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The Early Learning Centre have recently revamped their Happyland range, redesigning some of the sets and releasing new additions. Among the new sets is the Happy Wild Animals, a set of five zoo animals, that costs £8 standard price, but was recently in a two for £10 offer. With the set only costing me the equivalent of £5, it made a perfect gift to give as a reward for good behaviour.
The five animals come supplied in an open-faced box and rather than being held in place by those stupid plastic ties they are secured by a peg system and elastic bands. While I was grateful not to have to spend hours untwisting ties, I did find that the peg system is slightly too secure and I was frightened I was going to break the characters. I was also a little concerned that the elastic bands would pose a choking hazard, especially as these are toys designed for children from the age of eighteen months. Once removed from the packaging, you have five chunky zoo animals, each of which is a reasonably good representation of the real thing, albeit cartoon-like with a humanised smiling face.
The largest of the animals is a rhinoceros, don't ask me which particular breed, because I really don't know. I was a little surprised at the size of the rhino to be honest, it certainly is not in scale with the other animals as it is larger than the elephant. There is also a male lion in the set, who has an impressive mane and a stripy zebra. The final piece in the set is a monkey, that doesn't seem to be representative of any particular species, and could even be considered a chimpanzee at a squeeze. Each of the animals is made of a rubber-like material, which is tough, durable, easy to wipe clean and gives a nice tactile experience, with the detail painted on. Size-wise they are perfect for little hands, being between six and seven centimetres high.
Although Freddy absolutely loves his Happyland toys, he has a significant developmental delay and is on the autistic spectrum, has very limited imagination and role playing skills and doesn't exactly play with them as intended. I picked out these wild animals for him as we regularly visit the zoo, he loves the animals, they would give us excellent visual props to talk about what we have seen and he would recognise most of them. This set fulfilled those purposes exactly, Freddy instantly recognised the lion and monkey and was able to bring them to me when asked. After a short period of time with me naming the other animals and looking at pictures of their counterparts, Freddy was also able to recognise the zebra, although he still gets a little confuses the elephant and rhino occasionally. We love to use these animals to talk about our trips to the zoo, which animals we have seen, the noises they make, what they eat and whether we have fed them or not. We also use them to help Freddy make choices as to which animals he wants to see the day before a trip to the zoo, with him generally choosing to see the monkeys (his favourite animal) and feed the elephants.
As with all Happyland characters, these animals are extremely robust and able to withstand almost anything a child could throw at them. Freddy tends to put everything in his mouth, each of these have been chewed on more than one occasion and as yet there is no sign of either teeth marks or the paint flaking off. While The Early Learning Centre bills these animals as being suitable for children over the age of eighteen months, I see nothing about them that would render them unsafe for younger babies. Indeed Freddy has been playing with Happyland toys since he was about ten months and never come to any harm. As to an upper age, The Early Learning Centre used to give an upper limit of four years, which would probably be about right, depending on the child, but I can see Freddy playing with these and using them as props to talk about days out far beyond this.
What I love about all the Happyland sets, it's how they can help a child develop their imagination, conversational and role playing skills while introducing them to everyday experiences. This set is no different, it is an ideal starter set to introduce wild animals, zoos or safari parks, allowing you to help your child learn about these different aspects and as the animals are all instantly recognisable they can easily identify them with the animals they see in real life or on the television.
This is a great little ad-on set from the Happyland range and one that I am more than happy to recommend. The standard retail price of £8 is, perhaps, a little high, but as part of the two for £10 deal it is more than worth the money. The set is a firm favourite of Freddy's, being played with on a daily basis and has proved excellent in helping a non-verbal little boy talk about his day out at the zoo and show Daddy what animals he has seen. So we are giving the Happyland Happy Wild Animals set a resounding five stars out of five, as we love it so much that we've bought the Wild Safari set to go with it and are just waiting for the zoo to arrive.