My daughter is only six, but she loves roller coasters. We have season tickets to Drayton Manor Park (home of the Ben 10 roller coaster) and she recently went on Falcon the vertical roller coaster at Duinrell in Holland. Rides that would scare much older children.
So when we were browsing around some toys and she saw a build-your-own roller coaster then that was what she wanted. The box had a minimum age of 7, but with a little help from me I thought she’d be able to give it a good go.
The K’Nex toys are a construction set that, sort of, combines the creativity and mechanics of Meccano with the simplicity of lego. It’s not quite as easy as lego, but is a push fit which is easier than the Mecanno as I remember it (although the new Mecanno sets look completely different from those I remember as a child).
My daughter was able to figure out how to connect the pieces easy enough and was able to follow instructions that I gave her, but was unable to follow the pictures in the instructions. In fact I struggled with the instructions; whilst they are very good it takes a bit of getting used to and some trial and error before I got the hang of it. Whilst my daughter was able to build some of the simple main structure I found that I had to do the more complex stuff for her (and even then had to redo part of it a couple of times before I got it right.
Whilst this says age 7 on the box, realistically that’s still an age where most children will need a lot of help with building the models, but then a parent and child activity that you can work on together is no bad thing!
There are sets designed for younger children including the Kid KNex that starts from age 3, but they are quite basic and so don’t have the same appeal as the ones for older children.
Below are some photos of the finished model. I had to move one of the arms slightly and the chain does seam to be jumping a bit, which appears to be due to a couple of pieces not holding their strength as well as they should. I think that could be rectified with a couple of extra pieces, but as this is our first set we don’t have any spare pieces to try.
From an educational point-of-view I can see these being much more useful for older children as designing their own models can help them understand some of the mechanics and physics of how the models work, but it’s still great fun. My daughter loves having her own roller coaster and I enjoyed helping too!
Warning though – this could turn into a pretty expensive hobby. This set was quite reasonably priced, but the big roller coasters are very expensive.