“ Manufacturer: ELC / Type: Puzzle „
My two year old twin boys are spoilt for choice when it comes to toys. We have toy boxes full of toys mainly as I can't resist a bargain. During toy sales I find myself buying a "little something" for my boys. During the summer of 2011 we found we spent a lot more time indoors than planned because of cold weather and rain so I found myself buying a lot of puzzle type toys as a "little treat". One of these purchases included the HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle.
***HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle***
The HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle is a space themed wooden lift out puzzle from the ELC HappyLand range. The puzzle has 6 chunky wooden lift out pieces which are images of a space ship, astronauts and aliens.
ELC describe the puzzle to be great for children to match shapes, boost their fine motor skills and to help encourage conversation.
ELC state that the puzzle is suitable for children from 18 months old.
The HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle is available from ELC stores and online. The RRP for the puzzle is £8 which I do think is very expensive considering this is a very basic wooden puzzle. I purchased this in the summer of 2011 for my boys during a half-price sale for £4. I also recently bought this puzzle as a gift for another 2 year olds birthday party and the puzzle was reduced to £2.40 (Jan 2012). I think at this price this is excellent value.
Unlike many ELC toys the HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle does not have an abundance of package to battle with prior to playing with. The puzzle board is simply wrapped in clear cellophane which requires removing.
As soon as I unwrapped the puzzle I could feel it was made to the standard I have come to expect from ELC. The puzzle pieces are rounded as is the puzzle board and there are no rough sections or chances of getting splinters which I have found often happens with cheaper brands of wooden puzzles. The puzzle board is about 20cm high by around 30cm long and just under 1cm thick. There are six different shaped puzzles pieces which lift out and each of the pieces have a small yellow peg for a child to hold and lift the piece out. All of the six puzzle pieces are a different shape and are a part of the overall space picture. For example there is an alien piece, a spaceman piece, a rocket piece etc. Unlike many of the ELC lift out puzzles this is an actual puzzle scene rather than just a collection of puzzle shapes on a plain puzzle board background. I think this adds to the fun for a young child and makes it slightly more aimed at older toddlers rather than at the very young toddler.
My boys have been playing with lift out type puzzles from around 9 months old although only really grasped and started enjoying the puzzle concept from around 14-15 months old. My boys were almost 17 months when we first purchased this puzzle for them to play with and developmentally were probably average for their age of what they could do. This is just outside the suggested age range of 18 months plus however I do feel at 17 months the puzzle was slightly too complex for them despite them being very confident with other lift out puzzles. I feel the puzzle scene adds complexity as a child has more to look at and has to think a lot more about matching the puzzle shape to the correct slot and to match up the different images. At 17 months I could see my boys holding the pieces figuring out where they should go but I did feel they got bored and slightly frustrated when they couldn't match the shapes, especially as the black background and puzzle pieces do not make it as clear to where the pieces go compared with other puzzles.
By 19 month old I felt they were getting more enjoyment out of the puzzle and spent longer playing and figuring out where the pieces went but still did need a lot more guidance with this puzzle than others. At 2 years old I feel they are now really benefiting from the puzzle and this puzzle keeps them both occupied for a lot longer and they actually spend time sitting and studying this puzzle and the puzzle pieces. With the more basic lift out puzzles that are simply lift out shapes on a plain background once they have lifted the shapes in and out of the slots once at aged 2 they seem bored of these types of puzzles.
I do feel developmentally there are a lot of benefits to the HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle. There are the motor skill benefits of simply lifting the puzzle pieces out of the slots and then putting them back in again. There are also the problem solving skills of matching the image of the puzzle piece to the same image on the puzzle board in the correct puzzle piece slot. I also feel for speech development the puzzle encourages a child to talk and actually teaches different words. A lot of toys we own are farm themed or are of basic objects covered in most baby books whereas the space theme adds a different variety of words. For example my sons now can say moon, space ship, alien and rocket very clearly all words not in their baby books. I personally feel the HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle is suitable for children up to the age of 2 and a half to three years old. By three I feel that children will find the puzzle far too basic as it only has six different pieces to lift in and out.
Durability wise this is another well-made toy from ELC and after 7 months of regular play this toy looks as new. When you have two toddlers aged two playtime involves a lot of rough play and most of our toys get thrown, dropped or fought over on a regular basis. The puzzle board has been dropped and suffered no damage and te puzzle pieces have been chewed on without suffering lasting effects.
I do not think this is the best wooden lift out puzzle from the ELC range of these puzzles but at such a low price (especially at £2.40) I think it is a great puzzle to provide entertainment to a young child of around 18 months to 2 and a half. The puzzle is slightly more complex than the other ELC lift out puzzles which I feel can be a little too basic for children once they reach the age of 2. Like the majority of ELC toys the HappyLand Lift Out Space Puzzle is well made and durable and has educational and developmental benefits. The puzzle helps with a childs hand eye coordination and problem solving skills as they match the puzzle piece and shape to the image behind the puzzle piece.
I do feel the space theme is unisex and not too boyish but I probably feel more suitable for a little boy mainly because ELC seem to have a lot more girly themed HappyLand puzzles.
Good but not out of this world!
Twenty-one month old Freddy was a very lucky boy this Christmas, Santa left him lots of toys, both under the tree and in his stocking. Among the stocking fillers was this, the Happyland Space Lift Out Puzzle, that Santa had found in the ELC sale costing a very reasonable £4 (down from £8).
==Puzzle Me This - A Parent's View==
Billed as being suitable for children over the age of eighteen months this is a wooden lift-out puzzle, that is instead of the pieces locking together they fit into their respective holes in a board. This makes the puzzle far easier for younger children to master than the traditional inter-locking type. Wrapped in plastic, it's very easy to open the puzzle ready for play and while I do like that there is very little packaging to throw away, it would have been nice if it had come in a box that could have been used to store it in between plays to keep the pieces safe.
The puzzle board itself is a good size, measuring approximately 21cm by 30cm and almost a centimetre deep. The puzzle is very busy with a picture of a moonscape complete with aliens, space men, moon buggies, spacecraft, space station, night sky and stars. I wouldn't say that it is the brightest of pictures, but there's plenty of detail for a child to discover and the characters are instantly recognisable to a child that owns any of the space themed Happyland toys. What I particularly like about the picture is how well it is bonded to the surface of the board, with some cheaper puzzles the picture is little more than a piece of paper stuck to the board, but with this one it is printed on.
There are a total of six puzzle pieces that can be lifted out using the pegs that are attached to them. These pieces are various sizes and each features a different character or characters. There's an alien flying in his spaceship, another in his buggy, one sliding down a shoot, another standing by a space station, a little one with four legs and a final one standing next to a solitary spaceman. What's really nice about all these aliens is that they're not at all scary, in fact they are more funny than anything else, what with their three eyes on stalks. Each of the pieces fits securely into it's relative hole, but not so tight as to make them too difficult to replace and a really nice touch is that as each piece is removed it reveals an identical picture in the hole adding an extra visual clue.
Although somewhat more expensive that the wooden puzzles you would find in bargain basement stores, this puzzle is incredibly well made. All of the surfaces are smooth and completely free of splinters. The picture is well-bonded to the board and is busy with lots of detail to talk about with your child. My only slight gripe is that while the pegs are fantastic for helping a child lift them, it does hurt if you inadvertently tread on one with bare feet.
So as an adult I would say that this is a toy that is well worth the £4 Santa paid (although I'm not so sure about the standard £8) and a lovely addition to any toddler's toy box. But as with any toy it's not just my opinion that counts.....
==Puzzle Me That - A Toddler's View==
At twenty months, Freddy fell well within the recommended age group for this puzzle (which makes a change as many of his toys are actually recommended for slightly older toddlers), so I had no worries about him playing with it. This isn't the first puzzle to have joined Freddy's toy collection, he's had the Blossom Farm Touch and Feel puzzle for quite a while now. But that puzzle was very simple with only four very large pieces and no extra decoration, this puzzle has more pieces that are not only smaller but are also harder to place as their holes are hidden within the picture.
To say Freddy was delighted with receiving the puzzle is a bit of an understatement, as soon as he had removed the wrapping paper he was asking for the plastic to be removed and he then spent the next ten minutes playing with the puzzle ignoring all his other, still wrapped presents. The little knobs on each of the puzzle pieces made it easy for him to remove them from the board and he was (and still is) delighted by all the detail in the picture, spending a good amount of time looking at the aliens and chatting away in his very charming way. While he had just about mastered his much simpler puzzle, Freddy finds this one a lot more challenging. He's just about worked out which piece goes where and I have seem him looking at the piece and then trying to find the right hole, but the pieces do need to be lined up exactly and he can't quite manage this yet. Well, he does occasionally manage to replace a piece, but it's more by luck than skill, but when he does he is very proud of himself and gets lots of cheers from Mummy.
Because he can't quite manage to do this puzzle by himself (yet), he will, more often than not, bring it over to Mummy to help. This is when we spend time talking about all the different things we can see in the picture as we have fun working out how to put the pieces back into their holes. Freddy also likes to play with the puzzle pieces separately to the board and can sometimes be seen making the spacecraft fly or walking the aliens around his table. From what I can tell he also thinks that the pieces make a great noise when banged on his wooden table. All-in-all this puzzle has already taken it's place as a well-loved toy and has usurped his touch and feel puzzle. In fact out of all the puzzles Freddy now owns (5) this is by far his favourite and one he plays with every day without fail.
==Puzzle Me When - Suitability and Development Benefits==
The ELC state that this puzzle is suitable for children over the age of eighteen months and I would say that this is probably about right. Although there is nothing about is that would cause a hazard for younger children, they would probably find it a little too difficult and frustrating as it does require a good deal of hand-eye control. In fact, I would say that it would be an exceptional eighteen month old who would be able to complete this puzzle unaided (I'm not saying that none would, just that most won't). But that's the nice thing about this puzzle, there are lots of things on it to talk about as you help your child learn to complete it.
While a child will learn no mater what toys they play with, this puzzle gives a surprising number of opportunities for them to improve many skills. Firstly they will practise using their steadily refining hand-eye coordination and puzzle solving skills as they slowly learn to replace the puzzle pieces. Then their observational skills will benefit from matching the pieces to their respective holes and looking at the detail. If you play with the puzzle with them you can also help them develop their conversational skills by talking about what the aliens are doing and even counting by counting the stars and aliens.
As to an upper age limit, well most probably Freddy will have mastered this puzzle by the time he is three and will be ready for something a little more challenging. But the space theme adds another dimension and hopefully will mean that it holds his interest a little longer once it is no longer challenging.
==Puzzle Me Then - Final Words==
This is a lovely puzzle that deserves a place in any young child's collection especially if they own any of the Space themed Happyland sets. It is wonderfully well made, with lots of detail to engage the child and presents a challenge while still being do-able. At the present selling price of £4 it's an absolute bargain and well worth spending more on than bargain basement alternatives and even at £8 it's a puzzle that will last the distance. And so Freddy and I are giving the Happyland Lift-Out Space Puzzle a resounding five out of five, because we both think it's simply brilliant.