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    Joined: Jan 2011
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    beak Offline OP
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    DS5 has just had a lot of fun with a complicated >1000 piece lego set (with adult help), and also with keva contraptions set (planks, balls and building guidelines come with kit). He's very gentle and can play with fragile things (as intricate lego items can be!) and repair them when needed.

    Any suggestions on other building kits that he might enjoy alone or with an adult? Maybe something with some electronics? And preferably something that could be built upon and have components that can be used in other ways rather than a stand alone item?

    Beak

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    Lego Mindstorms?

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    No electronics (though I think there is a motor component that we haven't got) but DS7 loves Georello gears (interlocking cogs which can be wheels among other things, and various bits to let you build things with them). He was given a very simple set around age 2 which got a lot of mileage, and recently spent a long time's worth of pocket money to buy a more advanced set to go with it - there's a fair range. The big advantage is that at no stage has he needed adult help with it - the adults in our house have limited patience with lego!


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    beak Offline OP
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    Thanks! I just looked at the mindstorm nxt 2.0 (is that the only product available currently, with other pieces that can be purchased to supplement it?), and I think DS might be too young for that. Although if it has the very detailed visual directions like the complex lego creator type sets do, He may be able to follow on his own, with help as needed. If the directions are minimal, we should probably wait on that and work with some intermediate building set first. Any advice on the mindstorm directions?

    the Georello gears looks pretty interesting-i think he might enjoy that!

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    Zometools or snap circuits?


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    For the electronics, we went out and bought aligator clips, and a few components like speakers etc, and let him make freeform circuits. Whenever we throw out electronics, DH helps DS4 take them apart for any salvagable stuff. If needed, DH will solder on thick wire connectors so that the aligator clips will attach. This has been a cheap and easy way for DS to get into it and have a lot of fun!

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    Wow, I had no idea that Georello had expanded the product line so much. Pretty cool! I also second Snap Circuits.

    Regarding Mindstorms, NXT 2.0 is the latest version. There are other pieces and sets available, but you can do a lot with the base set. It's expensive, but so are 1,000 piece Lego sets. smile

    The instructions really hold your hand. The kit comes preconfigured as an instruction-bot that upon hearing your voice clambers out of the box, explains how to use Mindstorms in a tinny voice, and physically assists you as you reconfigure it into new robot shapes.

    That would be neat, and the reality isn't far off. A big glossy insert gets you up and running with minimal trouble. After installing the software that comes with it, you will see extremely thorough step-by-step assembly manuals for the hardware of several robots. Each sub-assembly is dealt with in a separate subsection; for instance, the head of the gator-bot is built separately. Hooking up each motor or sensor to the CPU is also quite simple, with an RJ-45 (phone) cable that goes to a numbered or lettered port.

    In comparison to the more complicated regular (non-Technics) Lego sets, I would say that the pre-designed Mindstorms bots are only slightly more difficult to put together precisely to spec, and that only because the Technics pieces tend to offer fewer up-down cues when you're looking at the directions. It's really not bad, and the directions are very easy to follow.

    Regarding the software, it's really not complicated to get started either. I know it might sound complicated, but the Lego designers did a very good job of making it accessible. Mindstorms 2.0 comes with a visual drag-and-drop programming environment. You can, for instance, drag and drop a loop (something which repeats instructions inside itself), drag it bigger, and plop blocks inside of it, each block representing some action. It's hard to explain quickly, but really not hard, even for a child to understand. And all of the pre-designed bots come with their programs pre-written. You can pull up the program and examine and change it at will.

    I don't think it is crazy to buy Mindstorms for a five-year-old who likes building a lot. It would probably hold your son's interest for some time to come. I can't answer whether he's ready for it, but perhaps you could find some way to let him play around with a set locally.


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    beak Offline OP
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    Thanks for the great intro to the Mindstorms! although the instruction-bot would be nice... it sounds like the actual directions are very reasonable. And if this is beyond DS ability to work on his own now, I think it would be great shared activity for him and DH.

    You've already shared 4 things that I wasn't familiar with, so I'm so glad I asked!



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    Hi beak
    I third or fourth smile the snap circuits, DS5 LOVES them, he needs help with them but he did correct his retired engineer grandpa's faulty circuit, so he is learning! We do Lego but I have held off on mindstorm although he did play with a demo at a festival and LOVED it. We were thinking 6 or 7 or so, more for our convenience then his ability to do them! Going a different direction, have you seen Bloco, they are foam construction pieces to make predesigned animals or your own weird concoctions. DS loves them, cause you can make such crazy animals,I like them because they tapped a different interest.
    Bloco


    DeHe

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    beak Offline OP
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    I've been looking at the snap circuits and I can see their appeal! I think we might try those out next. The bloco sets also look interesting
    Thanks for all these great ideas.

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    Let me actually be a bit of a detractor for SnapCircuits and Logiblocks. DS7 has a set of each and while they were initially attractive, they haven't actually been used as much lately as DH's bag of miscellaneous wire etc. It's harder to understand what's really going on when everything's encased in a plastic block, maybe?


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    I'm with ColinsMum on the Snapcircuits. We got them for DS7 when he was around 4, I think, and he played with them for a while when he first got them, but has shown little interest whenever we pull them out again. We got him the Lego NXT robot when he was 5, I think, and that has gotten a lot more play time. We have only child syndrome...otherwise we'd stop buying these gosh-darn expensive toys!

    He still plays with his regular old Legos though. They are a classic for a reason. smile ETA - we have only one Lego set piece that has stayed in its intended shape (the VW bug - he must like it because his fabulous mom drives one). Everything else has been morphed into so many things I cannot name them all. At first we were disappointed that DS would destroy the Lego creation right after building it, but now we appreciate his creativity. The rule now is you must build what comes in the Lego set at least once, then the blocks are fair game. wink

    Edited again to add: I really shouldn't read these threads backwards, lol! I just read lucouno's description of the instructobot, and as I was just skimming, I started thinking, gee, that must come with a more recent version. smile But I agree that the current instructions worked quite well, and the programming is very simple. (Yes, a 5yo can do it.) Our dog also really enjoys finding and then hiding the little balls that the robot throws...

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    I actually agree with last two Snap Circuits assessments above, and think ColinsMum's idea is on the money as to the reason. In addition, Snap Circuits are definitely a stand-alone item, so may not be a good choice for the OP. But still think they're a neat toy, and that they might be of more than passing interest for a child just starting to think about electricity moving in circuits, etc., and the first time that child hooked up something and saw a light flash or a spinner spin, it might be a memorable experience. Would they hold a child's interest for a year, or even many months? Maybe not.

    I still have a soft spot for the toy Capsela too, even though it also might not hold the interest of a mechanically inclined HG+ kid for very long. For what it is, a neat toy that encourages a child to think modularly for what may be the first time when very young, it's not bad IMHO.

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    beak Offline OP
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    I just came across these LaQ snapping pieces today http://buylaqtoys.com/ and bought a small set for DS5. He was quite taken with them, and has already built a bunch of boxes and odd shapes. I'm wishing I'd bought a few hundred of them as I'd like to play with them too. Is anyone familiar with these and gotten long term use out of them?

    I'm leaning towards the Mindstorm for a next big present for DH and DS, based on all your thoughts...I wish a birthday were coming up soon.

    That brings to mind a related question. When you see an educational toy that you think child would really enjoy and learn from, do you wait for an occasion to buy it? Do you limit how often you purchase "toys"?




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    Originally Posted by beak
    That brings to mind a related question. When you see an educational toy that you think child would really enjoy and learn from, do you wait for an occasion to buy it? Do you limit how often you purchase "toys"?
    I think my short answer is toys yes, books no. We're very short of space, and DS gets new stuff that has to be given a home quite often enough as it is! And it isn't as though he doesn't have stuff to learn from and enjoy in the meantime. I have been known to buy things for all of us to use with him particularly in mind, though, and he gets pocket money and hardly ever spends any so if there's something he really wants he can buy it himself (and I'll help). Books are different - DH and I are both among Amazon's most valued customers on our own account, and it wouldn't seem fair to make DS wait for books, given that!


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