Tag Archives: construction

If You Build It… You’ll Have Fun

There’s nothing that says “play” better than a construction kit—and nothing that says “great way to spend time with your kids” either. So it’s no surprise that so many different manufacturers making so many different kits out of so many different materials. This week we take a look at one kit that’s traditional—in a very innovative way, and two that actually have an agenda.

Knuckz Delux (KnuckleStrutz)
knucklestrutzBefore you even open the package and start building, you’d better clear your calendar because you’re going to be need a few hours, but the time will fly. KnuckleStrutz kits are traditional in that you have a variety of pieces that you can assemble to create something. But those pieces are like nothing we’d ever seen before. KnuckeStrutz are incredibly well made: they fit together snugly—and stay that way until you take them apart to build something else. We also marveled at the engineering brains behind KnuckleStrutz who created so many pieces that can go together in so many different way.

The Knuckz Delux comes with more than 300 pieces and instructions for building two very intricate things—a fire truck and big rig truck. On the website, there are instructions for 13 more creations, including robots, motorcycles, dune buggies, and even a helicopter. The printed instructions that come with the package are sometimes hard to read, but the online PDFs are much easier. And, of course, there’s no limit to what you can create without instructions. Challenging, engaging, and great for building patience, dexterity, imagination, and parent-child relationships. Perfect for rainy days, or any other day, for that matter. Recommended for ages 6 and up, but kids under 8 or 9 will definitely need help with the instructions and may need a little assembly assistance. Kids over 10 will be able to help dad or mom when they get stuck. $78, for ages 6 and up. http://www.knucklestrutz.com/

Goldie Blox and the Parade Float
Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine
goldieblox parade floatThe folks behind Goldie Blox are very open about their mission: To inspire the next generation of female engineers, and along the way, they hope to help girls develop the spatial and building skills they’ll need. Each kit focuses on slightly different (but somewhat overlapping) skills. Goldie Blox and the Parade Float ($20 on Amazon) is designed to demonstrate wheels and axles, gear action, and vehicle design. Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine ($29) also works on wheels and axles, but adds in force, friction, and tension. Besides the pieces, each kit contains a story book in which Goldie, her friends, and even their pets overcome challenges by building various machines. The idea is to tap into girls’ verbal skills to help them discover and develop hand-eye and engineering skills.

goldieblox spinning machineWhat a terrific concept. Although meant for girls 3 to 9, we recommend Goldie Blox for the lower end of the range. Older kids may be frustrated by the stories, which will appeal much more to little kids, the small number of pieces (there are only around 30 in each kit), and the pieces themselves, which don’t always stay together as long as they should. But little girls and, perhaps, some boys who don’t mind pink tool belts and ribbons, will love Goldie Blox. http://www.goldieblox.com/

Look, It’s Moving by Itself!

Most kids (and plenty of parents) like to build—forts, castles, towers, model airplanes, and more—which explains why there are so many products out there designed to help us do just that. They range from simple wooden blocks and kits that show us how to construct all sorts of cool things using objects that we have around the house, to the most complex building sets. There’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment that one gets from stepping back and looking at a completed project. Most of the time, though, that’s about all you can do with it. But there’s a special thrill that comes from seeing whatever you’ve built come to life: electrical projects that turn lights on and off, radio kits that receive real broadcasts, and, of course, anything that moves. This week we’re taking a look at two very different construction sets that will provide hours of parent-child entertainment, both during the actual assembly process and afterwards, when it starts to move.

Runners (Laser Pegs)
laser pegs robot parents@playLaser Pegs has a variety of products that take Lego-type building to a whole new level by adding lights that flash, blink, and generally make what you’ve build look very cool. But in their Runners line, they’ve added motion. Runners come with fewer than 30 pieces, including the battery-operated base that powers the lights and the wheels. Besides making cleanup a little easier, that also makes construction quicker—15-20 minutes after opening the box, you’ll have a colorfully lighted tank running around your floors. The step-by-step instructions are easy enough to follow that even young builders will be able to take charge. The kit we tested lets you build six different moveable vehicles. But the possibilities are truly endless. There are plenty of additional suggestions on the company’s website, and Runners are also compatible with other building sets, making them infinitely expandable. The package says that Runners are “for boys and girls ages 5 and up”—a very smart move and we hope will encourage a lot more girls to see building as not being only for boys. Retails for $14.99 and is perfect for ages 5 and up. http://www.laserpegs.com/

14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot Kit (OWI Robotics)
OWI robotIf you’re looking for a more challenging construction experience, this is it. The 14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot Kit is exactly what it claims to be. You can build 14 different robots, the intricate moveable parts make it plenty educational, and it is powered by the sun, so no batteries required. It’s also incredibly fun. But you’ll need to be patient. Very patient. Each of the molded plastic pieces (I lost count at about 200) has to be clipped out of a plastic frame. And you’ll need to look very closely at the illustrated instructions to make sure all the components are facing the right direction before putting them together (if you get something wrong—and you probably will—not to worry: you aren’t using glue and the pieces snap together and unsnap pretty easily).

OWI robot assembly parents@playThe 80+ page manual has instructions on how to build each of the robots, including a dog that wags its tail, a running beetle, a walking crab, a zombie chaser, a turtle, and even a boat that actually operates in the water. The 14 robots come in two levels of difficulty, though the entry level projects are still challenging enough that it took a highly skilled 10-year old builder and her dad more than an hour to put one together. Ages 10 and up. Retails for $31.95. http://owirobot.com/