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Although fourteen month old Freddy has a rather large Happyland collection, I must admit that I haven't paid full price for very much of it. The Retro Racing Lorry is a set that I bought a few months back for the bargain basement price of £5, which was half the standard retail price. This isn't the largest set in the price range or the most versatile, but I do think we more than got our money's worth considering that it's played with fairly frequently.
Comprising of an articulated lorry, retro racing car, driver and engineer the retro racing has a recommended age range of eighteen months to four years. However there is absolutely nothing about these toys that would cause a hazard to younger babies and indeed Freddy has been playing with Happyland toys since he was about ten months old. The lorry itself is a lovely bright red with white and green detailing and runs very smoothly on six wheels. Rather than being in two pieces, the lorry is made in one piece with the cab swivelling independently of the car carrier at the back. There is space in the cab for one driver, and what I particularly like here is that rather than the peg system utilised in other Happyland vehicles, this uses a space that is big enough to make putting the driver into place easy for little hands and yet small enough to hold the driver securely.
The green racing car really does look like something from Sterling Moss's racing days, completely living up to the retro label. My one criticism of this car is it looks very similar to the actual retro racing set (a set of three race cars), with the only difference being the number six on the back. The car is a good size for little hands to hold and push, and again is free-wheeling and fair scoots along the floor. The car sits neatly on the back of the lorry, which is moulded with indentations for the wheels, but it isn't held very securely and will roll off if the lorry is pushed too fast. As with the lorry the car has room for just the driver.
There are two people in this set, both of which are non-poseable and yet feature an amazing amount of detail. The engineer (who is the identical twin of the engineer in the garage set) has an impressive handlebar moustache and sideburns, is wearing his cap at a jaunty angle and is even carrying an oily rag. Meanwhile the racing driver looks like he's a bit of a cad, with his old fashioned helmet, silk scarf and goggles. Both characters are made of a tough rubberised material with the detail painted on and at about 7cm high are a perfect size for little hands to hold without being so small they form a choking hazard.
Freddy was just under a year old when he received this set and was already quite the Happyland fan. Being in many ways a typical boy, he does love his cars and will spend quite a long period of time playing with his collection of various Happyland vehicles, including this. He enjoys putting the people in and out of the driver's seats and pushing the vehicles across the floor accompanied by a loud "Brummmm". I will say that he does find it quite difficult to position the car on the lorry, but is improving all the time.
Although he did start out playing with this set on it's own, it didn't take long for Freddy to incorporate it into the rest of his Happyland collection. This means that the engineer and driver often take rides in different vehicles (such as the train or horse and carriage) and the great thing is the way that all the Happyland characters fit in all the different vehicles means that the different combinations are only limited by your child's imagination. For example today the lollipop lady had a turn driving the lorry while the farmer had a day at the races.
When he first received this Freddy had very limited imagination and very few words, but over the last few months I've watched all the Happyland sets encourage him to improve these skills. Today as he was playing, rather than the running commentary that I normally give, he gave one of his own. With him saying "in" and "out" as he put the characters into the cab and car, "Brummmm" as he pushed the car and then cheering as the race was won. So I would definitely say that this is helping Freddy develop both his imaginary and creative skills.
As well as allowing him all important time to play on his own, we use this set for both parent-led and (increasingly) child-led play. To begin with we would team this up with another car for races, where we were definitely helping Freddy to learn how to push the cars. Or we would push the car towards Freddy to try and get him to push back, or even away from him for him to chase. Now, more often than not Freddy will either race the cars himself or bring a car and ask for us to play. So this set is also Freddy develop all important gross and fine motor skills as well as encouraging him to cooperate.
Of course Freddy isn't the only person that has played with this set, visiting children have also played with it, including a friend's two year old daughter. Although it's not the first choice of toy, it is one that they incorporate into their games, especially when they are playing villages. There have been occasions when these have received some rather rough treatment, especially when the car has crashed during a race. Considering this and the fact that the people have occasionally been chewed on during a particularly difficult bout of teething, everything is still is in excellent condition. In fact the only damage so far is purely cosmetic in the form of a small scratch in the lorry's paintwork.
In conclusion, this is a great add-on set for any child's Happyland collection or even a stand-alone for the car mad toddler. Although billed as suitable for children eighteen months or over, it's perfectly safe for younger children and I would even suggest would make a great first car for those six months and above. Freddy loves cars, so it's no brainer that he loves this, but I also love how safe and durable it is. So I'm giving the Happyland Retro Racing Lorry five stars out of five with my only proviso being wait until it's next on sale before buying it. (I would never pay full price for any Happyland toy though).