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Construction Toys 

Construction Toys: specifications, types

Age

The minimum age of the child for which this constructor is suitable. These recommendations are rather conditional, but it is still not recommended to deviate from them. First, building blocks for older children may contain small parts that a curious young child can inhale or swallow. Secondly, kits for little ones are easy to assemble and have an attractive design, and an age-appropriate construction set can be too complicated and uncomfortable, upset or even scare the baby.

Note that the age category to some extent also characterizes the maximum age at which the constructor can be useful. For example, a set for 1+ and 2+ is unlikely to attract an 8-year-old or even a 7-year-old elementary school student, and a complex 16+ design often turns out to be interesting even for adults over 30 and even over 40. However, even within the same age category, a lot depends on the features of a particular set, in particular, on the type of game (see below).

Preference

Many thematic designers nowadays belong to one of two categories — for boys or for girls. However, we emphasize that this division is only a general recommendation, and not a strict rule; and when choosing, it is worth putting in the first place the interests of the child himself, and not this convention. Moreover, the manufacturers themselves are increasingly moving away from dividing their products by “gender”. In particular, many sets that were previously considered purely "boys" — for example, "Police Station", "Space Shuttle", "Combat Robots" — are now increasingly categorized as " unisex " (that is, equally suitable for both sexes). ).

As for constructors that do not have a clearly defined theme, for them the “unisex” option is indicated by definition.

Material

The main material used for constructor parts.

Plastic. Relatively inexpensive and at the same time practical, safe and, as a result, a very popular material. Plastic can be given any colour, it is light, pleasant to the touch and does not emit harmful substances in contact with liquid, in addition, it can be used in quick block connections (see "Type of connection").

— Metal. The main advantage of metal is strength; in addition, it is considered a more "solid" and "adult" material than plastic. On the other hand, metal does not tolerate moisture well and can corrode; rust is not dangerous for the skin, however, small children tend to put both parts and their own hands into their mouths. It is difficult to equip metal parts with quick-release fasteners, most often you have to use nuts and bolts — an option familiar to some from Soviet designers (see Screw connection). Metal constructors are considered suitable only for older age categories, and in such cases, complexity is often considered not a disadvantage, but an advantage.

— Wood. Most wooden construction sets are designed for young children and are "building kits" in which the parts are not fastened together, but simply stacked on top of each other. However, more advanced kits are also produced — from parts of complex shape that are assembled into a specific design (for example, an airplane...or a dinosaur skeleton); such sets are designed for the older age group. In general, wood as a material is pleasant to the touch, looks good even when unpainted, and some consider it safer and “environmentally friendly” than plastic. Among the shortcomings in this case can be called a relatively high cost and a tendency to absorb moisture; however, the latter is often compensated by special processing.

— Ceramics. Construction sets with ceramic parts tend to look like miniature "young builder's kits". The parts themselves are miniature bricks and other similar elements, their connection is carried out by an adhesive method (see below), and they are assembled from such kits mainly as buildings, although there are also simply sets of parts (see "Type of game"). At the same time, many kits also include metal parts with other types of connections, but they play an auxiliary role.

— Rubber. Rubber, on the one hand, is a soft and safety material, on the other hand, it is poorly suited for complex structures with small joints. As a result, constructors made from this material are usually kits for the youngest children, using the simplest magnetic connections (see below).

— A rock. The material most often used in "construction" designers, assembled by installing parts one on top of the other. The stone is durable, pleasant to the touch, and its large weight in this case is an advantage — buildings made of such material are stable, they do not fall apart from drafts or small tremors. At the same time, this material is not suitable for parts that need to be fastened together; this is one of the reasons why it is used infrequently.

EVA polymer. In the case of designers, the features of this material are softness, elasticity and resilience. This provides additional features for games. At the same time, in most designers from EVA, parts are installed one on top of the other, and not fastened together, but there are exceptions — for example, cars or animals assembled from soft parts of a special shape.

Game type

This item allows you to evaluate the general features of games and activities with the designer.

Most often, the type of game is indicated by the general theme to which the set is dedicated. In this regard, the following options are most popular: air transport and equipment, water transport, military equipment, in the animal world, railway, buildings (shops, gas stations, residential buildings, etc.), space, Minecraft, land transport and equipment. /cartoon characters, police and bandits, fire service, princesses, plants (flowers, trees), entertainment complexes, robotics, knights, pirates, weapons, rescue service, construction, science fiction, fantasy. Sets that have a specific theme, but are not related to this list, are usually...classified as a "plot set".

Also, the type of game can be indicated by the technical features of the constructor itself. There are few options here: mazes with balls (marble run), soft modules, sets of parts, as well as scientific and educational kits.

In most cases, the features of a particular type of game are already clear from the name, and you should not dwell on them further. However, technical features, as well as some thematic options, are still worth considering more closely:

— Sets of parts. There are two types of constructors in this category. The first is kits without thematic specialization, consisting of universal parts and allowing you to assemble a wide variety of designs (usually even standard instructions provide 10-20 assembly options, and the actual possibilities are limited only by the child’s imagination). The second type is single parts or sets of several parts, sold separately, but not representing a full-fledged designer; they are bought either to replace lost parts from the set, or to supplement the set with some new features (for example, to introduce a new character).

— Scientific and educational. Designers of this type can also be called "educational": while entertaining the child, they at the same time give him knowledge of the basics of mechanics, electrical engineering or even cybernetics / programming. A classic example of such a constructor is a kit for assembling working electronic circuits.

— Maze with balls (marble run). A set for assembling a track along which the balls roll. The track itself is an inclined chute, which can be supplemented with jumps, obstacles, forks and other specific elements. The size of such a constructor can be different — from the simplest gutter for 1 – 2 elements to a set of several dozen parts that can be connected in a new way each time, building routes of different shapes. Sets are available for several parallel chutes, allowing for "competitions".

— Soft modules. Constructors, the details of which are made of a soft material (usually EVA polymer). Such details, usually, have a rather large size: from some sets you can assemble a whole “fortress” inside which a child can fit. Also note that during assembly, soft modules are not fastened together, but are placed one on top of the other, like building bricks (although other assembly options may occur). Constructors of this type are designed mainly for the smallest; here it is worth noting that the soft material makes the parts as safe as possible and minimizes the risk of injury.

— minecraft. Constructors dedicated to the popular computer game Minecraft. Objects and characters in such a game are made up of rectangular blocks and have a characteristic angular shape, which makes it easy to release them as constructors.

– Transport (air, land, water). These types of games are indicated for sets that are not related to a narrower topic. For example, an ordinary civilian aircraft will be classified as air transport, and a similar aircraft in military coloring will be classified as military equipment.

— Weapon. This kind of constructors allows you to collect copies of firearms — similar in size to the original, and often also capable of firing special safe "bullets" (usually a spring mechanism is used for this).

— Entertainment complexes. Sets of this theme reproduce playgrounds, attractions, water parks, etc.

— Fantasy. Science fiction in the broad sense of the word, where technique and technology play an important role. Constructors from this series can be dedicated both to "technology in general" and to a specific work; one of the most popular options is Star Wars.

— Fantasy. Sets on the theme of "sword and magic" — as opposed to traditional "technical" fiction. Relatively rarely associated with certain works, but often have their own original mini-plots (sometimes uniting a whole series of constructors).

— Knights and Pirates. Regarding this option, it is worth noting that the knights in such designers look more or less historically authentic; warriors from fairy tales and fantastic stories are found in sets from the fantasy category.

— Cartoon characters. The term "cartoons" in this case is conditional — such constructors can also be dedicated to cinema (typical examples are "Harry Potter", superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or even "adult" works like the series "The Stranger Things").

— Construction. This type of game is indicated for designers who reproduce construction sites or construction equipment. If we are talking about a “young builder's kit”, from which a building model is assembled, such a kit belongs to the “buildings” category.

Number of parts

The total number of parts included in the delivery of the designer. At the same time, the calculation, usually, also takes into account the details that make up individual characters (torso, arms, legs, head, etc.) — despite the fact that the figures are most often delivered assembled and are not designed for disassembly during normal use . Also note that the kit may include several spare parts, in case of breakage or loss of any of the main elements.

Number of characters

The number of characters included in the delivery kit of the designer. In this case, a character means a figure of a person or a humanoid creature (for example, an alien or a robot). Animals do not formally belong to the characters, therefore they are indicated separately, in the notes to this paragraph; the exceptions are anthropomorphic (humanoid) figurines, which differ from people only in facial features, the presence of claws and tails, etc. Also note that this category does not include creatures whose assembly is the main purpose of the constructor. For example, if the constructor is designed to assemble a humanoid robot, and the mechanic of the robot is made in the form of a separate figure, then only the mechanic will be considered a character.

Number of animals

The number of animals in the set. In most cases, the individual collected elements of the set, respectively, in the form of an animal, act as animals. It can be both small cats, squirrels, dogs, birds, and larger animals — horses, elephants, crocodiles, sharks. There are also animals that will have to be assembled from several parts (similar to a character). However, the finished constructor in the form of an animal is not counted as the presence of animals in the set. It is worth noting that an abundant number of corresponding creatures expands the play possibilities of the designer and makes it more exciting and educational for the child.

Models in assembly

The number of models that can be assembled from this kit according to the instructions. For example, if a helicopter, truck or boat can be assembled from a set, 3 models will be indicated in this paragraph. Most modern designers are designed for just one model, quite often there are sets of 2 – 3 and 4 – 10 options, and in the most extensive sets this number can be 10 or more. Of course, a young inventor may not be limited to instructions and come up with his own assembly options; however, the most perfect and functional are usually the models that were originally provided for by the instructions.

Note that kits that allow multiple assembly options usually do not allow you to assemble more than one model at a time — that is, you can assemble a new model only by disassembling the previous one. However, there are exceptions to this rule — mainly among extensive sets of 5 or more options.

Compound

The main method of connecting parts used in the constructor.

— Block. Block connection is based on a combination of protrusions and recesses. A classic example of such a connection is the Lego “bricks” known to many, but a similar principle is used in many other modern designers of all age categories. The block connection does not require a particularly complex shape of parts, it goes well with the most popular material for children's designers — plastic (see above), and is generally quite reliable; at the same time, when the assembled toy falls, the blocks are easily separated, and the product breaks up into separate parts (which reduces the risk of damage to these parts). Also note that this option is very versatile and suitable for designers of different age categories and types of games.

— Magnetic. In accordance with the name, in magnetic designers, the parts are connected by permanent magnets. Modern technologies make it possible to create powerful and at the same time miniature magnets, due to which some sets of this type are not inferior to block ones in terms of the reliability of connecting parts (see above). And the connection and disconnection of magnets is extremely simple — after all, they themselves "stick" to each other, due to which such a connection is popular even in the younger age category.

Screw. Connection with screws and...nuts. This option was very popular in the designers of the Soviet era; today its popularity has fallen somewhat, but screw sets are still very common. Screws are a rather difficult type of connection for a child; they require accuracy, painstaking and precise movements. This, on the one hand, can create difficulties, on the other hand, it makes screw sets very attractive for children who are fond of mechanics, construction, etc., and also develops fine motor skills.

Hinged. Connections in the form of swivel mounts. Usually, one half of such a mount has the form of a “grip”, similar in shape to the letter U, and the second half is a cross-beam, for which the “grip” clings. Similar to the block ones described above, hinged mounts are used mainly in plastic constructors. They are easy to use, reliable enough and at the same time allow you to create both rotary and fixed connections (for example, with a square cross-section and the corresponding “grip”). On the other hand, hinges are less versatile, so they are relatively rare, mostly in parts kits (see "Game Type") and original themed kits (for example, dedicated to assembling robots).

Adhesive. Connection using a special compound. Note that, unlike traditional glue, this composition is usually made "reusable". When dry, it reliably seizes the joints, and in order to disassemble the structure, it is enough to place it in water, which will dissolve the seams between the parts. At the same time, according to the method of preparation, such a “glue” is usually similar to cement — it is supplied dry, and you need to prepare the mixture yourself. This connection method is used in ceramic construction sets (see "Material"): it gives the child the opportunity to feel like a real builder, teaches accuracy and at the same time leaves room for creativity and the right to make mistakes.

Note that there are constructors that do not belong to any type of connection — these are primarily wooden sets for the smallest, where the parts are simply placed on top of each other, not fastened in any way.

Moving elements (mechanics)

Details and elements that, after assembling the designer, can move, but are not driven by a motor; in other words, moving parts that need to be moved manually. These can be, for example, windows and doors, hatches, screws, crane booms, etc. The exception is rotating wheels — in this case they are not considered moving elements. Mechanical moving elements can be combined with motorized ones (see below).

Moving elements (motor)

Parts and elements that, after assembling the designer, can move due to the drive from an electric motor. In the simplest versions of such constructors, the movement is turned on and off using a switch on the model itself, in more advanced ones, remote control with quite extensive capabilities may be provided.

Note that this feature is indicated only if the motor is supplied in the delivery set. Kits that allow the installation of an engine, but are not equipped with it, are not motorized.

Shoots

The presence in the assembled design of weapons, which allows you to fully carry out shots. This solution makes the assembled model more realistic and expands the area for games. Naturally, the shooting is carried out by plastic elements of the designer and cannot harm the child in any way. And the shot itself is possible thanks to spring-loaded parts.

Inertial motion

The possibility of movement of the assembled model in an inertial way.

In such models, the wheels are connected to a spring or other similar device capable of storing mechanical energy. To start, you need to pull the structure back so that the wheels turn, "charging" the spring. After that, it is enough to release the model — and the spring will spin the wheels, allowing you to drive a certain distance. Inertial "motors" are simple, inexpensive, and can be quite fast. However their “charge” lasts less than a few seconds, but this cannot be called a serious drawback — launching inertial models can be quite fun.

Lighting effects

The presence in the designer of various lighting effects : backlighting, flashing lights, etc. This feature gives the assembled model an original and attractive appearance, and in some cases it can be useful in fact (for example, to make a car driving on the floor more noticeable so that it is not stepped on). Specific types of lighting effects may vary depending on the model.

Sound effects

The presence of sound effects in the constructor: these can be simple melodies, imitation of real sounds (motors, sirens, shots, splashing waves, wind noise, etc.), in scientific and educational models (see "Game type") — special signals , etc. Anyway, the sound accompaniment makes the constructor more interesting and provides additional features in games and research.

Solar battery

A solar battery generates energy by hitting it with bright light (ideally, sunlight, but some advanced photovoltaic cells can even work from bright indoor lamps). This function is used in constructors with a motor (see "Moving elements (motor)"). Most often, the solar panel is the only source of energy — thanks to this, batteries are not required; however, the efficiency of the toy is directly dependent on the brightness of the lighting. Less common are models where the photocell is supplemented with batteries: this combination prolongs the battery life, but affects the cost of the designer and is not so often justified.

Remote control

The presence of a remote control in the delivery set of the designer. This remote control can be either wired or wireless. It is found only in sets equipped with moving elements with a motor (see above), however, not every such set is equipped with a remote control, so the presence of this function should be specified separately. Also note that sets that are compatible with the remote control, but not equipped with it, do not belong to this category.

Smartphone control

by definition, a construction set with smartphone control implies the presence of a motor (see the relevant paragraph). The feature is popular in robotics-related models (see "Game Type"), but is also found in other varieties. Note that not only a smartphone can be used for control, but also another gadget on which you can install the appropriate application — for example, a tablet. The connection is usually carried out via Bluetooth, which gives a range of up to 10 m. And the application itself can provide not only direct control, but also programming — the execution of user-defined motion programs.

Storage box

The presence of a separate box for storage in the kit of delivery of the designer.

Note that the boxes in this case include containers made of solid material (plastic is most often used). Such containers are quite strong and reliable, moreover, they are often equipped with locks that prevent accidental opening. Thanks to this, they tolerate various troubles well — for example, if a child accidentally drops another toy on the box, the accident will end in a dent or scratch in the worst case, and turning over the closed container does not lead to spillage of parts. In light of all this, boxes are usually more convenient than improvised "storage" or ordinary cardboard boxes, in which designers are often sold (naturally, such boxes are not considered boxes).
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