My four year old son has adopted his older brother's Lego City dump truck, so I thought it would be a good idea to get him a digger from the same range so that he can load up the truck.
I picked this up from WH Smith instore for £9.99 (on special offer from its usual price of £13.99.) At just under £10, this is quite expensive for what is, essentially, quite a small single piece of Lego equipment but still fairly average for Lego sets overall.
Although my son is just under the recommended age range of between five to twelve years, I did think he might be able to put this together himself, with lots of adult help. In theory, he should have been able to, as the instructions are, as I'd expect from Lego, really clear and easy to follow. As they are based on step-by-step diagrams rather than written instructions, a child doesn't need to be a confident reader in order to follow them. My four year old started well and the exercise seemed a useful educational one - encouraging him to count out the number of circles on each block and helping him to identify the correct pieces for the next step. My son quickly lost interest, however, and luckily my nine year old son was happy to take over the construction on his behalf. It took my older son around half an hour to put the digger together, with just a little adult guidance, so I do feel the recommended age range is a fairly accurate one.
Once construction was complete, my four year old was happy to take over and set the digger to work. Although slightly smaller than I'd expected, my first impressions of the completed digger were fairly positive as it looked a pretty impressive replica of a real JCB. As soon as my son started to play with it, its limitations as a working toy became quickly apparant. Although the digger bucket is designed to lift up and down easily, it's not robust enough to withstand a child actually playing with it. My son became frustrated because the arms kept coming away from the rest of the digger whenever he tried to lift up his load of Lego bricks, as they are attached to quite a small collection of bricks, which makes the front section quite unstable.
As well as the bucket section coming away easily, the whole of the front section of the vehicle comes away too, on occasion, including the two front wheels.There are quite a few little lights, postioned at various points around the vehicle and my son found that he kept knocking these off, whenever he tried to reattach the broken pieces. This is obviously pretty frustrating for a youngster and my son soon lost interest. His older brother was not too impressed that he had managed to destroy his hard work - within minutes the whole vehicle had pretty much fallen to pieces.
A further disappointment was that the design of the vehicle didn't seem to have been thought out with actual play in mind. For instance, this comes supplied with a single workman mini-figure which seems reasonable enough. The figure fits snugly inside the cab of the digger but, rather stupidly, there is no door or opening on the cab, so a child has to completely remove the cab section to get the man out or to turn him around. (Again, this was something that my son found impossible to do without virtually destroying the whole vehicle.) This design clearly hasn't been thought through with any consideration to youngsters wanting to use these for any active imaginative play.
As a model of a digger or a gift for an older child or an adult who enjoys assembling Lego kits, this is perfectly serviceable and a fairly impressive looking vehicle. Unfortunately, this is not really sturdy enough, or well designed enough, to withstand actual play from a child at the lower end of the age recommendation. This does limit its ongoing appeal and makes this much less value for money overall as it really only offers any play value as a half hour construction project.
I do find Lego products, and the Lego City range in general, to be pretty good value for money, as they are usually incredibly durable and offer lots of ongoing play value. Sadly, that is not really the case here and I'd be reluctant to recommend this particular set, unless this was being purchased purely to be built and left as a non-working model.