Guy Fairbank, Copy Producer, Toys and Books
However old you are, it’s always very satisfying
completing a kit or puzzle of some sort, whether it’s a colourful doll’s house or a complicated model of Big Ben.
We probably never really grow out of it. You can start your children off pretty early and find a set that’ll get them absorbed very quickly. If you’re after something for a particular age group, here are some suggestions.
Choo-choo trains hold a never-ending fascination for most children - and a few adults too! Watching a train go round and round a track can be mesmerising, and Brio’s wooden train sets are colourful, easy to handle and can be enjoyed for several years. Add a few more tracks, another engine - the permutations are endless. Our John Lewis train sets are also compatible with them. Or if you’re simply after a box of bricks to build a mini Stonehenge, then our own-brand tubs are great value.
Building kits make perfect choices for little hands and developing minds. LEGO’s DUPLO is a great way to get them assembling - and introduce them to a wide range of themes.
New on the block are Mega Bloks. These First Builders sets are just right for small hands and suitable even for 1 year-olds. Several of their bright, colourful sets have an education theme. They’ve also teamed up with Thomas the Tank Engine for more fun.
Ideally positioned between DUPLO and their main ranges, LEGO Juniors is easy to build and fun to play with. Featuring minifigures and lots of colourful bricks, they can also be used for more sophisticated building. Even Barbie’s got into the act, with her Build ‘n’ Style collection that lets children create their own Barbie world.
For a delightful world in miniature, Playmobil offers many different scenarios, from dinosaurs to city life, magical fairy stories and battling knights and pirates, and with a wide range of price points. Meccano Build and Play works in similar vein to LEGO’s Junior range, letting younger children to get to grips with screws and nuts but without all the fiddling about. Instead you connect strong plastic parts together with a simple click.
Meccano has been popular for generations and probably inspired many an engineer! The latest ranges have been cleverly designed so you can make different machines and vehicles using the same parts. With additional building instructions available online, even more permutations are possible. K’Nex is another enduring brand, cleverly using rods and connectors to build all sorts of things.
Of course, at this age LEGO really come into its own, with a wealth of worlds to build and heaps of fun and playfulness. From movie- and comic-inspired ranges like LEGO Super Heroes, Star Wars and Disney Princess, there are numerous models to create; and there’s always something new – like Ultra Agents or City Arctic.
By this age children pretty much know what they like! If Meccano is still popular, why not up their skills with Meccano Evolution? By adding a 6V motor to their models they’ll even be able to control it. And for teenagers, K’Nex also offer some challenges, with some kits requiring thousands of pieces and plenty of patience.
Similarly, LEGO’s superior sets can stretch their constructive abilities. LEGO Technic lets them assemble impressive vehicles, powered by battery or pull-back operation. LEGO Minecraft has cleverly adapted the cult game into various Microworlds, while LEGO Architecture has faithfully recreated some of the world’s most iconic buildings.