Wednesday, November 25, 2009

K'NEX Building Sets Product Review & Make a K'NEXion Contest

I'm a huge advocate of open-ended toys, the kind of toys that encourage imagination and allow children to make their own creations with no right or wrong solutions. When children think for themselves they gain valuable life skills and also feel a sense of accomplishment. Building blocks and construction toys are classic examples of open-ended toys. Building activities help develop motor skills, strengthen spacial awareness and encourage problem solving.

The K'NEX brand of construction toys foster open-ended play. Kids can play with the sets for hours on end and construct in endless ways. Thanks to Team Mom and K'NEX we recently had the chance to try out two different K'NEX products.

My children were very excited to receive the Police Station Building Set from the K'NEX Sesame Street Neighborhood Collection Line. The set gives children the opportunity to recreate and build their own version of a Sesame Street police station complete with a stop-light and stop sign and even includes two buildable characters, Elmo and policeman Ernie. The set is recommended for ages 2-5.

Directions are supplied for the police station depicted on the cover, but my kids prefer to free build and pretend play with the two characters. My toddler son especially enjoys the two windows that open and close. My toddler son can also put two blocks together and disassemble the station. He really enjoyed playing and pretending together with Mommy and his big sister. My preschool daughter really likes the characters and making up pretend situations and conversations. The chunky, larger sized blocks work with other brands like DUPLO and Mega Bloks so my kids often build larger creations and add to their police station using other block sets that we already own.

The complete Kid K'NEX Sesame Street Neighborhood Collection line includes 4 separate sets: Ice Cream Truck Building Set, Police Car Building Set, 1-2-3 Brownstone Building Set and Police Station Building Set.

The K'NEX 400 Piece Value Tub is a multi-model building set meant for older children, ages 7 and up. The tub includes hundreds of small pieces and parts perfect for building small-medium size creations. K'NEX model building sets include bricks, rods, various funny shaped connectors and wheels that can be used to build both 2-D and 3-D models. The parts all snap together in many different ways and allow for movement so that kids can make interactive items like spinning merri-go-rounds and rolling vehicles. The blocks also work with other building sets like Lego.

My kids are too young to play with this set, but I sat down and tried to construct a house out of some of the K'NEX pieces. Building with this set takes patience and engineering skills. It took me a half an hour to build a relatively simple house frame! The set does come with a instruction book with ideas for 20 different models. I'd recommend that beginners try to build one of the models in the book first so that they can get a feel for the different pieces and how they work together. The storage tub is large enough to store finished creations and keep partially finished projects safe. My brother owned several K'NEX sets as a child and still loves playing with them, making complicated designs. I remember one time he tried to build a large ferris wheel, but I'm not sure if he ever finished that project. Like I said, these K'NEX sets require a great deal patience. Parents and children can build together. It's a great bonding opportunity.

Right now K'NEX is sponsoring a “Make a K’NEXion” Video Contest. Parents can videotape their child building with select K'NEX building products and enter the competition. The ten best videos will get featured on and the winning video creator will receive $1,000 worth of K’NEX Toys. Official rules PDF: The contest ends 12/7/09, so start building soon!

On the K'NEX site you can also enter to win a Sesame Street building set for your child or tickets to Sesame Place. Visit Ends 12/31/09

Thanks to K'NEX and Team Mom for this review opportunity and for providing two free K'NEX sets for my family to review. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)