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Two year old Freddy has a huge collection of Happyland toys, from almost all of the different themes, he has the village, the school, train, farm, space rocket and even dinosaur set, but one set that was missing from his collection is the Ready To Play Funfair. When we saw this set offered at a fabulous 50% off recently, we couldn't help ourselves, we know how much he loves his Happyland toys, how fantastic they are for helping him develop his imagination and how well they survive his rather rough play. The Ready To Play Funfair seems to have been updated quite recently, previously you had to buy the Ferris Wheel separately, but now this comes included which is reflected in the price, which is £60 at full price and £30 when on offer.
==Roll Up, Roll Up – A parent's View==
The Ready To Play Funfair is supplied in a fairly large cardboard box that comes complete with a rather handy carry handle. Unlike many of the Happyland toys you are unable to see the pieces through an open face or test the sounds before purchasing. Within this large box are two smaller boxes each containing a number of elements wrapped in their own plastic bags. While I was immediately happy that there were none of those stupid plastic ties to untwist, I do still feel there was a little too much packaging and that the plastic bags were, perhaps, overkill. There are a couple of elements within the set that require batteries and these are not included, so if you are planning on giving this as a gift it's a good idea to buy a pack of AA and another AAA. Just like the real thing the Happyland Funfair features a few different rides and has a lot of children who come to join in the fun so it takes up quite a lot of room when set up. In fact when we set this up it takes up most of our living room floor, so maybe not idea for those short of space.
The largest element of the funfair is the Ferris wheel or as we call it (being English rather than American) the Big Wheel. If purchased separately this fairly large piece would set you back £22 at full price, which as far as I'm concerned means that this set is an absolute bargain. Standing approximately 27cm tall the big wheel is almost completely formed of tough plastic. The yellow wheel turns easily on it's axis and can either be turned by hand or via a crank handle. Within the wheel there are a total of four swinging seats for the Happyland characters to sit in, and what I especially like about these seats is that rather than the newer peg system these simply have holes to hold the characters in place. This system makes it easy for a child to place the characters in the seats and yet holds them securely enough that they don't fall out during a ride. The crank turns easily and the extra special little feature of the wheel is that once a pair of AA batteries are installed behind the securely screw locked flap a short tune will play. This tune literally only plays for a couple of seconds and really isn't that annoying, but the volume can be controlled if your child is a little obsessive, with the half volume not being loud enough to hear over a moderately loud television. Battery consumption is on the low side, we installed a pair at the beginning of the month and with very regular play they are still going strong.
The next largest piece in the set is the carousel or merry-go-round, which is another piece that requires batteries, this time a pair of AAA. Although slightly smaller than the big wheel, the merry-go-round still stands an impressive 24cm (approx) tall and takes up a touch more floor space. I think that this is probably the prettiest part of the with it's red and yellow striped marquee style top and four horses that ride round and round. Each of the horses has a space for a single character to sit and ride, but unlike the big wheel these do utilise the peg system to keep those characters in place. From experience I know that this peg system is frustrating for young children and even as an adult I find it quite difficult to push the characters down hard enough for them to stay put. As with the big wheel the horses can be pushed down by hand, but there is also a large button that when pressed not only sets them moving but also plays one of three short tunes. If this button is repeatedly pressed then the horses build an impressive build of speed and in fact travel so fast that the riders occasionally fly off in all directions. The tunes played are of a traditional fairground type and while longer than those on the big wheel are still very short at under thirty seconds and again there are two volume levels available. What I particularly like about both the big wheel and merry-go-round is that they can be played with while switched off or without batteries, so that if you did forget to buy batteries before giving this as a gift it doesn't really spoil the child's enjoyment.
There are another two rides in the funfair, neither of which require batteries. Firstly there is the spinning space ships, which holds two characters (using that peg system again). The two space ships spin easily with just a small push but do lose momentum quite quickly. What I particularly like about this ride is that space ships have very obviously been designed to tie in with the space themed Happyland sets. The final ride is a pirate ship, that again holds up to two characters, again using that awkward peg system. I wouldn't say the pirate ship was the most extreme of rides, it does swing easily but again comes to a stop very quickly. All of the rides are made of the same tough plastic and apart from the Merry-go-round they are all designed so that there is a platform for the operator (character) to stand. While I do think that all these rides are generally well made, one possible problem that I have noticed is that nearly all of them are decorated with stickers and Freddy and stickers really don't mix (he tends to pull them off and eat them). I do however like the colour scheme and think that it is very attractive to toddlers, the light blues, yellows and reds are bright without being garish.
Even if there were only the rides included in the set I think we more than got our money's worth but there are still several more pieces. There is a small red bus, with free-wheeling wheels that can hold four characters as they make their way to and from the fair. This is quite a nice bus, in fact it is identical to one that we already own that is the Sunflower School Bus. There is a also a small steam train with two carriages that is perfect to carry the characters from one ride another. This train is extremely easy for little ones to push and rather than the carriages being removable they are permanently attached and yet still articulate. Unfortunately the train yet again uses the peg system to hold the characters in place, but the bus doesn't. The final vehicle in the set is an ice-cream bike which is a kind of backwards tricycle with a freezer box on the front. What's really nice about this bike is a roller that has pictures of all different types of ice cream on it and can be spun to display which lolly the buyer wants.
The final elements of the set are not one, not two but seven Happyland characters. If you've never seen a Happyland character before then you wouldn't know that these little people are fantastically detailed and formed of a tough rubber-like material with their features painted on. All of the Happyland characters are incredibly well-made , about 7-8cm tall and feature a small hole in their base that allows makes them compatible with other vehicles within the range, meaning that your child can really mix and match. Another thing I like with the Happyland characters is that they encompass both sexes and different ethnicities and many of them break with stereotypes. Unfortunately a couple of the characters in this set are stereotypical, the ice cream seller is definitely a stereotypical moustachioed Italian, no matter how beautifully detailed he is with his bow tie, apron and ice-cream scoop. The ride operator is equally stereotypical, with his boater hat, stripy trousers and money apron. Personally I would have liked at least one or the other of these characters to be female. While very jolly looking with his hat, suit and pom-poms the clown is rather out of place in a funfair, if this was a circus set I could understand his inclusion, but I can't quite work out why he was included. The final four characters are a group of four children, two boys and two girls, who have obviously visited the ice-cream seller and are now eating their goodies.
As an adult I think this set is fantastic and more than worth the £30 I paid. There are lots of pieces to spark a child's imagination and lots for children to push, turn and spin. As with all the Happyland sets, I can't help but be impressed with the attention to detail and thought that has gone into the pieces. In fact simply from an adult's perspective I would give this set four out of five, dropping that one star because the original selling price is a tad high. But as with any toy it's not just my opinion that counts....
==All Of The Fun Of The Fair – A Toddler's Perspective==
At two years old, Freddy falls firmly within the recommended age range of eighteen months to four years, but I must tell you that Freddy has a developmental delay including speech and social difficulties and so isn't a typical two year old. Saying that he has been playing with various Happyland sets since he was about ten months old and he does love them even though he doesn't exactly play with them conventionally.
As soon as he saw the box Freddy made it perfectly clear that he wanted to play with the funfair NOW. So we opened it and he took the pieces as we freed them of the plastic wrapping. The first piece that Freddy got his grubby little mitts on was the big wheel and he instantly discovered that he could spin the wheel round and make the seats swing. He absolutely adored doing this and it was a struggle to get it off him long enough to install the batteries. On discovering that the wheel now played music as well as spinning, Freddy was even more entranced (if that's possible) and spent a good length of time spinning it. As some of the characters were unwrapped, I showed him how they could sit in the seats and have a ride, which was something he could manage with ease. I then showed him how to turn the crank handle, which is a good size for little hands, but to be honest he finds turning the wheel by hand easier.
It was a similar story with the merry-go-round, he loves to spin the horses round, but this time finds the button easier to press and can manage to get the horses going really fast. As the Merry-go-round uses the peg system to hold the characters in place, Freddy does occasionally get frustrated at how difficult they are to place and how easily they seem to fly out. With all the rides Freddy loves to make them spin or swing, while occasionally placing the characters in or taking them out, but he is very obsessive about this kind of thing. Freddy also loves the vehicles, finds them just the right size to hold and very easy to push across the floor. As with all the Happyland vehicles they run very smoothly and quite fast even over short pile carpets.
As well allowing him to play on his own, I obviously share this set with him, very often in conjunction with his other Happyland sets. This gives me a great opportunity to help him develop his conversational, imaginative and role play skills as I talk about which characters are doing what, how they may be feeling and sometimes make up silly scenarios (we had the aliens visiting the funfair one day, and the cavemen another). Just as he enjoys his alone time playing with the set, he loves those times when we play together.
All in all I would say that Freddy absolutely adores this set, it is the first toy he makes his way to in the morning and he gets very upset if it has been moved. If he could talk I'm sure Freddy would give the Funfair ten stars out of five, he really does love it that much.
==Developmental Benefits And Age Suitability==
Billed as suitable for children between the ages of eighteen months and four years the ELC themselves claim that this set will help your child develop their imagination, understanding of the world around them and social skills. Although I do agree with these claims, I do have to add that the set will also help your child develop their fine motor (small movements), gross motor (large movements) and hand eye coordination as they push buttons, chase cars, put the characters in the rides and spin and swing while also learning about cause and effect as they set off the sounds. As your child plays (and you join in) you can use this set to talk about an upcoming trip to a fairground (or theme park) and the different emotions your child may experience such as excitement, nervous, bored (waiting in queues) or even scared. With a child like Freddy this is invaluable as he is non-verbal and I'm constantly looking for ways to encourage his speech and self-awareness.
As to whether the ELC has got the age range right, well I do think that they are being a little over-cautious on the lower limit. Freddy has been playing with Happyland sets since well before his first birthday and this are so well made without small parts that I would have been perfectly happy for him to have played with this at that age. Of course this means that this set is perfect if you have a crawling baby in the house as well as a toddler as you don't have to worry about baby putting bits in their mouth and choking. In fact the characters make ideal teethers as strange as that sounds, Freddy used to love chewing on them when his back teeth were giving him problems.
This is also a set that is going to last the distance, it is incredibly well made and has so survived Freddy's very rough play (including being thrown across the room) with no damage. My only concern is that the stickers may be pulled off at some point (but this is only cosmetic). Being made of plastic the whole set is easy to wipe clean and so can happily be passed down to siblings, relatives or other children (or sold on), once the child gets too old for it (which I would imagine would be around three and a half to four depending on the child.
This is a brilliant set from a brilliant range of toys and even more brilliant when bought at half price. I've been buying toys from the Happyland range for well over a decade now (older children), have always been impressed with the attention to detail, quality and overall design and this set is no exception. Although the funfair does take up quite a lot of floor (and toy box) space, it's well worth is just for the pleasure it gives Freddy. There are lots of different things for him to discover and it's actually a real pleasure to share the rides with him as well as just watching him chatter away in his own special language as he plays. Although the standard price is quite high as with all Happyland toys it is often included in their sales (we have a huge collection and have never paid full price) and so I am perfectly happy to give the Ready To Play Funfair a hearty five out of five and recommend it as a gift to any toddler between the ages of twelve months and three and a half. Just wait for it to go on sale though.
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