Parenting forces you out of your comfort zone.
I am constantly being pushed into things I don’t want to do, and sometimes I’m even the one doing the pushing. My kids’ happiness has become my first priority, and so suddenly I’m building a playhouse in the backyard, or I’m forced to host a sleepover. Or I find myself getting my son a complicated toy I know Detective Munch would enjoy but that I need to put together first.
After spending ten hours assembling the thing – during which he mostly just watched – he’d better enjoy it!
I don’t do reviews on here, but when I went to Dad 2.0 I met some people from Best Buy and they’ve given me and my son opportunity to try out this robotic arm toy that I otherwise would have never gone near in a million years. Especially once I saw what it entailed.
Here’s the description: Learn how industrial robots operate while constructing your own miniature version with this VEX robotic arm kit. It has four points of motion that let it rotate 360 degrees while raising objects up to 14 inches in the air and extending them 10 inches. The VEX robotic arm kit teaches important STEM principles.
It sounded right up his alley.
Mom and Buried and I try our best to provide our kids with toys that help spark their imaginations. My five-year-old spends a fair amount of time playing Star Wars games on the iPad, of course, but nothing makes us happier than seeing him show an interest in chess (teaching a five-year-old how to play chess is, shall we say, not easy) or in practicing reading and writing on the tablet. And we’ve noticed he not only has a passion for building stuff with his toys, but also has gotten quite good at it.
So when the box arrived, I couldn’t wait to get to work on it with him. And then I opened it up and nearly fainted. SO. MANY. PIECES. 350 PIECES! Never mind the man-hours it was going to take to assemble, the odds of losing a good 30-50 of them were staggeringly high! But Detective Munch loves building stuff, and he loves robotic stuff, and this thing seemed like a perfect way to engage his curiosity for how things work.
Don’t get me wrong, he helped. By which I mean: he begged me to do it every day (we broke it into stages because wow it took a while) and then sat there and drove me crazy by grabbing at it and playing with the tiny little pieces before I got to them. But it definitely got him excited, and he loved seeing the little gears connect and turning the dials and watching them move and seeing how everything connected.
And to be completely honest, it was even kind of relaxing for me, putting the thing together, at least in those moments when he wasn’t undoing my painstaking work by playing with parts before it was finished. But he got to see how the gears worked together, and to learn how intricate the inner-workings of something mechanical can be. And it was fun to spend time doing something with my five-year-old that he was so excited about.
By the end of the project, it barely mattered to me if the thing worked, I just wanted to be done with it. But Detective Munch couldn’t wait to use the finished claw, supposedly to help him clean up his other toys, but in reality to repeatedly try to grab his baby brother’s feet. (He’s actually tried it for both purposes.)
Despite being long and involved, the instructions were straightforward enough for even me to follow, and thankfully, once finished the VEX Robotic Arm did work! And it’s pretty cool, not only using to grab things but also being able to watch the gears and see how it works. But now I have to convince the kid that I’m not actually very good at this stuff so he doesn’t make me get another one!
Disclaimer: For the purposes of this post, I received the product for free from Best Buy.