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I bought this magnetic play centre from Early Learning Centre for my son about three months ago as he was showing a big interest in numbers and I wanted to encourage this. It costs £20 at full price but it was on promotion at the time for £15 which I thought was a good price to pay. The toy is for ages 3 plus but I felt that my son was more than able to have this at aged 2 as he is past putting things in his mouth now and I would mostly be playing this with him at first anyway.
The set is designed as a 'portable desk' and is available in two colours - pink or blue. I bought the blue set which has a blue lid and a red base. It is a plastic case that has a carry handle and opens up to reveal a tray at the bottom and a work board at the top - it opens at an angle of 90 degrees as shown in the picture above to make a workstation. The top board is a blue colour and is magnetic. In the tray below, you store the magnetic numbers and letters that you are provided with - 10 magnetic numbers, 40 upper case letters, 40 lower case letters and 7 signs (plus, minus, multiplication, divide & equals). The numbers and letters are various bright colours. Under the plastic tray, which has three dividing parts and can be lifted out, you can store paper (which you are provided with). You are also provided with a small pack of chalk and eraser as the board can be used for this purpose too.
My son was instantly intrigued by this toy and immediately sought out the numbers. The numbers and letters do get muddled even if you try to store them in separate compartments - once the case is lifted they all move about. Therefore, we need to sort these out at the start of every play session. He enjoys the fact that the numbers are magnetic and likes to place them in order along the board. This has obviously helped with number recognition and counting skills. He is a little too young to worry about the signs yet but once he gets into maths, these will be helpful with simple sums. He is also beginning to take an interest in the letters and we use them to spell his name together and simple words. This is really helping to capture his interest in language and spelling and promote reading skills in a fun way. Mostly though, he just enjoys making patterns with the magnets on the board and we talk about the colours of the letters etc. The chalk is also fun for him and rubs off from the board easily without making much mess. The magnetic board is good and the magnets strong so the numbers and letters remain in place on the board rather than sliding about.
Overall, this is a good quality toy with educational benefits as well as the fun factor. If I had one criticism it would be that the internal tray is not deep of strong enough - letters do not remain in compartments well and it does feel a little flimsy. However, for the £15 paid I think this is good value and a toy that will last my son several years and support his learning.
My little girl received this last year for Christmas and we have just started to play with it now but I think the timing is really good as she is really starting to recognise her alphabet and is picking out different letters and naming them so this toy is really helping with that.
The Early Learning Centre magnetic play centre is basically a big plastic easel that folds down and looks like a briefcase that you can carry around. The ELC call it a portable desk and I suppose that is a good way of describing it too.
On the bottom of the desk are four black stoppers/feet which stop it from slipping around when you are using it. These work really well. we often use this desk on a table in our kitchen and the desk doesn't move around meaning my little girl is free to draw and design with no interruptions. There is a yellow handle at the top of the desk when it is all closed up and that pulls out, enabling my little girl to carry this set around and take it where she wants which she does. There are pink clips on the front that release the top. this is the magnetic chalk board and this lifts out of the desk completely so you can take just the magnetic top off and then you can open the bottom part of the tray and stand the board up.
The best part for us are the letters inside. These are plastic and like all the other letters that you can get from The Early Learning Centre. They have a small magnet on the back and are made up of lots of different colours. There are 40 upper case letters, 40 lower case letters and 7 signs, things like plus, minus, divide etc. There are also 10 magnetic numbers. The letters and number stick perfectly to the board and don't fall off and it's fun to spell out names and make words etc.
The beauty of this board is that it's a chalk board too and included in this set you also get some sticks of chalk too. The chalk is fairly thin but perfect for little fingers. The chalk works well, not as well as a traditional blackboard but good enough for young kids. There is also a special eraser so you can rub out your creations and start again.
My daughter is a big fan of playing with letters in the bath, so she was really pleased to receive this magnetic play centre for Christmas. As our fridge and freezer is built into the kitchen units, we are short of magnetic space for this type of activity in the kitchen.
The magnetic activity centre is from the Early Learning Centre and includes enough letters and number to keep children entertained for ages.
It comes in quite a large carry handle case, which I immediately thought was quite heavy for my daughter to carry, but she does manage it. As it's suitable for three years and up, I have realised that as she gets bigger, this toy will become easier to transport.
The case is available in either blue or pink. We have the blue version, and don't find it all all masculine or aimed at a boy, so either colour will be fine.
It's designed in a way that you can remove the cover and then you have the choice to use it as a magnetic board for the letters included, or as a chalk board. We haven't actually told our daughter the other side is a chalk board yet, as she has a chalk area on her easel and don't see the need for two in the house whilst she is so young.
The tray inside is set out neatly into compartments. We find the letters and numbers don't ever go back sectioned off, but it's a start. Included are 10 numbers, 40 upper case, and 40 lower case letters, 7 shapes, chalk and papers (which is hidden in the hinge at the back).
I like the bright colours on the whole design, as well as the fact that the Early Learning Centre has managed to hide extra gems for the parents to find as they open the toy for the first time. Every piece of the case has been used for something, right down to the rubber feet to stop the case sliding when you are using it as a desk space.
As my daughter is using this at an early age, it really is a toy for her rather than a learning aid, but there is enough space on the magnetic board area to be able to spell out words as the children progress. I have watched my six year old niece play with this and use it for spelling practice, so it has a long life span which is always a plus when buying new toys.
I haven't ever been concerned about the durability of the case as a whole, mainly because the second day my daughter got it she managed to drop it. It stayed intact, and hasn't shown any signs of a crack or breakage since Christmas.
I researched the price and was surprised to find that this only costs £13 (previously £18) from the Early Learning Centre. I think this is a bargain price for what is included, and considering how long it will last the child, it's worth every penny to us.
My daughter got this for her second birthday and is now coming up to five and still uses it regularly. She was quite advanced with number and letter recognition so i thought this was ideal for her. Its perfect for spelling out basic words and even now she practices her school spellings on it. You get plenty of letters and numbers and you can buy more seperatley if any are lost. The magnetic letter board doubles up as a chalk board and there is also a lift out tray with a pad of drawing paper underneath. Ther is also a storage tube in the case which my daughter uses for storing her rolled up pictures in along with her pens. When not in use the playcentre simply closes up neatly like a breifcase and has a useful carry handle. Its a very multifunctional toy which is perfect for children who are just getting to grips with letters and numbers. It is actually only 13 pounds at the moment which is a great price considering everything you get included and how long this toy will last.
Talk about longevity, I bought this magnetic playcentre for my son 10 years ago and both his brother and sister have had just as much fun. So have numerous foster children of 3+. (its great for the older one's to play "teachers")
It is one of those timeless products made from high quality plastic making it a durable play thing. I specifically bought it because it was compact and the items are containable within the desk. My first born loved it, he actually wanted a desk but we did not have the space so we settled on this. It's multifunctional as a portable lap desk, a chalkbaord, a magnetic board and has magnetic letters and numbers for learning. All as you would expect in appealing child friendly colours.
Another plus of ELC Magnetic Playcentre is that children are able to open and replace items without adult assistance - this I felt was important. There are two "clips" at the front and my young one's were able to manage them quickly. Also included in the unit is a chalk eraser, chalk, paper storage tube - which was a surprise for me. There are two layers for storage of the letters and numbers. It also has a handle so my children could play on the go. We have taken it camping many times, its great for using in the car and keeps the little one's easily occupied.
Finally storage, always a problem with awkwardly shaped toys, but this fits on the bookshelf. It sticks out but at least its storage is manageable. As for long lasting the playcentre is still a favourite with loads of life left in it, colours are still strong, chalk and eraser have been lost over the years but my children still use it.
I like to have a browse around the Early learning Centre from time to time, although I don't often find myself buying much from there anymore as they seem quite expensive compared to other shops and on-line stores, although they do offer a good range of educational toys that are well made. I put a lot of thought into toy purchases for my son as there are so many toys on the market and it can become quite expensive and I like toys that are built to last and that grow with my child.
On my last visit to the Early Learning Centre I was looking for creative toys and art and craft supplies for my son, when I came across the 'Playcentre' this looked great as it is a multi function toy that I imagined my son would love. It was reasonably priced at £18, which I thought was good value for money. It is suitable for children age 3 and up, which I would say is about right.
The Playcentre comes complete with:
* Magnetic play centre case
* 40 Upper case letters
* 40 Lower case letters
* 10 Numbers
* 7 Signs
* Box of 3 chalks
* White drawing paper
* Storage tube
So you are getting everything you need to provide hours of fun with many educational aspects. The play centre is a portable desk which looks a bit like a brief case, it has a double sided lid, one side is magnetic and the reverse side is a chalk board. There is a tube for storing paper or pictures in which slides out from the hinge. The desk comes complete with a retractable carry handle making it easy to carry about, and the base of the desk has rubber feet so it can be used on any surface so it won't slide about. The removable board is fairly easy to take off and turn over and my 24 month old son is capable of doing so without any assistance. The entire lid can be opened by two sliding locks, inside is a plastic tray with four dividing sections for the magnetic numbers and letters and there is also a box of three chalks and an erasure for the chalk board. Underneath the removable tray there is a small pad of A4 paper which my son discovered. So it is easy to put everything away and keep it all neat and tidy when it is not in use. The desk itself is well made and it has no sharp corners or parts which will break off.
The magnetic letters are of a high quality and if you need any extra letters or should your little ones lose any the Early Learning Centre sell jars of letters and numbers which are the same. The desk itself is fairly robust however the magnetic lid is a bit on the flimsy side and it has already suffered a slight dent. The removable tray didn't last for long as this is similar to what you would find in food packaging only a little thicker. This soon became crumpled and battered from my son taking it in and out and from leaning on it. I have since got rid of the tray as it isn't too important, although it was good for keeping the magnets separated into their groups and also it was good for 'sorting games' it does let it down a bit as it just needed to be a little more robust. The chalk board is light blue and when drawn on it only leaves fine marks. The only other complaint I have was that the eraser was cheaply made and it looked tacky, the part which you hold it by is a thin plastic rectangle with a foam sponge glued to it. This didn't feel nice to use and it didn't last long at all, I now just use a soft cloth to wipe the chalk from the board.
Although my son is a little bit too young for this as it has small parts, it is a toy we play with together and if he is to play with it alone I sit next to him to supervise him. He will happily sit and 'sort' out the letters and numbers by pairing them together, he also likes to take them in and out of the case. He is too young to understand what the letters are at the moment but you can never be too young to learn. I will place all of the letters next to me and pass them one by one to my son while I read the letter to him and then he will place it onto the magnetic board, he will say some of the letters when I tell him what they are and we do the same with the numbers. He enjoys sticking them onto the board and taking them back off again, this will keep him entertained for quite a while. My son hadn't used chalks before and I did wonder how messy it would get, I handed my son a chalk from the box and showed him where to draw and he happily scribbled circles onto the board. The chalk makes very little mess and no 'dust' was left on my sons clothes, the downside to this though is that the pictures that are created are very faint against the light blue board. It easily wipes clean so my son can draw as many pictures as he likes.
I didn't realise it came with a pad of paper, or that the tray could be removed, it wasn't until my son lifted it out that we discovered the small pad of paper. You would expect there to be a box of wax crayons or pencils to use but there isn't, however I'm sure all households with toddlers must have plenty of crayons. The paper didn't last long as there were probably only 20 sheets provided. My son also enjoys flipping over the lid and placing it on the opposite side and clicking it back in place, it is fairly easy for him to take it off and slot it back in again. My son will happily carry it around the room by the handle until he has found somewhere to sit and play, he is a bit heavy handed as most children of this age are and he has stood on it a few times and dropped it, it hasn't broken or cracked at all, it has only suffered a couple of dents. However it is designed for 3 year olds, who will respect their toys a bit more. My son has had many hours of play out of it already, and he will get much more use out of it as he grows. It will be a great teaching aid and it is a toy that will last him for years to come.
This toy is great fun for preschool children and it will benefit them in many ways, it will help to develop letter and number recognition, along with early reading skills as your child will enjoy creating words and the fun element will encourage them to want to learn more. This will also help your child to learn how to spell and form small sentences, which will in turn prompt early reading skills. Along with this you can use the numbers to teach your child to count, and in time you can use the numbers for basic math solving problems. Similarly you can use the letters to teach your child the alphabet, and of course you can use all the pieces for counting, pairing and sorting games. All of these skills will also improve concentration skills all whilst your little one is having fun.
This is a great versatile toy which can be used anywhere in the home as it is portable and it can be taken out on trips, it provides and accessible place for your child to draw and get creative while they explore art. It will inspire creativity as your child will be able to express themselves in many different ways and will boost a child's self confidence as they get a feeling of accomplishment from the many activities that this play centre provides.
The play centre is great value for money and it is a great idea, it is more suited to a child of 3 and up as it isn't robust enough for younger children, the small parts pose a choking hazard so supervision is needed for younger children.
Making learning fun!
My daughter was bought the ELC Magnetic Playcentre for her fourth birthday. The playcentre was bought by my Mother but as I was also ordering things from ELC and had a Birthday Club Voucher for 20% off we clubbed together to ensure we got free postage!
I think when it was bought this playcentre was £15 but we obviously got a 20% discount on that. I have checked the price today and it is now £17 (Dec 2008).
The desk comes in a big sealed box without any bits of bendy wire or screws holding it in place. When closed the playcentre looks like a briefcase and has a retractable handle to make it easily portable. There is a long blue tube inside the hinge part of the playcentre and this opens so you can store paper, pens or your pictures inside. The playcentre is quite tricky to open as the top has to be pulled up but there isn't anywhere that is easy to get a grip on and the closure is quite secure. On the underside of the lid there is a section that is your blackboard for using chalks and this part is also the magnetic part. On the base there is a tray that you can use to store all your letters and numbers and this tray can be lifted out for more storage for paper underneath. With the Magnetic Playcentre you receive some chalk and a blackboard rubber, some magnetic numbers and letters and some magnetic symbols such as + - and =. Everything can be stored away inside the case when it's time to tidy up and the whole clicks shut. When the lid is shut the centre blackboard section of the lid can be lifted out by releasing two clips.
My Daughter has never been very excited by the board and apart from some initial interest this playcentre has slowly made it's sorry way to the bottom of the toy box.
I had a playcentre like this when I was a child and I really loved mine. I had hoped that my daughter would like hers but she is just not interested. She has recently started school and is now learning to read so maybe now is a good time to dig the playcentre back out and re-introduce it.
The playcentre is made of hard plastic and although we haven't had any breakage's so far I think it is a bit flimsy. The lid is quite thin and as the centre piece comes out it isn't very robust. The hinge is big and sturdy and the inner tray is very solid but the rest is a bit disappointing quality wise. The letters and numbers are very hard plastic and have a small magnet on the back. The letters could also be used on any metal surface like the fridge or freezer for leaving messages or notes. The handle isn't very sturdy and I think it could easily be pulled out. The thing I dislike most about the playcentre is picking all the bits up at the end of the day. The letters get everywhere and as I have a one year old he does like to scatter them around!
I would recommend the desk to any child who is learning to read and write as I remember having a great time spelling out words on mine and I only hope I can generate some enthusiasm from my daughter. Also it would be a good thing to take away if you are travelling or visiting as it can all be packed away.
Portable desk with magnetic numbers and letters, chalk and eraser and handy storage tube for the letters and numbers. Ideal for spelling practice and lots more.