The last time I saw this building toy was in our local toy museum. However, in recent years the brand has been redeveloped for the 21st century, whilst still keeping the elements that made it popular for so many years. It was also featured last year on James May's Toy Stories, where he used it to build a bridge.
Inventor Franck Hornby started developing the Meccano system in 1898, and any toy that's been around for over a hundred years, appealing to many generations of children, has earned the right to be called a classic.
The range now starts at age 2+ and goes all the way up to more complicated sets for age 8+, and even build-it-yourself robots. Models range from the super simple, to those with sound effects, motors and remote controls.
Whilst Meccano is probably more aimed at boys, I like the fact that the colours are non gender specific and the packaging shows both boys and girls. So if your little princess is bored of all that pink stuff and has ambitions to be an engineer, she'll love this. And if she is a totally pink princess, tell her to be patient, because there's a girls-only construction set on its way.
We were sent a snail kit from the KidsPlay range to try out. Whilst this is marked as being suitable for age 2+, I think that pre-schoolers aged three and four are going to get the most play value out of it. The sturdy pieces fit easily together and the kit includes a big chunky screwdriver for little builders to use. There are instructions to make three models, though really a child could make unlimited models by putting the pieces together any way they want.
This is a great toy for developing fine motor skills, creativity, encouraging a child's concentration and ability to follow instructions.