My 9 year old son is a huge fan of Lego and really enjoyed the Electricity and Magnetism experiment kit from Thames and Kosmos, leading me to believe that the Remote-Control Machines Space Explorers kit from Thames and Kosmos would be a perfect fit for him. While the kit does offer some great educational opportunities, it stumbles in a few places.
The comparison with Lego isn’t really fair, but it is unavoidable. The pieces and parts of the Remote-Control Machines kit look like Lego, and they snap together like Lego. Throw in the motors that this kit comes with, and it immediately sparks excitement. My son couldn’t wait to play with the constructed models, and he couldn’t decide which we should build first.
The kit has instructions to build 10 different models, significantly more than the average Lego kit, which usually offers instructions for only one. Unfortunately, the build instructions aren’t always clear, and the pieces are difficult to assemble, whereas Lego pieces snap together quickly and easily. My 9 year old hasn’t needed help assembling a Lego kit in over a year but was unable to build any of the models in this kit without my constant assistance.
The intent behind the Remote-Control Machines kit is to be as much educational tool as toy, and there is some great information in the instruction booklet about each robot, especially the Mars Curiosity rover. Kids can learn about the functionality of the real world counterparts of many of the models and, courtesy of the motors and gears in the kit, see an approximation of the way those things actually operate. This is an excellent way to spark the desire for knowledge in kids.
If approached as a toy, the kit falls flat. The motors move slowly, the blocks don’t hold together well under vigorous play, and they are difficult to assemble/disassemble completely. The way the different pieces fit together, often requiring separate connecting pieces, isn’t intuitive enough for kids to easily sit down and build something using their imagination. Where Lego allows kids to simply sit down and begin to build, the Remote-Control Machines kit takes consideration and planning in order to create something usable.
I wouldn’t recommend this kit be given specifically as a toy. I would recommend this kit for kids who have expressed interest in robotics and engineering who have a parent who is directly invested in helping their child learn. I would also recommend the kit for older, more deliberate kids who would be more interested in the physical build and inner workings of the parts and gears than in playing with the finished result. This kit would also be at home in a classroom and would make a great teaching aid.
The Remote-Control Machines box advertises ages 8 and up, although I would say that 8 is certainly too young for this kit. My son, who remained excited through all of the experiments we performed in the Electricity and Magnetism kit, began to lose interest in this kit after he realized that the models weren’t really robust enough for heavy play. We still enjoyed reading about the models as we built them and he even remarked that “It would be cool if Lego did that.” Yet, when the option to play with this kit or Lego arises, he always chooses Lego.
The copy of Remote-Control Machines Space Explorers used for this review was provided by Thames and Kosmos.
A good educational tool, but a lackluster toy. The Remote-Control Machines kit is better suited to the classroom than the toybox.