I have always been a fan of the Early Learning Center, particularly their various wooden toy sets which have all proven to be continually reliable. From a parental point of view I have found that I have a great deal more sanity when there is a clear lack of electronics. In our house, even in this electronic dominated era these traditional styled toys still manage to hold their own against their noisy modern alternatives. As a child I remember most of my toys as being fairly basic (lets not forget electronics on mass was a while away) and so a great deal of imagination had to be applied to keep amusement. Tea sets have always been a firm favourite with children (boys as well as girls) and I was no exception, although I don't remember mine being quite as cute as this one!
What I love so much about this little tea set is it's sheer simplicity, it's a tea set and nothing else. No frills and no gimmicks so the child has the freedom to utilise their imagination rather than any creativity being in place for them already. The set comprises of a tea pot with lid, two mugs, two tea spoons, tea and sugar jars both with lids, two tea bags, two sugar cubes and a plate with two little round biscuits. Although fully aware of the contents included before my purchase, it would still be a nice addition if ELC were to include a milk jug, especially considering how milk is generally considered an integral element of a good cuppa and the set, pretty as it is just seems a little incomplete without one. Pieces are small enough for a young child to easily grasp and manipulate although the actual mug handles could probably do with being a little wider to allow small fingers completely through to hold. The tea pot handle has a curvy grooved design (probably more for aesthetics than anything else) although it actually makes holding a lot easier and so more stable in small hands. The lid is not a snug fit so does tend to wobble slightly when tipped up although it easily manages around a 75 degree tilt before it finally topples off the pot. All pieces are light weight and although there are some straight lines, edges are safely smooth.
Most elements of the set have been painted in muted pastel shades of mainly pink, clearly marketed with girls in mind although my three year old son also loves to play with the set and has just as much enjoyment from it but (falling into the trap of gender stereotyping) I would almost certainly not purposely buy the set for a boy! The paint has also proven to be hard wearing considering all the manhandling it's endured. Only very small areas show any visible signs of paint chipping although it's not enough to be particularly noticeable nor is there any fading to the colours. On the odd occasion, even though I do provide my children with a well balanced diet they still feel the need to attempt to eat parts, mainly the spoons although results are nothing more than the odd gnawed edge and a couple of slight teeth marks as visible evidence of their munching. Personally I would have expected more marks and scratches considering the set has been used on a daily basis for almost a year, so I can only assume that a good quality, hard wearing paint or glaze has been used to prevent damage and of course the children swallowing the chippings.
£15.00 may initially seem a little steep for this tea set in comparison to other alternatives available, however I feel that the extra few pounds do go a long way in providing a toy that will stand the test of time not to mention wear and tear. The set may appear cute and dainty but has proven to be incredibly durable, far more so than the plastic set it had replaced. The wood is strong. I can really pull the handle and tea pot spout with considerable force without them shifting although it's almost inevitable that at some point in the future I will need to re-glue. Even the small ball tops on the tea pot, sugar and tea jar lids are strongly secured in place which is just as well, as they are small enough to swallow if they were to become detached. Continual dropping on our tiled kitchen floor, thrown around our garden, pushed down the slide, bashed on our patio and rolled through mud and still the wood shows no signs of splinters or chips. Not advertised as water proof, it has found its way into the bath and managed to survive, although it is worth pointing out that the spout is fake and I would not personally recommend being submerged for long periods as the water would eventually cause some form of damage.
Constructed solely of wood with the exception of the two tea bags which have a small piece of string that connects the bag with the tab top. On a positive note the string is vital to provide the appearance of a real tea bag but in reality it is just so thin that within a few days of being pulled it had broke loose, no great surprise really as it was evident that it would not last long. The small holes in the wood make it near impossible to re-thread and tie the string but I really can't think of any other material that would be a more suitable replacement and it really didn't effect the children's ability to carry on playing, so no harm done, but another good reason to be cautious with the smaller parts around younger children.
Now, role play is such an integral element in aiding a child's development assisting them in honing their skills in preparation for their journey into adult life. Clearly an effective teaching tool considering it is largely practiced by businesses training their staff. This set has undoubtedly assisted my children in their social development allowing them to learn and mature whilst simply playing "grown ups" and of course they have also provided me with some questionably palatable cups of tea but I am sure they will have perfected their art by the time they are able to use a real kettle! If I am being brutally honest though the educational aspect of my purchase for this toy was slightly over shadowed by my desire to supply my daughter with the tea set similar to what I had always wanted as a child. Suitable for ages three and over both my daughter and son have had so much use from this set and theres plenty of life left in it yet. With this in mind it has more than paid for itself. It seems that children often reap the greatest rewards from the simplest of toys as they actually allow their imagination some freedom. Tea sets have been a staple toy for years, basic and yet they provide so much enjoyment for children. Robust in form, easy to clean, pretty to view and very popular with my children. Purchased in a sturdy box with no bulky packaging or intricate wires to contend with (or at least it never used to) and absolutely no assembly. Given the opportunity to buy this or a cheaper version I would personally favour this one, purely because I feel it has been designed and manufactured to last.
The set is also similar by pattern and style to the ELC wooden toaster set and cupcake tea party, both of which also come highly recommended by me. If you were to buy all three together your husband's pocket would be £45.00 lighter (a small price to pay for a high quality set of toys). I have never seen them in any of ELC's sales or included in promotions but in my opinion this little tea set along with the cupcakes and toaster are more than worth their retail value. The clear downside to this set though is the lack of a milk jug. I have noticed that other ELC sets, plastic or otherwise have a milk jug included so I am at a loss as to why they decided to omit from this particular set. Unfortunately this has cost ELC and this little tea set one star. Consider my rating five star if ELC ever decide to update and include the milk jug in the future!
Product Code: 122987
ELC Online Rating: 4/5 stars by consumers