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My kids have been gradually getting more into the small lego since my 4 year old was bought some kits last year for his birthday and Christmas. My other son was only 2 and a half then, and although very keen to get involved, my oldest son would be distraught when his brother got hold of models he had spent hours building with Daddy, and the models would then collapse under the heavy handed playing.
When my smallest had his 3rd birthday, my parents gave his some cash which he decided he would like to spend on some lego. While he was eyeing up all the lovely sets, I pointed him in the direction of the sets of more random bricks which could be played with more freely rather than something requiring more concentration like the models. He lit up with glee when he spotted this particular set. We picked it up in WH smiths, and I seem to remember it was about £37.99, although a much cheaper £28.80 currently on amazon. I didn't mind paying a bit more in Smiths as they always seem to have an offer on lego when I go in where you buy one set, and you can buy a 2nd set for half price.
This particular set is straight away very attractive to me because it comes in a very sturdy blue plastic storage box. The lid on the box is a transparent light blue so the contents are visible. The lid is quite loose as it only sort of clips onto each side, so we bought it with white cable ties around the box to prevent the lid coming off before we got home. Now, I try to keep this in a place where it won't accidentally get knocked over as the lid comes off and then the bits go absolutely everywhere on our laminate floor.
The box is a bit too tempting also as a little seat for my son, particularly when he discovered it indents a bit when he sits on it, and then makes a loud pop noise when he gets up. I have been pleased the lid hasn't cracked or even pushed into the box when he has done this.
This set has been really brilliant as it contains about 700 pieces. Not just the lego bricks, but a green base plate to build models on, a wide variety of different coloured and sized bricks, as well as wheels, doors, windows, flowers, and even 2 little figures.
We were given a little booklet of about A5 size with the box, which is similar in size to the booklets you get with other models. This booklet is about 60 pages longs, and takes you through how to build several models: the 2 people, a cat, a dog, a little truck and boat on wheels, a little plane, a house, a pizzeria complete with table and chairs, and a pizza, and a little flat bed truck.
As well as having step by step pictorial instructions for these models, there are pictures in the book of a farm with animals, other types of buildings and vehicles, and a zoo scene, so a child who was older could enjoy looking at these pictures and trying to figure out the way to build them by themselves.
The age range for this set is given as 4+. Although we have let our 3 year old use this, I can see my 4 year old get a lot more out of it as he has better manual dexterity when it comes to putting bricks together, and he also seems to be able to use his imagination in a different way, which I guess is where the 18 months age difference is most noticeable.
My 3 year old can handle putting the bricks together, but we do see a lot of frustration if it won't go as he wants and he is less able to find an alternative way if it isn't quite as he sees it. He also is more likely to need directing as to what he should make and if it involves making a vehicle he will definitely struggle.
I think this has already been a wise purchase for us as it has been played with a fair bit, and I think for younger children it is a lot less restricting than building the kits as they can do this independently. With the kits, yes they can join in, but actually it is the adult who does most of the building, so it is not quite the same. I think this is a fantastic starter kit for kids who have an interest in building.
If my son had been the sort who still put toys in his mouth, I would not have given him this at 3, as the pieces are really small in size compared to the duplo and megabloks that are marketed at 3 year olds. I personally always use these ages as a guideline, and actually think that the kids get a lot out of using the smaller sets and being more creative.