I need gift ideas for a mechanically gifted 4 year old - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 01-26-2011, 02:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My soon-to-be 4 year old ds2 is very much into mechanics and how things work.  He can spend 10 minutes looking at the latch of the dishwasher or the locker at the gym trying to figure out how it works.  He wants to know how anything and  everything works and he wants to build, build, build!  Most of his questions require me looking up the answer!  The one trouble I have for finding toys for him is that he still has those chunky fingers that aren't quite what he wants them to be.  At 3 1/2, his brother got his first lego set and ds2 wanted so badly to build, but was frustrated to the point of tears figuring out how to be gentle enough with them.  Now, he's mostly fine with Legos.

 

Any experienced moms of future engineers have ideas for a great gift?  Something to build, create, make go,  a book about how things work in a language appropriate for a 4 year old?


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#2 of 23 Old 01-26-2011, 05:00 PM
 
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I wonder if a "Gears! Gears! Gears!" set might appeal to him. It's nicely mechanical and pretty easy on the fine-motor dexterity angle. Geekdad has a review if you want to get an idea of what it's about.

 

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#3 of 23 Old 01-26-2011, 08:40 PM
 
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A Quadrilla set.  Levi LOVES his, and it takes some thinking to figure out where to put what.  Its a wooden marble run, but there is more to it than the plastic kind.  You have to use the right block (different colors have different paths for the marble to go though), point it in the right way, balance everything right, block holes in the platforms, add little ramps in certian places,etc.  There are even blocks that play a music note as the marble goes through, and blocks that switch back and forth between which way the marble releases...  Its pretty cool.  

 

Here is ds playing with it, he set this up himself following directions in the book, but he makes his own sometimes too. 

http://s169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/leighi123/baby/January%202011/?action=view&current=100_0147.mp4

 

http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/leighi123/baby/January%202011/100_0150.jpg

 

100_0054.jpg

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#4 of 23 Old 01-26-2011, 09:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This looks great!  and your son is adorable :)  how old is he?

 

Moominmama--I've looked at the gear sets, but my dh doesn't know if ds2 would love it because it doesn't have a "purpose."  He thinks ds2 needs to create things that will have an effect.  Like if you could put all the gears together so that at the end of it all it would "do something."  Does that make sense?  I think it's cool...but my dh thinks more like my ds than I do!
 

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A Quadrilla set.  Levi LOVES his, and it takes some thinking to figure out where to put what.  Its a wooden marble run, but there is more to it than the plastic kind.  You have to use the right block (different colors have different paths for the marble to go though), point it in the right way, balance everything right, block holes in the platforms, add little ramps in certian places,etc.  There are even blocks that play a music note as the marble goes through, and blocks that switch back and forth between which way the marble releases...  Its pretty cool.  

 

Here is ds playing with it, he set this up himself following directions in the book, but he makes his own sometimes too. 

http://s169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/leighi123/baby/January%202011/?action=view&current=100_0147.mp4

 

http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/leighi123/baby/January%202011/100_0150.jpg

 

100_0054.jpg




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#5 of 23 Old 01-26-2011, 09:21 PM
 
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http://www.legoeducation.us/store/ 

 

Lego education has some great stuff...


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#6 of 23 Old 01-26-2011, 10:32 PM
 
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One of my boys is a builder and he started tiny legos at 4.  He especially loves the ones with motors.  Knex are also good (especially with motors). Mindware.com has some good building toys.  My son at 5 had a really cool gear set that would had a motor, and wheels so you'd build it, trying to figure out how to make all the gears go.. but it also had things like a mouth that you'd have to make open and close and crazy things like that.  He still has it, but I can't remember what it's called.  I probably got it at Mindware, though. Or Fat Brain Toys is another site.

 

Have you tried snap circuits?  My son really like those at that age.  You can build a remote control car with one of the sets, or a radio, too. 

 

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#7 of 23 Old 01-27-2011, 03:13 AM
 
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Daniel 3 1/2 likes Motorworks from Discovery Toys They also have a train and a truck   He also wants to know how every thing works.   I know how challanging that can be when you feel like you already don't have all the answers and they aren't even 5 yet.  Still not sure mine is gifted but I've been lurking here for awhile trying to get some ideas about how to handle him. 

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#8 of 23 Old 01-27-2011, 03:25 AM
 
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I remember you were interested in the Georello toolbox I recommended in the January thread...but of course there is really no point to it either. DS just loves building the stuff that comes in the handbook. he just calls them "machines"! And he enjoys what the colorful patterns on the gears look like when spinning fast. he wants to get the Tech set too with moving propellers and stuff. Nor do marble runs have that much to a point to them, after all. I think your DH might be projecting an adult mindset...hmm... on second thoughts, trying to understand what he might mean...Georello also makes a marble run that comes with a battery-powered elevator that keeps moving up the marbles? Is it that kind of "doing something" he's got in mind? If you search for marble machines and dominoes and stuff, there are some nifty little videos on youtube you could look at with your son, it might give you both more ideas.


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#9 of 23 Old 01-27-2011, 07:37 AM
 
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Wood train set - of the brio/Thomas variety but no need to purchase those name brands. The lower cost knock offs were a better bet here because what made it fun was having a lot of track to allow for creative building and solving different engineering problems to make different train patterns. I would not suggest a train table. Just lots of track and possibly one motorized train for the magic moment when it all comes together and the train can travel the full circuit.

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#10 of 23 Old 01-27-2011, 10:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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YES!  This is the set I showed my husband and that is when he brought up the point about it not having a point to it!  I think what he means is that the gear sets we've seen are just gear after gear after gear.  He thinks ds would want want some sort of effect at the end, like the last gear is attached to something that tips a ball into a bucket (for example....but that's a pretty lame example!)  That way, there is a challenge in seeing if what you've put together actually causes the end result you are looking for.

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I remember you were interested in the Georello toolbox I recommended in the January thread...but of course there is really no point to it either. DS just loves building the stuff that comes in the handbook. he just calls them "machines"! And he enjoys what the colorful patterns on the gears look like when spinning fast. he wants to get the Tech set too with moving propellers and stuff. Nor do marble runs have that much to a point to them, after all. I think your DH might be projecting an adult mindset...hmm... on second thoughts, trying to understand what he might mean...Georello also makes a marble run that comes with a battery-powered elevator that keeps moving up the marbles? Is it that kind of "doing something" he's got in mind? If you search for marble machines and dominoes and stuff, there are some nifty little videos on youtube you could look at with your son, it might give you both more ideas.




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#11 of 23 Old 01-27-2011, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
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Wood train set - of the brio/Thomas variety but no need to purchase those name brands. The lower cost knock offs were a better bet here because what made it fun was having a lot of track to allow for creative building and solving different engineering problems to make different train patterns. I would not suggest a train table. Just lots of track and possibly one motorized train for the magic moment when it all comes together and the train can travel the full circuit.



Alas, this child is already a train fanatic!  I am trying NOT to get him train stuff, because it's all that we've bought him for every birthday and Christmas for the last three years! 


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#12 of 23 Old 01-27-2011, 12:26 PM
 
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Some ideas

 

1.  How about Wedgits?

 

2.  How about Magnatiles?

 

     If your husband wants it to do something, you can buy the Deluxe Set instead, because it comes with doors and wheels.

 

3.  I know what your husband said about Gears, but Gearations is Super-Cool. There is a switch that rotates the center gear in one direction, then you can rotate in the opposite direction.  There is another switch that lets you change the rotation speed from slow to fast and back to slow again. The ad says it's for preschoolers, but I have caught 40 and 70 year olds playing with it with fascination.

 

4.  How about Pendulum Man?

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#13 of 23 Old 01-28-2011, 06:48 AM
 
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I've been looking for more interesting Georello stuff and stumbled over this website:

http://www.constructionkits2enjoy.org.uk

it's in the UK but they've got GREAT stuff - even if you don't buy from them, their selection is a true inspiration! Check out their Georello offers...I think even your DH might be satisfied.


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#14 of 23 Old 01-28-2011, 08:05 AM
 
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Snap Circuits Jr. is great.  He may not be quite totally ready do it on his own yet though.  My (gifted) 6yo got this set from my parents for his recent birthday.  It's the PERFECT age and level for him, following all the instructions for the different complexities of circuits you can build, but ds2 (almost 4) also can do it and enjoy it, just not really independently like ds1.  If not for a 4yo then something to keep in mind for the next year or two.

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#15 of 23 Old 01-28-2011, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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You all are a wealth of information!  I'm in the middle of looking up all of your awesome suggestions.

 

Circuits might be a good idea, he was recently enthralled by them at our local children's museum.


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#16 of 23 Old 01-28-2011, 10:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reezley View Post

Snap Circuits Jr. is great.  He may not be quite totally ready do it on his own yet though.  My (gifted) 6yo got this set from my parents for his recent birthday.  It's the PERFECT age and level for him, following all the instructions for the different complexities of circuits you can build, but ds2 (almost 4) also can do it and enjoy it, just not really independently like ds1.  If not for a 4yo then something to keep in mind for the next year or two.



I just looked up the Snap Circuits Jr.  I think this might be perfect.  It is recommended for 8 and up, so I'd like to make sure that as far as dexterity goes does your 4yo have any trouble?  I don't want this to end up frustrating ds2.


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#17 of 23 Old 01-28-2011, 11:29 AM
 
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we have been working with snap circuits since our DS was 2-he just turned three and never had a problem

 

if your child is having issues with small items- get an old pepper mill, one with a small hole on the bottom (they are great to take apart) and fill one corn at a time, keeps our DS busy and sitting for a least an hour


 

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Almost-4yo ds has no problem with handling the pieces and snapping them together.  They aren't teeny pieces and they're solid and easy to snap and take apart.  He sometimes needs a little guidance in lining things up, and he definitely needs help interpreting the instruction diagrams, whereas for 6yo ds he just got to work totally on his own on it.  The results are fun though (lights, sounds, a fan!), even on the simplest, first circuits. 
 

Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reezley View Post

Snap Circuits Jr. is great.  He may not be quite totally ready do it on his own yet though.  My (gifted) 6yo got this set from my parents for his recent birthday.  It's the PERFECT age and level for him, following all the instructions for the different complexities of circuits you can build, but ds2 (almost 4) also can do it and enjoy it, just not really independently like ds1.  If not for a 4yo then something to keep in mind for the next year or two.



I just looked up the Snap Circuits Jr.  I think this might be perfect.  It is recommended for 8 and up, so I'd like to make sure that as far as dexterity goes does your 4yo have any trouble?  I don't want this to end up frustrating ds2.



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#19 of 23 Old 01-28-2011, 09:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone!

 

I think we've settled on a marble run, Snap Circuits, and Gears!

 

I'm so thrilled to have looked through all of these great sites you mentioned.  Now I'll always know where to shop for my little guy!


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#20 of 23 Old 01-29-2011, 10:22 AM
 
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http://www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/science/91e4/

 

My 3 year old loves this.  I have to help him put it together, but he loves to watch the water running. 


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#21 of 23 Old 01-29-2011, 02:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
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http://www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/science/91e4/

 

My 3 year old loves this.  I have to help him put it together, but he loves to watch the water running. 



That is so NEAT!  My boys would love this.


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#22 of 23 Old 01-31-2011, 10:01 AM
 
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He just turned 3.5 this month.   The marble run is addicting, even for me.  We bought the add on that makes music notes, so its an added challange to make it play a tune instead of just a jumble of sound, but even without the sound blocks it 'sounds nice'.  And it does have a 'goal' - if you put the blocks the wrong way or forget to add a ramp or plug a hole, the marbles fall off, go the wrong way, or stop in the middle.  It has to be done right to get them to the tray in the bottom!   Levi has pretty much played with it every day sense he got it for christmas.   Its also something I can help him with, or not.  He can follow the book for ideas, or make up his own (at this point, his own runs are a lot smaller than when he follows the book), or we work together and try to use all the blocks, or make it as tall as we can, or as long as we can....   Its a really fun toy!  
 

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This looks great!  and your son is adorable :)  how old is he?

 

Moominmama--I've looked at the gear sets, but my dh doesn't know if ds2 would love it because it doesn't have a "purpose."  He thinks ds2 needs to create things that will have an effect.  Like if you could put all the gears together so that at the end of it all it would "do something."  Does that make sense?  I think it's cool...but my dh thinks more like my ds than I do!
 

Quote:
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A Quadrilla set.  Levi LOVES his, and it takes some thinking to figure out where to put what.  Its a wooden marble run, but there is more to it than the plastic kind.  You have to use the right block (different colors have different paths for the marble to go though), point it in the right way, balance everything right, block holes in the platforms, add little ramps in certian places,etc.  There are even blocks that play a music note as the marble goes through, and blocks that switch back and forth between which way the marble releases...  Its pretty cool.  

 

Here is ds playing with it, he set this up himself following directions in the book, but he makes his own sometimes too. 

http://s169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/leighi123/baby/January%202011/?action=view&current=100_0147.mp4

 

http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/leighi123/baby/January%202011/100_0150.jpg

 

100_0054.jpg


 


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#23 of 23 Old 01-31-2011, 01:27 PM
 
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Yeah, a Quadrilla set is on my amazon wishlist for DS...DH is opposed at the moment, so I just got him one of those smaller plastic ones for Christmas. I thought he might be a bit young for the Quadrilla set - do you feel it is more challenging in the engineering or in the fine motor department?


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