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The Very Pink Castle Of Adventure
ELC HappyLand Fairy Castle
Member Name: sandemp
ELC HappyLand Fairy Castle
Date: 04/01/13, updated on 04/01/13 (101 review reads)
Advantages: Well made, sparks the imagination, the Princess is "pretty"
Disadvantages: Very pink, the doors easily fall off
*The Happyland Fairy Castle has been re-branded the Happyland Palace Castle and no longer includes a bed. Dooyoo have asked me to place the review here.
With Freddy having a significant developmental delay and some strange quirks (such as peeling and eating stickers) he can be quite difficult to buy presents for. Last Christmas his Great Grandma bought some quite unsuitable presents (she really doesn't get that it's not a good idea to buy him something suitable for a three year old), so this year I bought his present from Great Grandma and then let her give me the money for it. With his absolute love of the Happyland range and the knowledge that they will not only provide him with hours of fun, but also help his social development while also surviving everything he can throw at them, when I saw the Happyland Palace Castle reduced in price to £15 from £30 I knew it would be an ideal gift. Before I go any further I am going to say that yes I know this is a very pink toy and that many would feel that it is only really suitable for girls, but Freddy doesn't care what colour his toys are, only that they are fun to play with.
Supplied within an open-faced box and held in place with those horrible plastic ties, there is no doubt that the Palace Castle is firmly aimed towards girls, being formed of pink and white plastic with lots of hearts scrolls across the windows. As there is no such thing as a gender specific toy in this house, Freddy has no preconceptions that pink is for girls and blue is for boys (and his understanding is not at a level where he realises that other children have prejudices) so as far as he is concerned the Palace Castle is just pretty rather than being just for girls. Of course some boys of his age (nearly three) do have these prejudices and I would imagine that they would not be quite so happy to receive such a pink castle. As with all his Happyland toys, Freddy was extremely pleased to receive this castle and couldn't wait for Mummy or Daddy to open it up once he had removed the wrapping paper. I often find it a struggle to remove Happyland sets from their packaging and this was no exception, with me resorting to using very sharp scissors to release the plastic twisty ties as Freddy was very impatient.
The castle itself is a fairly impressive size, standing approximately 35cm high with the base measuring in at approximately 32cm by 15cm when closed. Although the castle is quite large, Freddy finds it easy to carry around, which is mainly due to the carry handle situated at the top. As with all the Happyland buildings a lot of thought has gone into the castle's design, with a great attention to detail. I love the latticework on the windows which is followed into the balcony, while the flowers growing beside the lower windows are just beautiful. I also love the way that some of the stonework is in relief giving an impression of a little realism. While closed the castle has rather limited play value, there are double doors at the front that open to allow Freddy to place his characters inside and another at the back, but in common with many Happyland doors these do come off easily. While I understand the thinking behind the ease with which these doors fall off (they're less likely to actually snap) and they are easy to replace, both Freddy and I do find it a little frustrating when they come of in his hand while playing. The large open balcony is also accessible while the palace is closed, but it is when opened up that the castle comes into it's own.
Although Freddy immediately knew that the castle opened up, he couldn't quite work out how and to be honest neither could I. Unlike the Sherwood Castle that he also owns, this castle opens out from the side and it is quite stiff to start with, which did mean quite a bit of frustration on both our parts. Once opened the castle provides a whole new level of play, with a winding staircase for the characters to ascend and then an upper level complete with a mock stone slab floor and two rather pretty carpets. While we both appreciate the simple, yet pretty decoration, the carpets are in the form of stickers and Freddy has something of an obsession with peeling and eating stickers so I do keep an eye on him when playing with this. There is room on each of these carpets to place one of the two thrones that come with the set, so that the King and Queen can keep an eye on the court. The thrones are very basic, but sturdily built being formed of plastic and are the perfect size for the larger than normal (for Happyland) characters that come with the castle to sit on.
Talking of characters a total of four are supplied with this set the King, Queen, Princess and Jester. These beautifully detailed characters are formed of the same rubber-like material as the characters in other Happyland sets, with the features and detail be hand-painted on. While the characters are about the same height as other Happyland characters but are quite a bit chunkier with wider bases. While this means that the characters are easier for little fingers to manipulate, it also means that they will not fit in other Happyland vehicles, which is a bit of a shame. What I particularly like about these characters is how tough they are, they can be thrown from a great height or chewed on without becoming damaged and should they get grubby they are easy to wash clean.
Although at two and a half, Freddy is well above the minimum age for this set, he has a significant development delay meaning he is at the level of a ten to eighteen month old and so his imaginative play is still very primitive. Even so, he does love his Happyland sets and this castle is no exception. He loves manipulating the characters, putting them in and out of the doors or simply examining them. He seems to be especially taken with the Princess who has decided is "pretty" and will spend quite a time playing with her. It's not just the characters that came with this set that he will use when playing with the castle, earlier today there was a lion hiding behind a door, that he had very carefully placed there.
As well as allowing Freddy free-play with this castle, I do spend time playing with him,making up stories and scenarios using the characters included along with other sets. It's during these play sessions that we have fun while I try and help Freddy develop him imaginative, social and communicative skills as I talk about what the different characters are doing. This is the great thing about all the Happyland sets, they are wonderful for helping young children and toddlers develop those all important skills as they play. While the educational scope is perhaps not as high as some of the everyday sets (such as the school) but there is still plenty of scope for imagination, communication and sharing to be developed while making up stories for the character to enact. A final really good aspect of this set is that once play has finished the characters and thrones can be safely stored inside the closed castle, meaning that they are less likely to be lost between play sessions.
With a recommended age range of eighteen months to four years (which is just about right) the Happyland Palace Castle makes an excellent addition to any Happyland collection, albeit one that is rather pink. Freddy loves to play with his new castle, especially in combination with his other Happyland sets. I do think that perhaps the Early Learning Centre could have toned down the pink, but other than that it does add a new aspect to Freddy's play, having two castles to play with has to be more fun than once, especially once he gets older and hopefully extends his imaginative play. The castle itself is well throughout and well made, having already survived Freddy's attempt at using it as a step (with the exception of the doors that is). So Freddy and I are giving the Happyland Palace Castle four stars out of five, with it losing that one star due to the easily removed doors and the fact it is so pink.
Summary: A very pink and yet still fun castle set
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