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I love the idea of learning through play and educational toys, but first and foremost I believe a toy has to be fun. It doesn't do any good for a toy to be very educational if it isn't fun, but rockets are always fun. I'll admit we both wanted the brilliant petrol fired model we saw on you tube - but beyond educational I do require some degree of safety as well. You will have accidents with this rocket - but the only consequence of an accident is someone getting wet - usually me.
I had originally planned to make this without a kit - but I couldn't find the rubber stopper I needed at a reasonable price. All you really need is a rubber stopper, a lemonade bottle, some type of stand, a football needle and an air pump and you can make this yourself. The price is quite reasonable though. It is currently £6.63 from Amazon, but I managed to pick this up for £ 4.50 with a slightly damaged box corner.
What's In the Box
A small plastic bottle which makes me think very much of a rabbit's water bottle.
A plastic nose cone - this looks like half of one of those plastic eggs you fill up with sweets.
Fins - this is the worst part of the set very flimsy thin plastic that you tape around the bottle and theoretically will allow the rocket to stand while you pump air. ( Emphasis on the word theoretically).
Stickers to decorate the rocket.
The rubber stopper to fit in the bottle.
A football needle.
An instruction paper with additional educational information.
What's Not in the box?
A pump - this will not work without a common bicycle pump or other air pump.
Building the rocket:
This was pretty quick and easy and although did give minor assistance - it really wasn't necessary. This could easily be built by a child of 7-8 alone - but then again my children enjoy it more if I join in - especially when it comes to the getting wet part.
Using the rocket. First you add 30 ml of water. Or if you are like us first you just add water and find that it does not work. The wrong amount of water will result in failure - next you read the directions and then add the correct amount of water. You should be able to stand the rocket on the fins while you pump the air in, but this just did not work for us. Perhaps it was the type of pump we were using, or the fact that the children did the pumping, and were not the most steady but it always fell down. The only way to make this work was for me to hold it - which means I got soaked every time but I rather suspect that the was the best part as far as the children were concerned. Still we did have trouble getting it just right, and I think this would have worked far better with a better air pump, but we also had fun. We did not get any spectacular flights - I think the best we got was about 8 feet, but I do feel this was due to the children not being able to pump it up well enough with the air pump we had - and I have trouble with my hands so wasn't able to do the best job either - plus I was needed to hold the rocket. Even so the nose cone collapsed - but you don't really need it anyway, and you can replace the entire bottle with a lemonade bottle.
I do think we will get better with this as we go along - unfortunately, I broke a finger and have one hand all taped up so I can't get wet right now and soon it will be too cold. We will make some better rockets with lemonade bottles eventually - but I do think this set was worth the money - if only for the stopper and the football needle.
I also really appreciated the extra information on the instruction paper. Horrible Science is quite good at explaining the science behind their toys and this has a very short, but very good explanation of how rockets work as well as section on gravity. There is a diagram showing how a real single stage rocket works. This explains that when the hot gasses in rocket fuel ignite - the resulting explosion causes hot gasses to shoot out propelling the rocket into space. With the toy water serves as the fuel with air pressure forcing the rocket into the air. But what goes up must come down - hence the discussion of gravity. In addition to this there area few tidbits of historical trivia about rockets. For such a short space - you can read the whole thing in less than two minutes, this does an excellent job of explaining a fair amount of science in a very easy to understand manner. It isn't long enough to bore children and get them fussing to get started playing. Of course you might want to learn more details, as we did, but you can always look up other sources.
The children did enjoy this very much - in spite of all the problems. They are quite happy with the toy, and I do feel they have learned something from it. We had a fun afternoon in the garden as well. I am rating this down one star, because I feel the fins and nose cone really could have been made with better materials which could support the rocket better, but I am still glad I bought this and look forward to using it again in the future. Needless to say - these toys that get everyone wet are far more fun in the summer than winter months, so this may not get much use for awhile - but it will be great fun to unpack it next it spring. This toy may have some minor flaws, but it is very reasonable price, and I have no problems in recommending it.