These days, I’m always on the lookout for cheap, educational products that cater to my son’s budding engineer’s mind. Seriously, he takes anything and everything apart, and already is asking how pistons in a car work.
Making the trip to Charlotte, NC to visit family, the two of us took a detour to the new IKEA and I thought I’d scope out some toys to help beat the summer slump. After some consideration we settled on the BYGGA construction set. Technically it’s for kids over five, but I was anticipating on being a major presence while we put it together. He’s nearly three, and it takes both my husband and me to keep him from getting into the real tools. I figured this would be a great compromise.
BYGGA contains tools, screws, shapes, wooden blocks, wheels and rubber stopper pieces that, by following the directions, allow you to make various vehicles. On the box they showcase a backhoe, a motorcycle, an airplane and a helicopter. For $9.99 the sheer multitasking nature of the toy was enough to sell me.
At any rate, when we got it home we settled on building the backhoe. While for the most part the directions are easy to follow (no words, just pictures) there were a couple limitations I saw straight off. First, the wooden blocks, which have holes inside essential to construction, are a little wonky. Because of this, they don’t always stay where they’re supposed to, especially for cosmetic pieces. So if your child actually wants to play with the toy after it’s made, there’s a chance bits will come off very easily (i.e., the hoe on the top of the backhoe). Second, things just don’t quite gel together as well as pictured. Even with as much tinkering as I could get, I had to omit the plastic triangle back piece on the backhoe, because the wheels simply would not fit over it.
I think the applications of BYGGA are not so much in the pre-designed sets, however, but in the free-form work. For mechanically inclined kids, it’s a safe and functional toy that really helps illustrate basic principles in construction.
WIRED: Creative play for the construction-minded; durable pieces; great price.
TIRED: Badly shaped blocks that make following the directions almost impossible; storage box’s removable sides make it difficult to keep pieces inside.