Timeless Toys Through The Ages

6 min read

Last Modified 8 May 2024 First Added 2 May 2024

Author Katy

As Early Learning Centre (ELC) celebrates its 50th year, it’s a wonderful opportunity to look back at where the brand has come from and how things have changed over the years. We’re really proud of our history of creating developmental toys that are truly educational as well as being fun. From John Beale’s original vision of creating quality products which bring excitement into learning, the ELC brand has gone on to produce hundreds of toys and games that continue the original Early Learning Centre ethos, bringing joy and life-long memories to the children that play with them.

The Original Learning Development Toy Inventors

Early Learning Centre was the first toy company to hire a child psychologist to help design toys and ensure that every toy being sold had educational value. The mission has always been to create unique, thoughtfully designed toys to support children’s learning and development through play. We want our toys to capture children’s imaginations, spark joy, and instil a lifelong love of learning.

What Makes A Toy Timeless?

Timeless Toys are those quality toys that transcend generations, remaining as popular with children today as they were 50 years ago. While designs have evolved, play patterns associated with ELC toys remain unchanged.  Over the years we’ve upgraded materials, improved sustainability and exceeded safety standards as the toy industry evolved. With 50 years of proven durability and appeal, our timeless toys are as relevant and exciting to children today as they were in 1974.

Early Learning Centre Cash Register

One of ELC’s most recognisable toys, our cash register has been a staple in toy boxes for years. It’s changed quite a lot in that time to better reflect modern shopping habits. Its original iteration featured buttons and pop-up numbers, as well as lots of play money to act out shopping scenarios and support early counting knowledge. Since then, we’ve added lots of new features, bringing one of our most iconic and loved toys into modern times with a digital screen, microphone and chip and pin machine! The new design features the same play patterns as when they were first created, helping children to understand and practise real-life scenarios in a safe environment.

Did you know we feature our cash register through the ages in our 50th anniversary celebration brand video – see if you can spot all the Timeless Toys featured as well as the surprises hidden in the film!

Early Learning Centre Double-Side Easel

Side By Side Comparison of an Easel toy from different decades

First featuring in ELC’s 1980/81 catalogue, our easel has had a few redesigns over the years. Originally made from wood, it’s now constructed from sturdy, high quality plastic, with adjustable legs and lots of additional features such as a detachable tray, clips for holding paper and easy storage

Our timeless easel taps into children’s love of creating, offering various ways to play through its magnetic whiteboard and chalkboard surfaces. Creating artworks and exploring different mediums increases confidence, supports the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and gives you some wonderful masterpieces to decorate the fridge with!

Early Learning Centre My Little Medical Case

ELC is well-known for beautiful, long-lasting wooden toys. The current design of our My Little Medical Case playset features sustainably sourced painted wooden replicas of doctor’s equipment that encourages your child to create their own stories and play them out.

First launched in 1990, this set is still a timeless classic now made from sustainable wood, perfect for playing doctors with teddy bears or dolls.

Early Learning Centre Costumes

Early Learning Centre outfits across the decades

Dress-up costumes are another great source of imaginative play opportunities, and we’ve been making high-quality costumes for years – helping children role play as firefighters, pirates, doctors and nurses. Customers still love that iconic red cape!

Early Learning Centre Hammer Ball Bench

First offered in Early Learning Centre’s 1980/81 catalogue, the Hammer Ball Bench is one of our longest continuously featured toys. It’s play value offers fun and excitement in tapping, hitting and then watching the balls tumble back to their starting point. This Timeless Toy supports the development of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as well as number and colour matching elements. The bench has had a couple of redesigns over the years; originally made from wood and painted bright red and yellow, the Hammer Ball Bench now comes in sturdy plastic with numbered balls for recognition and matching and a mirror for self-discovery whilst playing. Like many of the toys that have been further developed by our experts after they launched, whilst the materials and design has had an upgrade, the play pattern remains the same and toddlers and babies today enjoy this toy just as much as they did 50 years ago.

Early Learning Centre Wooden Garage Playset And Vehicles

Another iconic, memorable toy for many little boys and girls in the 80’s was our classic wooden garage. Originally starting life as a ‘Service Station’ featuring two floors, a car park and, most excitingly for the time, a working winch-operated lift for broken cars to get hoisted up for repair.  In the years since it’s first launch, our Wooden Garage has had a number of additions and upgrades, and now stands taller than ever at 40cm. The modern version features an extra level, lots of exciting new painted features, a car wash, petrol pumps and an electric charging point. Everything your – miniature car -owners need for a trip to the garage!

Our Evolving Toy Offering

You can see that many our toys have evolved significantly over the years, but the play patterns they encourage have stayed the same. The way children want to play hasn’t changed much – they want to explore, to try out new things, to stretch their imaginations and to bring their ideas to life. Our ELC toys encourage these and support both their physical and cognitive development. You can read more about all the ways our toys can help support growth and development in our Learning Skills series.

With an ongoing focus on the quality and sustainability of our materials, we offer something completely unique to toy buyers – 50 years of child development knowledge and trusted toys that have been proven to stand the test of time.

Keep checking back for more 50th anniversary content as we explore the history of one of Britain’s best loved toy brands and look forward to an exciting future of toys, learning and memory-making.

About the Author


Expert in Miniverse

Katy Clouds is the newest addition to our writing team packing nearly 10 years experience in online copywriting and several awards.

Katy is a serious Miniverse collector and follows all the latest trends in miniatures – look out for lots of collectibles content from her coming soon!

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