Like most people, I love a bargain so I was very tempted to discover that ELC had a half-price sale at the same time that I had a 20% off 'Birthday code' to use last year. I managed to snap this fantastic 'Build It' construction set up for £16 - which is a massive discount when compared to the full (albeit rather inflated) RRP of £40.
This is a suitably impressive 'big box' present, which was an ideal gift for my four year son last Christmas. It wasn't however, the type of present that immediately caught his eye so I tucked it out of sight for a few days over Christmas and brought it out after the initial excitement of some other presents had died down.
The box itself is a simple but practical design and has proven to be strong enough to house the contents after each use and safely store away all the pieces between play sessions, minimising the risk of critical pieces going astray. I do like the practical style of the box but I don't particularly like the images chosen to illustrate the box. The box clearly indicates a recommended age range of 3-8 years but the little boy on the front of the box is quite clearly at the very lowest end of this wide age range. He looks around two or three years old at most and I think this choice of image gives the impression that this is a toy best suited to the lower end of the suggested age range, when I would say the opposite is the case.
This set is a wonderful collection of various bits and pieces of what is, essentially, a jumbo plastic version of that classic construction toy; Meccano. The basic principles are the same, with the various elements having several holes, needing the screws provided to attach them all together to create impressive vehicles or other contraptions.
Although described as a 'starter set', there is certainly more than enough pieces and accessories provided to enable lots of ongoing play. My two younger children like to play with this set together and I would say there are just about enough pieces to enable them to both make two separate contraptions at the same time. (I would like to say that they can play together nicely with this set but sadly that would be a lie, as they inevitably end up arguing about the exact same piece that both of them desperately 'need' to complete their invention.)
Overall this is a recommended purchase for children much older than the packaging suggests
My son loves to build things and is developing quite a good imagination when it comes to the things he builds so we are always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to stimulate this. His cousin has a Build It kit from the Early Learning Centre that he absolutely fell in love with when he went to play with her so when we saw it reduced to half price just before Christmas, we knew it would make a fantastic gift for him. At full price, the set costs £35 which means that we picked it up for £17.50. It is for children from the age of 3 years up.
The set comes in quite a big cardboard box (which means it was an exciting present for my son to unwrap!). On the front is a picture of a boy playing with the kit and various things it can be used to make. Inside, all the pieces are loose within a plastic bag.
The set is basically meccano for toddlers - i.e. on a much bigger scale. There are chunky shapes, nuts and bolts. You are also provided with tools for building with. There are 25 construction pieces provided, 54 nuts and bolts, a screwdriver and a spanner. The biggest pieces are two brightly coloured slightly 'box' shape pieces - one in red and one in green. These have hole in all their sides (3 rows of 3 holes on their biggest face). The red piece has one side that slopes slightly and has a silver 'window' painted on. There are two orange 'eye' pieces that screw in, four black plastic wheels, four yellow thin rectangular pieces, a curved blue strip, a bendy blue strip, two 'L' shaped blue pieces, two long and two shorter blue strips, two and a long twisty spiral piece. The bolts are red in colour and the nuts yellow. There are four longer screw supplied for use with the wheel pieces.
The pieces are all chunky and big - a great size for a toddler's hands. My son finds them easy to handle and move about and the holes in the pieces are also a good size. This means that he is able to thread the screws through them easily but not get fingers etc stuck in them. The screw and nuts are also a nice size for him to twist with his fingers - he prefers to do this than to use the supplied screwdriver or spanner as these can slip off the screws a lot and makes tightening them quite a long winded and frustrating process.
There are no real instructions on how to make certain things to follow enclosed in the box, just pictures of six completed constructions. I think this is a shame as it would have been good for my son to learn to follow instructions and also help us to get the most out of the set. The pictures provided are quite good though and it is fairly easy for an adult to copy these so we have made several of these together. We have made a trolley, truck and a robot - a dog, car and wheelbarrow are also possible. My son particularly loves the robot as this is quite big and is on wheels so he can push it about. The head is also hollow so he likes to fill it with smaller toys and take them along with him too.
Initially, my son struggled attaching the wheels to pieces - he needed to understand that there were longer screws provided for this purpose. Once he did understand to use these, he was able to do it a little better but it still requires him to be quite nimble with his hands - which, as a toddler, is not a skill he is blessed with in great quantities! It is definitely a toy that he enjoys playing with with an adult at the moment, at just shy of three years of age. I can definitely see him becoming more independent in his play as he gets older, more confident and more able. This means that he will enjoy the toy in different ways and I think that it will prove to be great value.
I have been really impressed with this set. The pieces are really well made - they are strong and durable. It is also easy to use and encourages a child to really use their imagination and creativity. It is a great activity for us to get out on a rainy day as it is so engaging, it will keep my son (and me) occupied for quite a long time as we decide what to build and how to build it - it is challenging, fun and rewarding and a great activity for us to spend quality time together with.
I think the set could be enhanced further with other sets that can be purchased from the Build-It series and I am definitely considering further purchases. Building up a bigger set would definitely add to the building possibilities and further engage my son. This is a great starter set though and you definitely get enough pieces in it to make it perfectly acceptable as a stand alone set. It is also a set that I anticipate my son using for years to come as his play develops - I would say it is suitable for ages 3-6 years for definite, possibly up to 8 years even.
As with a lot of things from the Early Learning Centre, I think the full price is perhaps a little high for this toy. At half price, £17.50, it is exceptional value so I would say the price that would best reflect what you get on the set probably lies between the two values - at around the £25 mark. If you can get it for this, or cheaper, I would definitely recommend that you snap it up - it is wonderful value in terms of learning potential and fun factor. We have had great value from it already - highly recommended.
I bought this christmas '08 for my, then, 2 year old son; although he mostly had me making things for him and claiming them as his once i'd finished for a while! He soon figured out the point of it and made his own uses for the pieces aswell.
Obviously, coming from the Early Learning Centre you expect a decent quality product that is good value for money long term and this genuinely is. With over 75 colourful pieces (probably 76, i didn't count) there's a lot of scope build-wise. All the pieces are strong and durable and a great size for little hands. The set is complete with a spanner and screwdriver so they can be like proper little builders, and instructions for a small variety of builds, such as a wheelbarrow or robot, although your childs imagination really is the limit.
There are more products in the range so as your child gets older you can expand on possible makes. It is a great product for sharing and learning to co-operate as well as encouraging your child's imagination and dexterity individually.
My son has now had this just over a year and still loves it; it's still in perfect condition even though he plays with it very regularly. A great buy.
I had this toy as a child. I have mild cerebral palsy and my parents bought this for me when I was around 4 years old to help with my motor skills and co-ordination. Not only did it help me I have fond memories of building a pram and a wheelbarrow with my sisters. I was absolutely delighted when I saw they still made it when I was shopping with my son.
*********What is it ***********
It is a construction toy aimed at 2 - 6 years , made of strong durable plastic. There are long plastic pieces about 3 inches wide and in varying lengths. These pieces have holes down the centre for you to insert screws which you can then fasten with plastic bolts. The toy available now and the one I bought my son is slightly different to the one I had as a child (to be expected really with a gap of over 20 years)
*******What is in the box ******
The newer version has over 75 pieces
Long plastic pieces with holes (My son called these planks)
Spiralling cylanders with nuts atatched (Can be used as handles for trolleys etc)
Boxes (These were cubes with holes but now have like a lip part to form more realistic windows on your helicopter or eyes on your robot)
***** What can you make with it *****
The possibilities are virtual endless, all you require is a bit of imagination. The set comes with an instruction page, but personally i find following instructions boring so here are a few more ideas:
Shelve unit for playing shops
A fire engine
Basically you could make anything with wheels or eyes or both
****** Ease of Use ******
The nuts and bolts are the right size for your average 2 year old to manage. The screwdriver and spanner are more difficult to master however there are not essential to building as the nuts and bolts can be turned by hand.
***** The good bits *****
It will last years.
The possibilities are endless
Encourages imaginative play
It can be like getting a new toy every week - just build something new
Strong, durable and safe
Increases manual dexterity and co- ordination (well worked for me)
Can improve motor skills - Use as a walker, pram or trolley and let your child push it along
Suitable for play indoors and out
Will entertain children from 18 months to 7 years (my opinion)
***** The not so good bits *****
It comes in a cardboard box, which was unfortunately damaged when it was delivered so i found it difficult to store. However most of the time I just left it built in whatever shape it was as he always went back to it.
Ocassionally the nuts on the screws were on to tight to remove easily (but I am a weakling and unsure whether others have this trouble)
******Value for money ******
Definately. It is currently selling for £35 on the early learning centre website. An add on of an additional 40 pieces is also available for £17.50
It may seem like a lot of money, especially in the current climate but the possibilities for play are endless. The toy is strong and should last a good few years.
Alternatively the older style of this toy pops up occassionally on Ebay and Amazon so it is one to watch for. The main difference between the older version and the one currently selling is that it has no eyes, yet this never bothered me or my sisters.
***** My Recomendation ******
Go and buy it! The adults often have as much fun (if not more, than the children)
We bought the ELC Build It construction set for our 2 year old son for Christmas. We wanted something that he would grow into over the year and also help to encourage his manual dexterity and enthusiasm for seeing how things fit together.
The box contains a variety of different shaped meccano-style pieces which screw together with nuts and bolts. There is even a screwdriver and spanner to make it more full for little hands to play with (although parents can easily screw bits together without these). There are two main box shaped pieces, four wheels, 2 eyes, and a range of connecting pieces to fit them all together. There are plenty of nuts and bolts, so even losing a couple wouldn't be a disaster.
I think that the best thing about this set is that the models we help our son make are things that he can then play with. He is always asking us to build him a wheelbarrow to go with the gardening set he got for Christmas, or a shopping trolley so he can pretend to be shopping like Mummy. The cars / trucks are great too - he loves filling the back of the dumper truck with all the unused pieces and pushing it around. As well as the construction play, he is getting hours of imaginative play out of this set as well which I think is fantastic.
Our 2 year still struggles to build anything for himself, but he enjoys putting a few pieces together and screwing in the nuts and bolts. He also enjoys helping us by finding the right pieces as we ask for them. Because of this, I think that the toy will last him a long time - he will gradually be able to do more of it himself until he can graduate to proper meccano or other construction type toys. It promotes interactive play between parent and toddler as he needs our help, which is always nice.
At £35 this isn't one of the cheapest toys on the market, but it is well made, durable and I think it is worth the money. You can also buy an add on kit for £17.50.
I would really recommend this toy - it is well made, provides entertainment both through the construction element and the imaginative play, and would be enjoyed by a wide range of toddlers.
We wanted to get my daughter something different for her christmas that would last a while as she's tired very easily of her other toys. When I saw this in ELC, it reminded me of the old big builder products we had and I jumped on it straight away.
~~ The Product ~~
Build it seems to be the new version of big builder that early learning centre used to sell. It's basically a construction set for little people to play with and use their imagination to build something new every time. It comes with over 75 pieces so you never run out of things to do. The pieces include nuts, bolts, plastic strips with holes in (all different shapes) and some box type things that are the basis of your toy. There are tools and wheels included so your little one can use this as a walker if you don't want to splash out on the real thing!
The nuts, bolts and other pieces are big enough for little hands to use and my little girl loves this toy. We'll build something, play with it for 10 minutes and then move on to build something new! I find this toy especially helpful for my daughter as the shapes are all different and you can make a variety of things from it.
~~ Using it ~~
My daughter is 15 months old and enjoys using the nuts and bolts and putting them through the holes. She can put the nut on the bolt only slightly and then it's mummys turn to tighten it for her or it would just fall apart. She likes showing me where to put new pieces and although she can't describe anything to me as such, she still has a whale of a time doing it.
There are a variety of things to make with this and my little girls favourite one is a trolley where she can put all of her toy food. Saves us money because we don't have to buy her an actual trolley and when she gets bored of it we can just make her something else!
We've also made cars, buses and vans out of the blocks that my daughter sits on (not sure if it's recommended or not but it's extremely sturdy) and she loves riding around on them or simply pushing it about. Her little baby doll also has a ride on them instead of her pram which is always great as it occupies my daughter picking the doll back up every two minutes as it keeps falling off.
Early Learning Centre also recommend building dogs and dinosaurs but we haven't really tried these as I don't think my daughter is at the stage where she would appreciate it yet.
The two tools that came with it are also too hard for my daughter to use yet but we've used them a few times and honestly haven't had a problem with them. It's a screwdriver and a spanner for anyone that's interested and these too are chunky enough for your little one to use once they have some kind of coordination.
~~ How does it help them? ~~
One of the reasons I chose this toy is because it was used on my friends baby to help with his coordination. They have to line up with nuts, bolts and pieces in order to build something and I think this is very important to have at an early age.
I was never a very imaginative child so I want my daughter to learn to use her imagination at an early age so creative tasks come easier to her. I might be hoping, but it has to help her imagination in some way!
~~ Instructions ~~
The instructions let us down a touch as they are only on a bit of paper that a child could very easily tear if they got a bit over excited. This could easily have been rectified by using cardboard or laminating it. The instructions are clear though so you always know what you're doing - not like a lot of toys I've had in the past.
~~ Storage ~~
My one other little complaint would be about the storage of the product. It comes in a cardboard box and as ours was damaged in the post, we've now nowhere to store it! Putting it into some kind of plastic box or even a bag for the pieces would have helped us no end. Now I'm on the hunt for a cheap, nice looking storage box so I can hide it away a few days a week so she doesn't tire of it.
~~ Age Recommendation ~~
ELC recommend the product for children aged between 2 and 6 years old. I mentioned above that my daughter is only 15 months but she loves it. She can't do some of the things that you're meant to do with it, such as using the tools, but that just means it will last us that little bit longer. As long as your child can walk, i don't see why they wouldn't like at least playing with the toy. It's brightly coloured and has some really nice pieces that they'll enjoy playing with.
I'd also recommend it for children with disabilities as a friend of mines child absolutely loves it and manages it fine because it is really chunky and easy for them to use.
~~ Price ~~
We bought this in ELC for £35 which may seem very expensive to some, but this toy is built to last. I had the previous version when I was a baby and it lasted through 4 children and then got sold onto somebody else. How many toys can you honestly say are still in an excellent condition after that many years and that many children? So value for money? Definitely.
~~ My Verdict ~~
This has been a complete hit with my 15 month old and I can't see her getting bored of it very easily. The pieces are chunky and perfect for her little hands and I couldn't be more pleased about it if I tried. Definitely a thumbs up for any boy or girl that likes playing with mummy or daddy and building different things.
Over 75 pieces to play with