User Rating: Excellent
Pros:Interlocking pieces, interchangeable with advanced sets,
Cons:Not intuitive, needs adult guidance at first
The Bottom Line: While not an intuitive toy for most children, they quickly learn the science of gears and motion with adult guidance and just as quickly begin creating elaborate designs.
According to Learning Resources, Gears! Gears! Gears! is a childs introduction to the world of construction and movement. Bright colors and easy-to-assemble pieces encourage children to create moving masterpieces. There are so many ways to build, children discover something new every time they play!
Recommend this product?
Gears are found in many objects doing work that makes our lives easier. They are toothed wheels that mesh together to transmit force and/or motion over a distance. This Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! beginners building set can teach young children how they can get things moving with the simple turning of a crank.
The kit comes with 97 brightly colored, sturdy plastic pieces: interlocking gears (48), pillars (19), bases (8), extenders (8), six-way axles (12), and cranks (2). (The kit claims it has 95 pieces but my set had 97 including an extra crank.) It also includes an activity guide with basic instructions (about gears) and directions for creating crawling caterpillars, souped-up race cars, zigzag gears, and suggestions for other ex-gear-iments using this basic set. This basic set introduces children three and older to the mechanics of gears but advanced sets make it possible to develop other machines and skills. Some of the connecting pieces are small, but not so small that they present choking hazards for children three and older (I would still keep this away from children under three). The gears are 2 3/8 inches in diameter.
A lot of children visit the museum on a regular basis, sometimes weekly, and they become sufficiently familiar with the activities that they evolve past the basics. I watched a four-year old one week experiment with hammering a plastic screw into a work bench. As I watched I decided to intervene and provide a suggestion for using a plastic and wood-handled screwdriver to turn the screw into the bench. He did, but found it difficult and returned to hammering. A week later the same child stood at that bench and I watched him pick up the screwdriver and work the screw into place using the tool designed for that purpose.
Ive made an effort to watch some regular visitors with the gears set. We provided written instruction for parents to guide their childrenand for the most part they do. After several visits they went from basic gear construction on a flat surface to creating some up-and-over constructions. In each case both were thrilled with their successes assembling gears in one part of the platform that controlled actions on the other side of the platform.
This is not an intuitive activity for most children; they do need parent or teacher guidance to learn the basics of building using the six-way axles, pillar extenders and even the square pillars. I found that some children basically started by placing gears on the table surface while investigating how the gears meshed together. Then they snapped gears into the base and quickly realized how much fun it was to create mazes going from side-to-side on the platform. You could actually hear their excitement when they attached the crank on one gear and saw that turning the crank turned all of the other gears. Parents needed to help guide the process, but parents were having as much fun as their children, especially when they both began to build upward. The pillar extenders and six-way axles made it simple to design zigzag stairs and caterpillars.
Young children have difficulty fitting some of the pieces together and even more difficulty taking them apart. At home I think this would be a great activity for children with parents, at least until they can figure it out on their own. Some children will lose interest, especially if they dont discover the fun of creating some of the more complicated pieces. Thats where its important for parents to help guide the initial discoveries. If you find that your child really enjoys this initially, but begins losing interest, it may be time to get a more advanced set that continues to stimulate imagination and creativity.
My final thoughts. I bought this to complement some simple machines activities but Im now considering getting a work station with storage bins as well as some of the advanced sets that include springs, propellers, spirals, and different sizes of gears. This complements my need to provide activities that encourage spatial relationships, science of gears and motion, fine motor skills, design and creativity. The sets are interchangeable making it possible to integrate the sets and store them in one location. I cant wait to make copies of some of the advanced construction suggestions. The other day I walked to the station to find that a visitor had actually used all of the gears to make a very long caterpillar.
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Amount Paid (US$): 19.99
Type of Toy: Educational
Age Range of Child: 3 to 5 Years