Friday, December 11th, 2009
Review: Build It Bigger construction toy
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.
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.
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.
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.