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Why this toy
This was a toy my son got for Christmas off his grandmother and it has proved a big hit in our house so I thought I would share our experiences with you.
What it is
This is a bright orange and yellow colourful plastic plane. The plane is designed to look like an old fashioned small plane with propellers on the front engines. The top of the plane has a carry handle for your toddler to hold it whilst it is flying either in the air or being pushed on the floor. At the back of the plane there is a door for the loading and unloading of the animals and a jeep that are included with the set. The front of the plane has a cockpit area that can hold two the play figures. The cockpit has a red raising and lowering window section. On the top of the plane there is also a button to press to hear plane noises. The set includes a jeep and driver and the plane has a driver that looks very much like an old fashioned pilot with goggles and scarf. The animals for the set are a monkey, giraffe, rhino, elephant and lion.
Since opening this on Christmas day it has turned into a firm favourite with our son. He already has the Early Learning Centre "fly and go jumbo" but this one is his favourite out of the two. I think the reason for this is that he enjoys loading the animals and jeep into the back. This is in comparison to the "fly and go jumbo" where he can only put the people in their seats, so this one seems to give more play opportunities.
He enjoys the loading and unloading process and by the end of the first day of playing with it had figured out how to open and close the door by pressing the button at the top. The cockpit area unfortunately as with a lot of toys is the most vulnerable area and we frequently have to reattach the window section as when he lifts it up he takes it to far and it comes off.
The handle section is useful and he does use it to carry the plane about. However even though he is a strong boy of 2 it is a bit heavy really for him to lift and it often bashes into him and the furniture as he walks. I think really given the toy is aimed at 18 months to 4 years the younger end of the age range would struggle to lift it especially when it is fully loaded up. The plastic that the plane is made of is very robust and has survived being dropped on several occasions as well as the bangs into the furniture with no chips or scarps to it.
The propellers spin wonderfully and this often captures my sons interest as he gets them spinning around either by pushing them or by him and myself blowing them imagining turbulence for the plane!
The animals are wonderfully chunky and all have a very cute appeal to them even the lion looks friendly. They are a good size for toddler hands to hold and manipulate. This is the central appeal for my son as he loves animals and will often combine using this toy with his Happyland zoo and take the various animals from both sets on a flight to the African savannah.
The noise from this toy is actually very pleasant really and sounds like an old fashioned plane from a black and white movie. In my opinion handily there is an off switch so it doesn't get knocked on in the toy box and drain the battery. The plane noise is the only noise this toy makes so children who are fans of noisy flashing toys will probably not be attracted to this toy.
The jeep that is included in the set is again lovely and sturdy and runs well along our carpet it is often used along side the Zoo set again for people to drive around the animals there as well as the ones in the safari set.
Learning and educational value
The main educational value of this toy is its encouragement to children to take part in imaginative play. It has given my son the opportunity to start to learn about both planes and animals. In time I hope it will help his understanding of the countries that these animals come from. We have tried to use it so far to help him learn his animal names and noise and about the fact that these animals are from far away places in the world. Though it is set up as a safari vet set the characters are not really vet looking in my opinion i.e. no stethoscope and really I think it should be just called a plane safari set. I think as he gets older and starts to understand more about sick animals and zoos he will start to interact with the toy in a more creative way. This I hope means we can take them from country to country for wildlife release programmes and play our own version of Born Free as he wont let me play that at the moment!
Given its weight I am also inclined to say it will encourage muscle development as they lug it around the place in the air.
Overall and recommendation
I would recommend this toy to most toddlers who love animals as it gives more opportunities for creative and imaginative play than just animals alone. It will also appeal to little boys and girls I think who love planes and trucks and pushing toys along. The plane is very sturdy and handles knocks and bumps very well. There is only one noise and no flashing lights so children who like those style of toys maybe disappointed. I am giving it only four stars due to the cockpit coming off and the lack of a vet style figure to help heal any sick animals on the savannah.
This toy is available from the Early Learning Centre website and shops for £35. It has been on discount before so I would keep and eye out for it coming on offer again the toy is aimed at children from 18 months to 4 years old.