Love shopping? Then head to Heartlake Shopping Mall, part of the popular Lego Friends play sets, for a day filled with virtual retail therapy for the littlest of big spenders.

With the swish and swagger of any state-of-the-art Westfield, the Heartlake Shopping Mall has sleek design, tons of detail and plenty of play value. Part of the Lego Friends collection that launched in 2011, this mega build – it has a whopping 1120 pieces – consists of several individual units that can be used as stand-alone stores or stacked in a variety of mix and match configurations.

Fringed with a decorative arch of opulent golden palm leaves, the entrance foyer has a revolving door and chequerboard tiles reminiscent of the iconic Art Deco design of Claridge’s

But what’s a mall without shoppers? That’s where the Lego Friends mini dolls who inhabit the fictional Heartlake City come in. With this set, there are four mini dolls – Stephanie, Emma, Sophie and the token boy Julian, plus Emma’s dog, Lady – and there’s plenty to keep them entertained in this imaginative play set.

Above the main entrance to the mall, there is a pleasant seating area bedecked with flowers that offers a lofty view of the busy comings and goings below. If you fancy grabbing a bite to eat, there are adjacent eateries selling pizzas from a wood-fired oven or hot dogs and fries so big they should satisfy the hungriest of appetites. (Note: the Lego Friends mini figures’ diminutive statures means that some of the props are on a rather comedic grand scale: the fries are one example, the giant lipsticks in the Beauty Salon are another. Having said that, it would be impractical to have these accessories to scale – and imagine the stress of having to look for an errant lipstick if it was that miniscule!)

Other shops include a Sports boutique (presumably to work off some of that high calorie junk food) stocked with sports equipment, such as basketballs, tennis racquets, sports water bottles, skateboards and flippers – there are even teensy weights for a spot of power buildling! Another nice detail is the till with a drawer that opens to reveal coins and notes (well, little flat Lego pieces).

At the Beauty Salon, there are plenty of pampering opportunities… mini doll Sophie is in a bath robe and turban with her face smeared with a green mask. She’s still smiling, but it’s a slight design oversight not to give her one of those clever swivel heads that some Lego mini figures have so that she could have the option of not looking like she’s auditioning for Wicked all the time.

The Bridal Shop is another rather girlie element with a mannequin in the window and tiaras and bows for the mini dolls to try on for size (they have little holes on their heads so these can be affixed). There’s also a mini vendor with a host of handbags and a fun photo booth that takes photos (sort of): sit your figures in the booth, pull the lever and out pops a mini reel of ready made pictures. Presto!

Finally, there’s a catwalk with rotating feature so models can give an effortless twirl, and a DJ set for musical accompaniment. In a nod to the Jungle Rescue sets, also from Lego Friends, it looks like this is a fundraiser for the worthwhile cause of animal welfare. And when the fun is over, the gang can hop in their car – there’s plenty of room in the cute convertible car, with a trunk that opens so they can pile up their booty.

About Lego Friends Lego launched its girls range, Lego Friends, in December 2011 following four years of research. The range was developed to mirror girls’ tastes and interests, combining the opportunity for realistic role-play, creativity, and a highly detailed, character-based world with the core values of Lego building. The Lego Friends story centres on the everyday lives and personalities of five girls, Emma, Olivia, Mia, Andrea and Stephanie, in their fictional hometown, Heartlake City. Each of the Friends characters has a distinct personality and a range of interests including animals, performing arts, invention and design.

Good For… fine motor dexterity, hand/eye coordination, and manipulation, communication skills, vocabulary, following instructions, problem solving, shape recognition, imaginary play, story telling and role play, cooperative play

Keep in Mind… Whilst this set offers the same build-ability as other Lego sets, it has an undeniable gender bias. Don’t dismiss other brilliant Lego ranges like City and Superheroes for girls too. The set also has a lot of elements and can take up quite a lot of floor space; on the plus side, the units can be stacked on top of each other if you want to make a multi-storey mall, which would give a smaller footprint. Also, take a look at the fab Play N Wrap Floor Rug that you can use to make the pack up a little easier…

What Kids Love The attention to teeny details really boosts its pretend play potential with lots of fun props that will inspire story-telling and imaginative adventures.

What Parents Love With so many pieces, there are days, if not weeks, of traditional building opportunities available with this set, and – as units can be interchanged and reconfigured – this set also encourages plenty of creative reworking of the ‘established’ sets.

Designer Details Founded in Denmark by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in 1932, Lego (an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”) is arguably the most iconic toy brand ever. Originally crafting wooden toys, it wasn’t until 1947 that Lego began producing plastic toys, with the first version of the now famous interlocking bricks being produced in 1949. The full iconic interlocking system that we now instantly recognise as Lego was introduced nine years later in 1958. Despite variations in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible with previous pieces. This means that if you had a Lego set from 1958, it would still be compatible with a modern set, making Lego something of a poster child for the circular economy with each element able to be used again and again with no end-of life for the product, due to its durability.