Recently we looked at the rebirth of the Meccano brand of constuction toys, and reviewed what they've got to offer younger children.
This week we were invited to try out the range for children aged five to eight, so my six-year-old son and I had a go at constructing the Tipper Truck from the Build & Play range.
As an experienced Lego fiend, I thought my son would have no trouble making this by himself, so I sent him off with the box. Turns out it's not as easy as it looks, so he was soon back, and this turned into a project for us to do together.
The Meccano system consists of pieces held together with nuts and bolts, so your child may not be familiar with it at first – when I asked my son to pass me a nut, he handed over a cashew.
There is a screwdriver and wrench included, and my left handed child struggled with these at first. But after a few goes he got the hang of it and was soon playing with the kit independently.
Though this toy will very likely appeal to boys in the main, I like the fact that the bright colours are not gender specific, so this could be a good one for boys and girls to play together.
The Tipper Truck comes with instructions to make four additional models: two racing cars, a helicopter and a saloon car. Though of course the pieces can be put together in any order, and a child can use their imagination to make any shape they want to. The models we made were quite big, but because they were firmly fixed together they stood up to play very well.
The soft pieces are made of study rubber and can be bent around without breaking. My son particularly liked the pieces that looked like eyes, making each model into a little character that he could name. This small touch adds greatly to the charm of these models.
In terms of educational value, this toy encourages creativity, perseverence, following instructions, attention to detail and small motor skills.
There are 120 pieces, so you get quite a lot for the RRP of £19.99. The one criticism I would make is that it would benefit from some kind of storage system for all the little pieces. You can keep them in the box, but that's quite bulky. I would like to see this with an integral storage system, such as other kits in the Meccano range already offer. Even a drawstring bag would help.
If you're looking for a sturdy traditional toy that's good fun and has lots of educational play potential, then this is it. The fact that it's not linked in to any TV characters makes it more timeless and hopefully less prone to children's fads.
The Tipper Truck is part of the Meccano Build & Play range. Other models include a fire truck and a train. It's available in toy shops now, or online from various retailers including here from Amazon.