Choosing the Right Building Sets
Building sets come in all shapes in sizes. But, what is the right building set for your child; an Erector Set, LEGO Model, K’NEX Construction, or a Rokenbok Complete Action Set?
Scientific research shows that all construction toys are really good for children (see our summary of the research here). Whether it’s simple wooden building blocks or a sophisticated Rokenbok Inventor Series building sets, playing with building toys benefits children of all ages. The question is, which building set will hold your child’s attention and keep them playing over time?
One way of looking at the huge variety of building sets is like this:
- Modeling Sets
- Building Sets for older children
- Building Sets for younger children
LEGO is undeniably the king of construction modeling. Whether you want to build a castle, police station, or a tractor-trailer rig, they have a building set to do just that. In order to create realistic detail, modeling sets can have a lot of highly specialized building pieces that are specific to just one model. Children tend to follow step-by-step instructions to build that single model, as improvisation with specialized pieces can be tough. Modeling sets tend to sacrifice strength for detail, and may come apart pretty easily once assembled. Modeling sets are terrific for making children feel successful at completing a challenging task, they can be used with limited space, and are transported easily too.
Building Sets for Older Children
There are a lot of choices for true construction sets for children eight and up; Erector, K’NEX and Rokenbok to name just a few. Building sets build real working buildings and machines; think of the classic Erector Ferris Wheel or a K’NEX Roller Coaster. Building sets tend to require more mechanical skill, 3D visualization, and hand-eye coordination than modeling sets, and occupy more space. Building sets can be frustrating for children that lack previous experience in following instructions and assembling complex objects, and are especially frustrating for younger children who are often given sets designed for older kids. Building sets tend to offer more opportunity for creating a child’s own inventions, and what’s built is usually pretty sturdy. Some would argue the true building sets are better educational toys because they let kids invent their own solutions (teach divergent thinking) while modeling sets tend to just support a single solution (teach convergent thinking).