Review: Build It Bigger construction toy

Photo of my son pushing a plastic four-wheeled wheelbarrow with a push-bar handle and two storage containers, plus two eyeballs in my home. It is constructed from numerous plastic screws and nuts and other pieces pre-drilled with sized-right holes.

I built a wheelbarrow depicted in the product instructions, then kept building because there were so many (intentionally) unused pieces. I extended the handle and inserted a push bar, added two wheels and attached eyeballs. My son loved it.

Build it Bigger by International Playthings is a sincerely awesome toy. My wife has been pestering me to find a toy for our dexterous 21-month-old son, and I found it gathering dust on the bottom rack of an indie toy store.

It’s a little pricey, but worth it. [Update: Rats, Amazon is out-of-stock. Find it also at Toys-R-Us online. The website doesn't indicate whether it's available at physical Toys R Us stores.]

Build it Bigger is rated for 2-year-olds, which is special because second birthday parties are the blackhole of fun. Most toys are rated for younger ages or leap up to less-choke-prone 3-year-olds.

The Build It Bigger kit is a 76 piece set consisting of plastic screws, nuts, beams, 4 wheels, 2 eyes and 2 buckets for assembling trucks, wheelbarrows, robots and shopping carts. A plastic screwdriver and socket wrench are included that really work — although a parent can easily loosen and tighten screws by hand.

Wait, can a 2-year-old really build all this stuff? Maybe so, but not my 21-month-old. He’s only adept at taking things apart. It’s still a great toy for a parent to build with his toddler.

I’m wagering it’s an even greater toy for my 5-year-old daughter to build with her little brother.

The photos in this review were taken while my daughter was at school so that my son can safely receive it from Santa in a couple weeks without her getting wise.

Photo of a plastic wheelbarrow.

This is the wheelbarrow depicted in the toy instructions.

Photo of a lot of toy parts on my couch.

These are the unused parts after making the wheelbarrow depicted in the toy instructions.

I built a wheelbarrow first, but I didn’t like how low to the ground it appeared. Once you build an object shown in the instructions, you’re usually left with a lot of leftover pieces. So I extended its handlebar, added eyes and rear wheels.

That’s the trap you fall into every time. It’s really tempting to just keep on building until you run out of parts.

My son’s reaction: initial giddy excitement followed by studious use. First he pushed the wheelbarrow around, then he tossed toys into it and pushed some more, and finally we showed him how to use a screwdriver and he loved that too.

Photo of my son popping a wheelie with the wheelbarrow-stroller thingie.

Pop a wheelie.

Photo of my son lifting up the wheelbarrow-stroller thingie to inspect its bottom.

Okay, the undercarriage checks out.

Photo of my son squatting next to the wheelbarrow-stroller thingie to more closely inspect it.

Ahh, yes, it's got a hemi! Marketers tell me I'm a tough little dude if I have a hemi, so I always want a hemi. (Sorry, that's a vague American truck reference that only serves to insult people who actually understand it. My bad.)

Photo of my son turning a plastic screwdriver in a screw on the wheelbarrow-stroller thingie.

I pity you and your toy workbench that doesn't build anything. After this tune-up, I'm going for a ride! (Note: the toy does not support a child's weight. It's only for pushing and playing with.)

The only downside is the sheer number of pieces to the kit — the potential for your child to lose some. On the plus side, because many objects you build will result in leftover pieces, you might lose a nut here or there and still be fine.

The biggest problem with Build It Bigger is that it’s not big enough. I want more. First I want L-brackets for more building options. Next, I want more innovative, interesting pieces to work with.

Sure, a 2-year-old will be happy with what comes in the kit, but it’s easy to forget that once you get busy building things for him and putting him down for a nap early so you can have more play time.

Photo of a plastic pick-up truck.

This is a pickup a truck depicted in the toy instructions.

These are the unused parts after making the pick-up struck depicted in the toy instructions.

These are the unused parts after making the pickup struck depicted in the toy instructions.

Photo of a strange plastic truck.

After I made the pickup truck, I kept adding parts and changing the design until it was all a horrible mess that my son loved.

The assembly instructions contain six objects you can build — two vehicles, a wheelbarrow, a dog on wheels, a robot and a shopping cart. The robot is on wheels and has a bucket head you can drop objects into, but is otherwise not a motion robot (you can’t manipulate its arms without loosening the screws, etc.).

If you buy the smaller companion building set, you can combine them to build a more complex robot, dog and what appears to be a fire truck.

The assembly instructions only show you one diagram of the completed objects. It’s disconcerting at first, but once you start building you realize you don’t need step-by-step instructions because the objects are so simple.

International Playthings offers only a small and a big pack option. I suggest the bigger one.

  • Build it Big (“over 40″ pieces) — $44. The firetruck and dog photos on Amazon are wrong — those objects are only buildable by combining the Big kit with the Bigger kit.
  • Build it Bigger (“over 75″ pieces, reviewed here) — $55, same as my store price.
  • Note: the retail marketing photos on websites don’t show all the pieces that come in the kit.


8 Responses to “Review: Build It Bigger construction toy”

  1. Elizabeth Wickoren says:

    I had never heard of that – sounds like a good family toy. I could see my eight year old really getting into building different toys for the new baby and his little brother. He is getting an erector set for Christmas by the way – the big boy version of this toy :-)

    December 11th, 2009 at 10:28 am

  2. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    I was just coming to point out the Build it Big set!

    This is great!

    Interesting, despite the toy being for 2 and up, Amazon has a big “WARNING” and “Caution choking hazard, only over 3″ label on it!

    (I, too, am having problems finding toys for 2 years old. I’ve told family and friends that 3 year old toys are not necessarily off limits. Just use judgement)

    December 11th, 2009 at 11:01 am

  3. Jennifer E. says:

    My 22 month old is getting some “3 yrs and older” toys, because I think he can handle them. At the same time, some of the stuff that I liked I decided should wait for next year, so he’ll be ready for them and actually enjoy them. I agree with MBR, the age “limits” on toys and games are really guidelines for parents.

    Of course, I have a new, very apprpriate (but snarky) favorite quote… (paraphrased, because I can’t find it at the moment)

    “I agree that stupidity doesn’t deserve the death penalty, but can’t we just remove all the warning labels and let the problem take care of itself?”

    December 11th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

  4. PAUL says:

    Looks like a cool toddler-friendly Erector set – wish my kids were small enough to enjoy watching me play with it!

    Jennifer E., I agree with you wholheartedly. A local morning radio show recently issued bumper stickers with the slogan, “Stupid Should Hurt!”

    AJ, I hate to split hairs (truthfully I revel in it), but in the sentence, “The only downside is the shear number of pieces to the kit — the potential for your child to lose some,” isn’t the correct spelling “sheer?” Maybe I am mistaken – homophones are a pain.

    December 11th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

  5. AJ says:

    I chronically misspell sheer, but perhaps a public shaming will create a permanent imprint on my brain. I also have a peeks/peaks disorder.

    December 11th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

  6. Kendra aka The Meanest Momma says:

    I love this! My kids are aged somewhat similarly to yours – i have (now 6) yr old kindergarten girl, a 4yo boy, and a nearly 2year old boy.

    Based on your previous recs, we’ve gotten the Fortamajig and I think this will be going on the birthday wishlist for the upcoming 2yo party.

    I can see it getting a lot of use from all 3 kids.

    December 11th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

  7. Nancy says:

    You should have titled this post “Pimp my toy!” I love what you did with the wheelbarrow. My newly 3 year old son has a TRU gift card waiting to be spent, we may just have to spend it on this.

    December 14th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

  8. observer says:

    this toy looks sooo cool! i think that it is a good toy for more than just building fun . it could also be used to teach motor skills to small children.

    December 15th, 2009 at 7:00 pm

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