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The Happyland range of toys from The Early Learning Centre are fantastic for helping your child understand the world around them, develop their imagination and role play, all while having fun. Although the village themed sets are the most well-known, there are several other themes available including Fairyland, Space and Prehistoric. Two year old Freddy owns many sets from the Village, Space and Prehistoric ranges and among his favourites is the Dino Playset, which is part of the Prehistoric range. As he loves that particular set so much, when I recently received an Amazon voucher I decided to extend this set by purchasing the Dizzy Dino Carrier, which cost me £16 with free super saver delivery.
Roar – A Parent's View
The Dizzy Dino Carrier is supplied in an open faced cardboard box, with all the pieces held in place by a multitude of those irritating plastic ties. These ties are actually even more awkward than usual to untwist, with it taking a good ten minutes to release all the pieces. Considering this toy is firmly aimed at toddlers, I do feel that a more parent friendly method of packaging should be considered as Freddy became very frustrated while waiting to play with the set. Within the set there are a total of six pieces, the Dino Carrier, three characters, a baby dinosaur and an egg. So although the set is relatively expensive there is a fair amount of play potential.
The Dizzy Dino Carrier itself is a bright green dinosaur with orange spine plates, that I'm assuming is supposed to be a stegosaurus. Although not massive it is a fair size at approximately 25cm in length, which means that it is a good size for the target age group to play with. The Dizzy Dino runs across the floor on four wheels and as it is pushed back and forth it's head nods up and down in an amusing manner (well amusing to toddlers anyway). Along the Dizzy Dino's back there are three holes nestled amidst the defensive plates, each of which is perfectly designed to carry a single character. What I really like about these holes/seats is that rather than using the newer peg system, they are simply holes that hold the characters in place. This makes it far easier for Freddy to put them in and take them out and reduces the frustration caused by characters falling out too easily. Being made of a durable plastic, the Dizzy Dino should be able to withstand almost anything a toddler will throw at it, although the nodding head (that makes it look as if the Dino is taking mouthfuls of grass) could prove to be a weak point. While many of the Happyland pieces feature electronic sounds, the Dizzy Dino does not, which not only negates the need for batteries but also encourages you child to fully use their imagination and supply their own sound effects.
To a certain extent the three characters follow the same format as all other Happyland characters, in as much as they are about 6-7cm in height, moulded from a tough, rubber-like material with their features hand painted on. However, unlike the standard Happyland characters, these are most definitely dressed to tie in to the Prehistoric theme. The are two male characters and one female and what is nice is that these are not all your standard blonde haired, blue eyed people. Both of the cavemen are wearing the stereotypical caveman garb of a one shouldered tunic, although strangely one of these cavemen is wearing something that looking like a bra!! I really can't work out what this is supposed to be, perhaps it's a bow-tie, but seriously it looks like something Raquel Welch might have worn in One Million Years B.C. I'm not sure how I'm going to explain this when Freddy gets old enough to notice, but I'm sure it's going to raise a few giggles. The female character is, sadly, rather stereotypical, seeing as she has been left holding the baby, which is a shame. As with all the Happyland characters I love the attention to detail with these, from the simple smiling faces to the bone through the cave woman’s hair, you can see how much thought has gone into them. I also like that each of the characters in this set are different to those found in the Dino Playset.
I wish that I could say that the final two pieces in the set are different from those found in the Dino Playset, but in all honestly I can't. The egg (which is sitting on a leaf nest) is easy to open and although it does need to have edges matched, is also easy to put together again. There is a small hole in the egg, through which the baby dinosaur (looks like a T-Rex) can be seen as it hides. Lifting the top of the egg off reveals the cute little T-Rex, who is made of the same rubber-like material as the characters. Unfortunately this egg and baby dinosaur are virtually identical to those found in the Dino Playset (with the egg being a different colour), which is a disappointment that slightly detracts from what I, as an adult, perceive as value for money.
As with all Happyland sets, The Dizzy Dino Carrier is well thought out and manufactured with the intended age group in mind. This means that the pieces are the perfect size for little hands and the construction and materials used are very tough and able to withstand the very rough play a toddler is likely to subject it to. If Freddy didn't already own the egg and baby dinosaur (through his Dino playset) I would have said that you get a fair number of well made pieces for you money and have given this set four stars out of five (from an adult perspective), with it losing a star for how difficult it is to remove from the packaging. But as he does already have those pieces, I would have to say that from an adult perspective I would have to award three stars. But as with any toy it's not just my opinion that counts....
Let's Get Prehistoric – A Child's View
At two years old Freddy falls firmly into the recommended age range for this toy, but I must state that developmentally he is not a typical two year old as he has a significant delay and poor social/imagination skills. Saying this Freddy loves his Happyland toys and has done since he was about ten months old, he may not play with them exactly as intended, but he still gets lots out of them.
As soon as Freddy saw the box this set came in he became excited and wanted it NOW, but due to the difficulty in removing the stupid plastic ties that simply wasn't going to happen. Once he did manage to get his hands on it after an attempt to find buttons he was thrilled and started using his very rudimentary role playing skills. The Dizzy Dino is the perfect size for him to push along the floor or back and forth on his table and he finds the head nodding action hilarious. The orange spine plates make a great handle for pushing. A favourite occupation with the Dino seems to be putting the characters in and out of the seats, which Freddy finds easy due to the lack of a peg system and on the most part the characters are held firmly enough to not fly out even when the Dino is pushed quite roughly.
Freddy finds the egg perfect for hiding the baby dinosaur along with anything else he can find that will fit. What he particularly seems to appreciate is that there isn't a particular way that the top half of the egg fits onto the bottom, meaning that he doesn't get frustrated working out how to fit them together (that type of problem solving is definitely not Freddy's strong point). Freddy also seems to appreciate that the top half of his other egg also fits on top and can often be found trying one then the other trying to decide which looks better. Freddy also loves the characters, indeed he has recently started to really enjoy playing with all his Happyland characters, exploring them with his hands, eyes and mouth or lining them up or putting them in all sorts of cars and containers.
While Freddy does enjoy playing with this set in isolation, he does prefer to use it in conjunction with all his other Happyland sets including, but not exclusive to his Dino Playset. This means that the characters in this set have ridden in his bus, visited the fair and gone into space, while characters from other sets have been taken for rides in the Dizzy Dino. One thing that has slightly disappointed Freddy is that there are no buttons for him to press or sounds to activate. This isn't the set's fault though, it's just that Freddy has a slight obsession with buttons and tends to look for them on any toy. He also doesn't appreciate the lack of decorative stickers, but I do as he has a habit of pulling them off so he can eat them.
All-in-all, from Freddy's reaction and the fact he plays with this set daily (along with the rest of his Happyland), I would say that he would be quite happy to give it four stars out of five, losing one star due to the lack of sounds and stickers.
A Caveman's Education – Suitability and Developmental Benefits
With a recommended age range of eighteen months to four years the ELC claim that this set will help your child develop their imagination, social skills and understanding of the world around them and I have to say I pretty much agree with them. However, I would also say that this set will also help your child develop their fine motor skills as they place the characters in their seats and open and close the egg. Their problem solving skills will also be tested as they discover what will and will not fit into the egg. I've certainly watched Freddy slowly develop a rudimentary imagination as he plays with this set and indeed all his Happyland collection and I love to watch him chattering away in his own special language as he plays. While I'll admit that he doesn't exactly play with this set in the intended manner, he is still learning from playing with it.
As to the recommended age group, well I do feel the lower limit is a little on the high side. Freddy has been playing with Happyland toys since he was about ten months old and there is nothing about this set that would be a danger to these younger toddlers. Indeed this set is probably one that is most suitable to younger toddlers as it does not feature any electronics (and hence no batteries) nor any stickers that can be peeled off. It is also very, very durable, so you don't need to worry about your child breaking it and there being sharp pieces to harm them. Freddy regularly uses this as a make-shift step to reach door handles and if it can withstand his weight, it can withstand almost anything. The upper age limit, however, is perhaps a little overoptimistic. While I'm sure a four year old would play with it, I would imagine that they would be just a little disappointed if presented with it as a present, think it's a bit babyish and prefer something more realistic.
While this is a lovely add-on set in the Prehistoric Happyland range, it's not the most exciting or feature-rich and perhaps a little over-priced. That's not to say I regret buying it, because I don't. It is well-made and has definitely been designed to appeal to and survive the rough treatment of toddlers. Freddy adored it from the minute he saw it, plays with it regularly and while he was/is a little disappointed that it doesn't make noises, I do like that he has to supply his own sound track which encourages him to vocalise. If asked if I were to recommend The Dizzy Dino Carrier, I would have to give a resounding yes, as what toddler doesn't like dinosaurs and this is perfect for toddlers who are too young for the more realistic versions.