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Back in November I was looking for toys to introduce my 2 year old girls to Christmas, they weren't that aware of what was going on last year and I knew that they would be taking more interest this time. I came across this Happyland Christmas set and thought it looked ideal. Happyland is an Early Learning Centre range and my girls have enjoyed playing with the other sets they have and I was hoping that they would enjoy this one too. What's included? The set comprises of a Santa, Rudolph, sleigh, Christmas tree, Snowman and a girl with a present (the girl is a newer addition and so isn't in the dooyoo picture above). The figures are approximately 5 cm tall and are easy for little hands to grasp, suitable from 18 months these toys are really durable. The brightly coloured paint does not come off when they are chewed on and they still look in new condition despite being thrown around. Feed their imaginations I started off by introducing the characters to my girls and they soon became familiar with them and the words 'Santa' and 'snowman' were soon being used. I opted for Santa rather than Father Christmas as I thought it was easier for them to say. I also bought them the Peppa's Christmas Wish book and used these figures to help tell the story, this worked really well and my girls particularly enjoyed the sleigh being flown round their heads. By the time the Christmas tree went up and Father Christmas was appearing everywhere they had an understanding of what was going on and really enjoyed Christmas. Price and Availability Available from the Early Learning Centre and Amazon I paid £7.50 for this set as part of a 2 for £15 offer, full price this set is £10 which I felt was a bit expensive. Early Learning Centre do have regular sales so it possible to buy their products at more reasonable prices. Would I recommend? Yes, this set was great fun and I'm looking forward to getting it out again next Christmas for some more festive fun.
Finding Christmas themed toys and decorations that are safe for little hands is not the easiest of tasks so thank goodness for the ELC and their Happyland range. I love the Happyland range, the different sets can be played with on their own or with other sets to build a whole world. Twenty month old Freddy has a huge number of these sets, from the village to the train set to the farm and he loves playing with them, while I'm safe in the knowledge that there are no small pieces that could hurt him. The Christmas Set is a very recent addition to his collection and one that is only available in the run up to Christmas. With a standard selling price of £10 it is one of the smaller sets in the range, but one that has proved invaluable in the lead up to Christmas. ==Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - A Parent's View== The Happyland Christmas Set comes supplied in an open-faced cardboard box with the five pieces held in place by a ridiculous number of plastic ties. Although it wasn't overly difficult to remove those ties, it did a few minutes to remove them all, and I did feel there were a few more than necessary. Personally I think it would have been far more parent (and environmentally) friendly of the ELC to package this is an enclosed cardboard box minus the ties. There are five pieces in this set, all of which are based on the Christmas theme. There is a Christmas tree, snowman, Santa, Rudolph and a sleigh. The Christmas tree looks very festive, with it's garlands, baubles and star, and really is the kind of tree most of us can only dream of, dwarfing the Happyland characters. Formed of a hollow rubberised plastic with the detail painted on, it has absolutely no small parts that could cause a choking hazard. Santa looks very jolly in his classic red suit, with his white beard, red hat and sack full of toys. Standing about 8cm tall, Santa is the perfect size for little hands and is best friends with the similarly sized Snowman. The Snowman (who we've named Frosty) is as festive as and made of the same material as Santa and the tree. He has a lovely button smile, carrot nose, scarf, broom and top hat decorated with holly. I love the amount of thought and detail that has gone into this set, there is even a robin perched on Frosty's hat. Rudolph is also made of the same rubbery material (as is the sleigh), is recognisable as a reindeer due to his impressive antlers and as Rudolph by his bright red nose. Although somewhat cartoon-like, he is recognisable and I love the bell round his neck. Unlike most of the Happyland vehicles, the sleigh is formed of the same rubberised material as the characters and doesn't have any wheels. There is enough room in the sleigh for one character, but the character isn't held very securely in place. I really like how the Happyland characters are interchangeable, so the snowman can also go for a ride. Rudolph can be harnessed to the sleigh by placing the harness on his back, although this does slip off easily. The harness is then connected to the sleigh via a peg connection, which allows it rotate. All in all this set is as well made and thought out as the rest of the Happyland range with great attention to detail. Each piece is durable and completely safe for very young children with no small parts. As a parent, I think the set looks very cute and for the short time it's set up each morning before being played with, makes an unusual and attractive decoration. But, as with any toy, it's not just my opinion that counts. ==Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer - A Child's View== Even before I took the pieces out of their very secure packaging, 20 month old Freddy was fascinated with this set. Over the last few weeks we've spent a lot of time talking about Christmas, singing Christmas songs, reading Christmas books and preparing for a visit to Santa's grotto. So Freddy instantly recognised Santa, his sleigh and the Christmas tree which shows how recognisable they are even to very young children. Once I removed them from the packaging, I gave the set to Freddy for some free-play and he was immediately enthralled. During free-play, Freddy will sit either Santa or the snowman in the sleigh and then use Rudolph to take them for a ride. He does get a little frustrated with how easily Rudolph escapes from the harness and how easily the characters fall out of the sleigh, but he still loves to spend time playing with them. Where this set comes into it's own though, is when we use them as props for song-time, story-telling and talking about Christmas. We've used these with all kinds of Christmas songs including "Frosty the Snowman", "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "We're Walking In The Air" and many more. We've also used them extensively to talk about Christmas and how Santa is going to come and put presents under the tree. That's what's lovely about this little set, it's so versatile, it can be used as a decoration or a learning tool as well being simply a toy. Our only gripes would be that the tree doesn't easily fit into the Happyland cottage and it would have been nice for there to be some presents to put under the tree. As to whether Freddy likes this set I would say that's a resounding yes, he can regularly be seen walking around pretending to fly the sleigh, or sitting exploring the tree. ==Frosty The Snowman - Developmental View== As with most of the Happyland range this set is considered suitable for children between 18 months and 4 years and as with the rest of the range, I feel that lower age limit is a little over-cautious. I would have been perfectly happy for Freddy to have this toy from about a year old as there are no small pieces or other hazards. In fact, from the experience of watching Freddy play with Happyland toys from just under a year old, I would definitely say that this is safe for younger toddlers and that they will at the very least enjoy chewing on the characters. The upper age limit is possibly a little on the optimistic side, I would imagine that while older children may have a sneaky play, they would find this a little babyish as the approach four. But there is a whole other age group who would possibly find this worth buying. And that group is us adults, especially those of us that host little ones and want to put out some decorations safe in the knowledge that they are not only unbreakable but also safe for little hands. As with all the Happyland toys, this set has various developmental benefits for your child, from the most basic of improving hand-eye coordination as the child puts the characters in the sleigh and then flies it. The biggest developmental areas that this set will benefit are role-play, imagination and understanding of the world around us. Although quite limited due to the seasonal theme, it is still fantastic for helping a very young child increase their understanding about Christmas. I would also imagine that it would help increase the confidence of those young children who find the Man in Red a little intimidating. ==I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day - Final Words== This is a lovely little themed set that deserves a place in any young child's Happyland collection. Even if your child doesn't own any other Happyland sets, it's still a fantastic toy, that will help your young child understand why we all get excited as Christmas approaches. While it would make a fairly decent stocking filler (especially as it's currently on sale at half price, £5), I would say it is more suitable as a pre-Christmas present. It also makes an unusual and child-safe decoration for those who are expecting little visitors over the Christmas period. And so I'm giving the Happyland Christmas Set four stars out of five, with it losing one star due to the difficulty of removing it from the packaging and the fact it is a little limited due to the Christmas theme.