Children love building, from their first wobbly stack of blocks all the way up to 3D puzzles and erector sets. Building is intensely satisfying. Connecting small pieces into a cohesive whole grows motor skills, develops hand-to-eye coordination, encourages creativity and teamwork, and helps to calm and focus the brain. In fact, I’ve not found a child who doesn’t benefit from building, whether he is hyperactive, bumbling, or brainy!
The children in my home have spent uncounted hours working on these three connection toys:
Let’s start with the obvious choice. Though more expensive than wooden blocks, for instance, Lego is well-made and durable, and there’s a set for every occasion. We especially like Lego City sets, with their realistic homes, vehicles, and businesses. For older children, Lego Technic adds an extra dimension with gears, connectors, and moving parts.
Our family likes to keep Lego instructions inside clear sheet protectors in a three ring binder. This allows the intended creation to happen again and again – although more often than not, the children design their own elaborate concoctions.
More delicate than Lego, K’Nex adds an element of motion and physics not found in most Lego. The connections are entirely different: think updated Tinkertoys, made intricate and flexible.
With K’Nex, you can build things like rollercoasters and ferris wheels, with a small motor to power them. You can also form educational models like levers and pulleys, DNA replicas, and simple machines. K’Nex offers sets for all ages, from preschool to high school. There’s even a renewable energy set.
(Their website breaks it down nicely.)
If your child enjoys building, but also likes to see cause and effect, Snap Circuits are another great choice. They’re electronic connectors with which to build working circuits. Attach them in the right sequences, and you can run a tiny fan, play a song, light up a button, power a battery, and so on. No tools or soldering are needed. The individual parts snap together and back apart again for hours of safe exploration and fun with electricity.
If you intend to purchase any of these toys for a child, I recommend making sure his homework and chores are completed for about two years ahead. He will be deeply engrossed.
CONTRIBUTOR: Shari Zook