“ Brand: Early Learning Centre / Type: Toy car with figures / Age: 18 months + / Type: Cars & Vehicles „
A happy place
Last year, my daughter received a Happyland village set from Father Christmas. She has played with it a lot ever since so it's definitely been a big hit! She also received an extra set of characters about six months ago.
I have often toyed with the idea of buying extra sets to go with it but have always ruled it out as she seemed content enough with the set, which included a house, shop and cafe, and lots of characters. But then this Christmas she received this Happyland school bus.
For those who don't know, Happyland is a range of toys exclusive to the Early Centre Centre. The toys make up different elements of the Happyland village. The whole set is made of brightly coloured, sturdy plastic and everything we own is certainly as good as new after a year of play. Although some pieces may seem overpriced, I do think the high quality of the toys make them worth the extra money. I also like that the toys are suitable for both boys and girls.
Catch the bus!
In this set we have a small red bus, which says "School" on the front. There are also four characters included - a lollipop lady, two young students (one boy and one girl, both in a cute red and grey school uniform) and a moustachioed bus driver. Also is the set are two signs - one depicting traffic lights and the other a bus stop sign.
As soon as my daughter, who has just turned three, opened this at Christmas she started playing with it, ignoring all her other presents in the process! She loved the fact that the red bus had three Happyland-figure-sized indentations so people could get on and off the bus, and of course the little signs and lollipop lady added another interesting element to playtime. I also like that the characters are different from our other Happyland characters, so it doesn't feel like we've just acquired more people that look the same!
One thing that is annoying me about this little set is that it is tempting me to buy the school! It feels like the little students need somewhere to go in their nice red bus. So I am hanging on to see when ELC makes the school half price!
Overall this is a lovely set. It currently retails for £7.99 which I actually think is a great price when you consider what's included, and I would say this is better value than some of the other Happyland sets I've seen. It is fun to play with and my daughter definitely enjoys it.
If you are building a little Happyland of your own, I would definitely say this is a good addition.
After previously reviewing the Happyland Sunflower school I thought it was only fair to review the school bus too, since I received it as a gift when purchasing the school.
* The school bus *
The Happyland school bus contains 7 pieces
* The school bus
* Bus driver
* Lollipop lady
* 2 school children
* 1 bus stop sign
* 1 traffic light
As with all of the Happyland range, the quality of these items is amazing and the attention to detail is exceptional. The figures are made from the same chunky material as the rest of the range. I particularly like the lollipop lady, she is carrying her lollipop stick and wearing the popular florescent jacket and hat that children associate with lollipop ladies (or men!). The bus driver is an old man with grey hair and a tank top, and the school children match the school children that came with the Sunflower school, in the red uniform jumper.
The bus has enough spaces for three character passengers, these slots are slightly bigger than the figures so it's easy to slot the figures into place. The slots are deep enough so the bus can be pushed along without the figures falling out. The bus is bright red in colour, with decorative windows, windscreen and grill. The signs aren't as robust as the rest of the set. The plastic is a lot thinner but not so thin as to compromise the quality.
* Price and suitability*
The Happyland Sunflower School bus set is available from Early Learning Centre and currently costs £12. It's recommended for children over the age of 18 months, but of course, this has been exaggerated and I would suspect that it would be fine with younger babies. Kacie had hers from 12 months.
* What do we think?! *
Kacie may be a girl but it doesn't stop her playing with the stereotypical boy's toys such as cars and lorries. She loves this School bus and plays with it daily. Most of the time its wheeled along from the front door, round the whole downstairs, to the back door, along with her other cars carrying passengers from one place to the other. If I'm playing with her with all of her Happyland sets she will transport the children to school whilst I act as the lollipop lady so she is aware of how a lollipop lady works, she also transports the other characters to where they should be.
This Sunflower school bus is a fantastic addition to a Happyland collection, not only do we use it as a school bus, but we use it as a normal bus too. Kacie likes to play with the bus on its own if she is playing by herself, so I would recommended it to every one whether or not it's an addition to a set, or just a stand-alone toy. At £12 the amount of pieces is fantastic compared to some other more expensive Happyland sets.
The Happyland Sunflower School Bus was an extra we received free when we purchased the school. While we put the actual school away for next Christmas, we decided to let Freddy have the actual bus straight away to add to his ever growing Happyland collection. The standard price for this set is £10, which is perfectly reasonable considering the amount of pieces you get.
==The Mummies On The Bus==
The Sunflower School Bus (henceforth known as the bus) comes supplied in a small cardboard box. Unlike many of the Happyland sets we have bought, this is extremely easy to remove from the packaging with not a single plastic tie in sight. This means that it's perfectly suitable to give as a gift without worrying that the child will be getting impatient while waiting for Mummy or Daddy to extricate the parts from the box. In fact on a scale of one to ten I would put the difficulty of setting this up at a paltry one, it took mere seconds to remove the pieces from their plastic bags.
Considering this is an add-on set at the lower end of the price scale you get an amazing number of pieces for your money. Firstly you get the actual bus, which is a lovely bright red colour and has room for the driver and two passengers. Made of durable plastic the bus is a good size to hold, at approximately 12cm long and 6cm wide, it's nice and chunky, in fact the perfect size for toddlers. The bus is very easy to push along the floor as the wheels run freely. I love the detail on the bus, from the windows to the radiator grill all of which are painted on rather than being stickers. While many of the newer Happyland sets use a peg system to hold the characters in place (which is a little difficult for little hands), the bus features three holes into which the characters fit.
Along with the bus the set also contains two road signs, a set of traffic lights and a bus stop. These pieces aren't quite as well made as the bus, but still add to the play value. What I do dislike about the signs is that the details are formed by stickers rather than being painted on, which means that there will come a point when they will be pulled off, which is a shame.
The final pieces in the set are some characters to ride in the bus, now I'm really impressed with how many characters you get. Especially considering that a set of six characters will set you back £8 without the bus. There are actually a total of four characters included in the set, all made of soft almost rubberised material and full of detail. There's the driver, who looks quite friendly if a bit old. It's the little details that make this character look so good, from his tank top and tie, to his receding hairline to his moustache. Ok he maybe a little cartoon-like, but at the same time he does look quite realistic. No bus would be complete without passengers and as this is a school bus the two passengers are both school children in their school uniforms. Again the level of detail is fantastic, with the boy having a double crown (and the sticky out bit of hair that goes with it) and wearing a satchel. In the meantime, the girl has curly hair in pigtails and is wearing a backpack (complete with little flower detail). Another thing I love about the Happyland characters is that they come in all different ethnicities, and are not blue-eyed, blonde-haired gender stereotypes. The final character is a bit gender stereotypical though as she is a lollipop lady complete with fluorescent coat and lollipop stick.
As I've come to expect from Happyland all the pieces are extremely well made and none of them are small enough to cause a choking hazard. All in all from an adults point of view I would give this set five stars out of five and definitely feel it's worth the asking price and is fabulous as a freebie. But it's not just my opinion that counts...
==The Children On The Bus==
The first time we gave this set to Little Man was while he was sitting in his chair after eating his breakfast. This gave him plenty of time to explore all the different pieces and he really enjoyed putting the people in the bus and taking them back out again. With his Happyland vehicles that use the peg system to hold the characters in place, Little Man does occasionally get frustrated that they won't stay in place. But because this bus has holes for the people to fit in he finds it easy to put the characters in place ready for a drive. Only being just under a year, Little Man does still tend to put things in his mouth, and these are no exception. For some reason he's decided the lollipop lady is holding something that's nice to eat, and will spend quite a time pretending to eat it, while saying "Mmmm". I've absolutely no worries that Little Man is going to choke on the people though, at approximately 7cm high they are just too big to swallow.
Being in some ways a very typical little boy, Little Man absolutely loves his cars, and the bus is no exception. Although it is a little bigger than most of Little Man's cars, he still has no trouble holding it and pushing it along the floor. The fact that the wheels are free-wheeling means that it takes very little effort to push the bus across the floor, accompanied of course with a loud "vroom". What's really nice about the bus is that it's not only the characters that come with the set that fit in it, but any of the Happyland characters. Freddy will regularly take his other characters for a ride and all sorts of different people have taken turns at being the driver, from the lollipop lady to the postmistress. As well as allowing Little Man time to play with this on his own, I also like to spend some time playing with him, setting up and acting out all sorts of scenarios. This set is fantastic for helping him start to understand about crossing the road and he absolutely loves it when we start singing the wheels on the bus.
As well as being played with by the Little Man, this set has also been admired by visiting children. While the Little Man's imagination is only just beginning to bloom, some of these older children seem to be able to totally transport themselves into another world. So this bus has taken the children to school (and home again), on trips to the zoo and even back in time to the land of the dinosaurs (in conjunction with the Happyland Dino Playset). It's lovely to watch these children chat away and play, especially as they include Little Man, meaning he's learning how to use his imagination.
As you can imagine, seeing as it's played with by a rather boisterous toddler this set does get quite a lot of abuse. So far, in it's short life the bus has been dropped from the high chair on a number of occasions as well as being crashed against walls and it still looks as good as new. The characters have also been sucked and chewed without any paint flaking, in fact they don't even have any tooth marks. So I'm confident that this is a toy that will easily last through the next few years until it becomes deemed to babyish.
==The Teachers On The Bus==
What I love about all the Happyland sets is how many of them take their inspiration from buildings, people and settings that are familiar to young children and then allow them to let their imagination to run riot. I also love that some of the Happyland sets are perfect for introducing children to new situations. For example although Freddy hasn't been given the actual school set yet, it was purposely bought to help prepare him for pre-school next year (they start really early here). As with many of the larger sets, this school bus set can be used to help explain new concepts to your child. What I especially like in this set is the lollipop lady, who can be used to help reinforce road safety and especially the concept of using appropriate crossings. If your child is not familiar with buses then the bus can also be used to help them come to grips with waiting at a bus stop, paying the fair and even pressing the bell and then waiting for the bus to stop before getting up.
As well as helping your child learn about the world around them, this set will also encourage his imagination and role playing skills as he puts his new understanding into practise. But that's not all, the set will also help your child improve their hand-eye coordination as they put the characters into and out of the bus and the gross motor skills as they push the bus along and then chase after it. The bus can even be used as a prop for singing the perennial favourite, The Wheels On The Bus.
As to the recommended age group, well I do think the lower limit of eighteen months is being a bit on the over-cautious side. Little Man is almost a year and perfectly capable of playing with the set, in fact he's been playing with Happyland toys from about nine months old. None of the pieces are small enough to be a choking hazard, and while younger children may not be getting the most from the set, they will still enjoy playing with it. In fact, think of this set as an investment, no child is born knowing how to play, so by spending time with them, joining in and narrating, you are helping your child learn to make the most of the toy and help them improve their vocabulary at the same time. As for the upper age limit, I would say the recommended age of four is just about right, any older and they would probably find it a little babyish.
==The Bell On The Bus==
This is a lovely little set from the Happyland range, that is more than worth the £10 asking price and even better free. This would make a lovely little gift for any toddler of about nine months upwards as it is full of play potential. It would also make a nice gift to celebrate a toddler's first day at pre-school. As well as being fun to play with on it's own it's also a fantastic add-on to the Sunflower School set or as part of your child's Happyland collection. All in all I would give The Happyland Sunflower School Bus a ripping five stars out of five and recommend it for toddlers aged from about nine months to four years.