have been interested and even a six year old was playing along quite happily repairing the car!
I would recommend playset to other people, in my opinion it is hardwearing and sturdy and in this case has lasted well and remained in good condition to enable other families to enjoy it.
Ok, so at 10 months, Freddy is well below the recommended minimum age for this garage. But when I saw this advertised at half price, I really couldn't resist seeing as how fascinated Freddy is with cars. Although the actual recommended minimum age is eighteen months, all the Happyland toys are extraordinarily well made with nothing that your baby/toddler can choke on. Although we've only had this garage for a short while, my older children owned quite a few Happyland sets, all of which lasted through many, many years of play before being passed on. So I was perfectly happy to spend the £10 on this set knowing that while he might not be getting the most from it now, but it will easily survive the next few years worth of play.
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 sets to suit every pocket.
I would put the garage about mid-way in the Happyland range, it's not the biggest or most expensive, but not the smallest either. Within the set you get the actual garage, two cars and two people, so there's plenty of scope for your car mad child to have fun.
The garage itself is a fairly sturdy building set on a base of grass surrounded by little flowers. With the base measuring 25cm by 14cm, the garage doesn't really take up a lot of space and it actually fits quite nicely on Freddy's highchair tray. The garage's structure is very solid, although I haven't trodden on it myself, a little visitor did and it survived admirably. There is a single door (that is a little stiff to open) to the repair bay and the back is open allowing your child to reach from either side to fix the cars. There is also a petrol pump complete with spinning gauge, although the nozzle can't be removed. The garage is nicely decorated in bright yet almost pastel colours, and my only real gripe is that there are a number of stickers that are sure to catch a little someone's attention at some point.
Along with the garage the set also includes two vehicles and their drivers. No garage would be complete with a pick-up truck and mechanic and the Happyland garage is no exception. The pale blue pick-up truck is a good size for little hands to push (at 10cm in length) along the floor, and the free-wheeling wheels mean that it races across the floor even over carpet. The 7cm tall moustachioed mechanic is made from a single piece of rubberised plastic and is skilled at using the pick-up trucks hook to tow the supplied sports car when it breaks down. Even though his car has broken down, the sports car driver looks very dapper in his rather old-fashioned helmet and scarf.
The Mechanic At Work
Now, before I go any further, I'm going to give you an example of just how much Freddy loves this garage. Although he has excellent fine motor skills, Freddy has been slow to sit unaided, but the very first time he was given this garage he sat and played with it for a good half hour, and that was the first time that he sat without support. So, I can safely say that this garage is a massive hit with the little man.
The garage itself was very easy to set up, it really was just a case of taking everything out of the box and then removing all the parts from little plastic bags. Unlike some of the Happyland sets, there are no electronic parts and so need to install batteries or remove tabs. So that's a star for the ELC, because if this had been given as a gift then Freddy could have started playing with it almost immediately.
As soon as Freddy saw the garage he made his way over to it to start exploring. The garage is pretty light and Freddy has no trouble picking it up, which could been seen as either an advantage or disadvantage depending on your viewpoint. It's an advantage in so far as it's easy for Freddy to move around meaning he doesn't get frustrated, but still there are a few heart-stopping moments where he's lifted it and I've thought he was going to hit himself in the face.
Although he tries very hard, Freddy can't actually manage to open the door as it is quite stiff. I don't know if the ELC have changed the design recently though, because I do remember that the Happyland doors used to be far less firmly attached and were prone to falling off. I generally open the door for him and even though the garage has been dropped on a couple occasions onto the open door, so far so good and the door has remained firmly in place.
Although, being only 10 months old, Freddy's imaginative play is really not developed yet, he still loves playing with the garage and cars in various ways. He loves to spin the gauge on the petrol pump, which actually takes quite good hand-eye control. He also enjoys driving the car and truck in and out of the garage, putting the people in them and simply pushing them in front of him while they "brrrrrum". Freddy has plenty of fun playing with this set on his own, but he has even more fun when Mummy or Daddy joins in. Then he can chase after the cars while Mummy or Daddy pushes them.
As proved by when friends visit with their older children as Freddy gets older the way he plays with this, while not exactly change, will evolve. As his imagination develops then this will make a nice little prop in stories and already this set has been played with by children from ten months (Freddy) up to about four years. In the last few weeks the sports car has run out of petrol several times, needed tyres changing and had it's engine go bang while in the middle of a race. But it's as good as new now because the mechanic is fantastic at fixing cars.
Coming from the ELC playing with this is not only fun, but will also help your child develop new skills, although it is a little limited in what it will help your child learn. As with all the Happyland sets, this is great for helping your child learn about the world around them along with encouraging them to use their budding imaginations. At the moment Freddy's imagination is very limited (as in non-existent), but he's still learning a little about the world around him when playing with this, especially when I join in. He's certainly learnt that cars go "brrrrum" that's for sure. Your child's fine motor skills are also rewarded as they spin the gauge, open and shut the door, put the people into the cars and indeed push the cars. Even their gross motor skills are encourage as they push and chase after the cars.
Although the recommended minimum age for this set is 18months, it is extremely well made with no small pieces and in my opinion perfectly safe for younger children to play with. Nothing is small enough to be swallowed or choked on, Freddy has had a good go at chewing the people and I've certainly had no worries. I will say though, that a baby/toddler of Freddy's age won't get the most out of the set, but this is just so durable that it will still be going strong in a couple of years time. And by helping him play with the garage and keeping up my own running commentary, I am helping him learn the conversational skills that will help him express himself as his imagination develops. (Remember that babies and young toddlers understand far more than they can say and simply soak up experiences like a sponge).
As for the upper age limit, well the ELC doesn't actually suggest an upper limit, although from experience I would say that once a child gets to about five they do start to lose interest. That's not to say that they won't play with them after this age though, because I regularly used to catch my ten year old having a sneaky play.
This is a lovely little garage set that is currently available for a very reasonable price, although I must say that since purchasing this it has disappeared from the ELC website, but is still available in my (not so) local store. The set is extremely well made, and a must for any car mad child, even those younger than the recommended minimum age. I certainly don't regret buying this and giving it to ten month old Freddy, after all it was the toy that held his attention long enough for him to sit unaided for the first time. If he was able to say the words, I'm sure Freddy would give this ten stars out of five, because it's the first toy he makes a bee-line for in the morning. But as it's me giving out the stars, I'll have to give the more sensible five stars out of five and recommend it for any toddler/older baby who loves cars.