“ Brand: Mega Bloks / Type: Action & Aventure Toys „
It seems that the days of a bucket of Lego (or its many variants) are long gone. Kids these days, we are told (at least marketed to) need characters. They need to relate to the toys (generally, it seems, by watching the nasty box in the corner) and need to know how the toys behave in animation in order to be able to effectively role play with a few bits of plastic. Forgive me if I sound sarcastic.
Despite heavy character marketing I've found that the toys that are played with most creatively in our house are those which lack any kind of characterisation. They are the plain, old-fashioned, simple toys that allow a child to make anything of them. We have a bucket lid that's regularly used as a steering wheel for a cardboard box car and as the fun that's had from cardboard tubes...
What, though, has this to do with Mega Blocks and Diego? Quite a bit, actually.
Whilst I find that most character lego/mega blocks sets are over specific and actually stifle creativity, the Diego set seems to be a bit of an exception to the rule. Whilst some of the pre-formed special blocks could only ever perform one role - being a tree top or tree trunk for example - there's actually plenty of scope within the set for making a variety of things and role playing with the result.
The set is small, comprising just 26 bricks of which 14 are special formed shapes. The remaining 12 bricks are traditional shaped blocks. The blocks are the smaller mega block variety (mini) - larger than traditional lego but not as large as the starter blocks that most toddlers will use. Where the joy comes is in the adventures that can be played out using the set.
By way of background, Diego is a Nick Jr character. Cousin of Dora the Explorer, this American series is an educational cartoon. Diego works at an animal rescue centre and, with the help of various friends Diego spends his day rescuing lost or stricken young animals. Diego will use various forms of transport to assist him in these missions and this is the first area that the set replicates. The bricks provided allow you to make a car, hovercraft, jet ski or seaplane (up to two in various combinations) following easy pictoral instructions. Other shaped pieces (including Diego himself) can then be used to role play rescue situations. You don't, however, need to know this or have seen the TV programme for the set to make sense.
I like the fact that the child has to follow instructions to build the vehicles (and my 2 ½ year old can do it) but also that they have to realise they can't make all of the things at once. This is, in my opinion, a good lesson to learn. I like that the vehicles have to be constructed - it requires some effort and, in my experience, means the child will play for longer.
As the pieces are standard mini mega blocks pieces they can be combined with other sets as you chose meaning that the set up can be expanded if your child likes it.
Diego himself, is a jointed figure who's feet will attach to the mega block bricks. He's reasonably adaptable and suits the purpose well.
My son, at 2 ½ has had much fun with this set. It is marked as suitable from that magic age of 3 but, so long as you don't have a child who is wont to putting things in his/her mouth, I don't see an issue with it. As instructions have to be followed to make the vehicles I suspect that 2 ½ is about the youngest that the toy is suitable for, however.
As to upper age, I suspect that this is a toy that will really grow with the child and, as such, the upper limit is probably at the point at which Diego falls out of favour - say 5 or 6?
P.S: If there's a complaint it's over packaging. When unpacked the bricks would easily fit in a box half the size of the one provided. However, as some of the play ideas are printed on the box, for a child less familiar with role play one might need (or want) to keep the original packaging.
Build your own Rainforest Rescues. Includes a Diego figure, a Baby Jaguar and lots of fun parts to stimulate the imagination.