I imagine every parents has said at some point, “Why do I bother buying toys for my kids when all they need to have fun is a cardboard box?!” There’s something about boxes, tubes, bottles and tubs that inspire a child’s natural creativty. It’s a boat – a guitar – a space station – a computer! The possibilities are almost endless and as a parent it really makes me smile. That’s why I was excited when the creative folks at ThinkFun asked us to try out one of their new Maker Studio kits, which combines kid’s natural inclination for “making stuff” with some really neat supplies and instructions.
There are three themed kits, and we received the propeller kit to play with. My kids (ages 6 and 8) were really excited about taking the parts out of the box and getting started. The instructions were fairly easy to follow, but this was definitely an activity that required parental involvement. The first thing we built was the helicopter. After some fiddling with we got it to look pretty much like the one in the instructions. However when we tried to complete the engineering challenge of making the propeller move on its own, we had some trouble. I think the tube in the instructions must have been wider than ours because none of us could fit our hands inside to attach the rubber band!
We also built a rather unique looking airplane. I thought that cutting a plastic soda bottle as described in the instructions would be too tricky, so we used a box instead. Some of the instructions were a little confusing even for me to follow, but my niece and I came up with something resembling an airplane in the end. She really liked that the propellors could spin.
A few days later my son re-used the helicopter tube to make his own creation. He made a really neat submarine with a working propeller and periscope. It was neat to see him really think about how the rubberband would have to be attached in order to unwind and turn the propeller by itself. It took a couple tries and he started to get frustrated, but eventually he came up with a solution all by himself and he was really proud of his completed “super submarine”.
For my kids, I think it turned out that using the instructions for inspiration and then coming up with their own ideas was less frustrating than trying to follow the instructions exactly. It definitely encouraged persistence and creativity! Following the instructions (and even building creatively, although to a lesser extent) were both “team” activities for the parents and kids in our household, although perhaps an older chid would be able to do more building by him or her self.
These neat kits live up to their name of encouraging “thinking” while also being “fun”. You can check out our reviews of some games by ThinkFun here
I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review.