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For my son's 4th birthday last year, my sister turned up to his party with a massive wrapped box which looked absolutely intriguing. His party was a couple of days before his birthday, so we said he could choose one present from the pile, and naturally, he went for the biggest, most exciting one.
On taking off the paper, I was thinking to myself, my goodness, what a big box of lego, but once we got into the packaging, we opened the box to find it was only actually about a 1/3 full with the bricks, and the rest was air. This seemed rather disappointing to us, but nevertheless, he was happy enough to start building.
Actually, while it was at first a disappointment, I do actually now really like this box set of lego because the actual box is very sturdily made out of plastic, and the lid, while not fitting firmly and clipping in place, does sit firmly enough for it to be a table like surface for the boys to build on, and it also can be used to put snacks on top when they are sat at the floor. As an added bonus, there is room to store works in progress, masterpieces that are fully formed, and some of the other lego sets that they have been bought.
Megablocks are a fairly new construction competitor in the market. I only came across them when my first child was born, and someone bought him some in 2007. These were quite large chunky blocks that were obviously a lot bigger than the lego duplo that was around, and I thought what a great idea to make it for such young children. When we got this set, I was a little surprised as I wasn't aware that they made smaller bricks too, but upon looking online, they make a maxi version which is the first type I came across with large chunky protusions so even a 1 year old can click them together. They then make a 'mini' range which is equivalent in size to lego duplo, and has protrusions which stick out on the top of the piece which are little hollow cylinders that clip into other pieces. In this box you get 2 x 2 squares with 4 protrusions and 2 x 4 rectangles with 8 protrusions. They are many bright colours that are very attractive to small children.
They also do a 'micro' range which I haven't personally bought any of, but this looks to be similar in size to lego bricks for older children.
With 200 bricks in the box, you can make a great variety of towers and building type structures, and there are a few ideas on the box to get you started. My 3 and 4 year olds both find it very easy to clip the pieces together and seperate them, and if your child does not put stuff in their mouth, I would be happy to give these to a 2 year old with good manual dexterity. Smaller children would find the pieces too hard to build and very frustrating.
Looks wise, at a glance, the megablocks mini range is identical in size, shape, colours and overall appearance to lego duplo. This is great for my kids as they have a few lego duplo sets which are based upon characters such as Bob the Builder, Cars, and Toy Story. While these sets are good as they have a reason, such as the cars set has a stage and a car and helicopter, and Bob has a building and tools, they come with a limited number of bricks. This set of plain bricks has meant my kids get a lot more play overall because they can combine the two different manufacturer's bricks.
A closer look, and I can see a lego duplo brick has a lego logo inside each of the protrusions on the top of the brick, whereas the megablocks brick has megablocks stamped in the plastic in the middle of the top of the brick, and that is the only visible difference, and for a child is not noticeable.
Pricewise, I am not sure what my sister paid for this, but I see the set is available on amazon for £26.99, and I imagine she would have spent somewhere around £20-25 on this in an actual shop such as Toy R Us, though they don't sell this set currently.
My initial impression might have been it was a bit of a dud set because of the large box full of air problem, but after a year of play, at least 3 to 4 times per week, then my opinion has improved, but you really are paying a bit extra to gain a toy storage box in my opinion. It's nice to have one designated place for all the blocks of this size though, and I would say this is a really good purchase for a child of between 3 and 5 who has a little bit of imagination. Building bricks rule in our house.