Disclosure: This is a paid, sponsored post on behalf of Rigamajig Jr., one of the best wooden engineering toys for kids. Any opinions included in this post are my own. This post may also contain Amazon.com affiliate links. Should you click on those links, it may bring additional revenue to the site, at no additional cost to you.
As a mother, I find a lot of comfort in knowing that my son can think creatively to solve challenging problems. Watching him conceive a plan and tackle a difficult task, whether he succeeds or not, shows his learning potential.
I often think about what kind of career he might have, keeping my fingers crossed, that when I am not able to be there with him, that he will be able to think creatively, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively to find solutions.
STEM toys are innovative toys that expose children to the principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEAM toys include the addition of Art. STEM toys do not need to have battery operated or robotic components. Many involve basic principles of physics, engineering and math using levers, pulleys and simple machines.
It is no secret, that with the increase in access to all kinds of technology, as parents we often struggle in finding a balance of play. We are not alone in searching for unique toys and experiences, without batteries, that challenge our kids to learn, play and function at a much higher level then they are capable of.
Engineering toys like Rigamajig Jr. challenge children to use their minds, from both an analytical and imaginative standpoint. The skills they learn when building and designing, teach them not only about physics but communication and problem solving. Through the use of play, these skills will serve them well in future careers and relationships, too.
What is Rigamajig Jr.?
Rigamajig Jr. from KaBOOM! is a building kit, where children use the included items to create and design anything they can imagine, whether it is a simple machine that solves a problem or a work of art.
Inside a colorful, zippered storage bag, you will find 160 parts: wooden pieces of various shapes and sizes with embedded holes to be attached to each other using brackets, hex nuts and wing bolts. There is also a pulley and woven ropes included. In addition, there are 2 small canvas bags which can be used to store the nuts and bolts during play and later inside the bag. There are some basic comments sewn into a tag on the inside of the bag, which remind parents to allow kids to think imaginatively and creatively while playing. Do not go crazy looking for an instruction manual, you will not find one!
Rigamajig Jr. is designed so that a child can play alone, or in a small group, with up to 3 additional friends.
What Can You Do With Rigamajig Jr.?
There are so many ways children and adults can play with Rigamajig Jr.
- Use the included items in the kit to create a toy or play set which can be used in conjunction with other toys
- Design a new invention that solves a problem
- Tap into your imagination and creative side by designing an art piece
- Create a game
What Kinds of Skills Do Kids Learn When Playing With Rigamajig Jr.?
As a pediatric occupational therapist, an obvious skill many children can develop when using Rigamajig Jr. is the ability to develop their hand-eye coordination to attach various brackets, wing bolts and hex nuts together while building. Constructing also requires a lot of motor planning and visual spatial awareness, as children need to plan ahead and organize in their mind how the pieces will fit together.
Building toys like Rigamajig Jr. offer so many other opportunities for learning.
Children learn about how to identify a problem, initiate change and create a solution. They use their executive function skills for organizing, planning ahead, and adjusting to change, especially when they experience a setback or obstacle.
While many children will use trial and error problem solving, others will devise more thorough and advanced plans.
In pairs and in small groups, children will absolutely have to communicate. Many children are passionate and emotionally charged watching their ideas come to life, and this can escalate when peers do not feel the same way or agree to the next step, so coping skills will be tested and developed.
Even if your child does not want to be an engineer, artist or mathematician, all of the skills they learn when engaging in projects with Rigamajig Jr. will provide skills that will serve them well, no matter what their future holds.
1. Plan Ahead
I have worked with many children in my career as an occupational therapist who do not feel confident diving head first into open ended play without some structure, a plan or an instruction manual, and that is absolutely fine, just plan ahead.
Let the children know ahead of time they will be using different materials, with the goal to create something. Give them time to ask questions and brainstorm, so they can set their creative minds to work long before they open the bag.
I shared with Gavin that we would be using the kit one afternoon together, because I know his personality and that if he did not have a plan he would walk away in minutes. We brain stormed about problems that needed solving in our home.
Since our new puppy Cooper loves to bite, Gavin wanted to create an invention that would allow him to play with the puppy, but would keep his hands away from the dog so he wouldn’t get bit.
2. Not Every Child Likes Imaginative Play, So Solve a Problem Instead
Children think and learn differently. Their interests vary and not every child likes imaginative play. It is fine if your child does not want to use the pieces imaginatively for pretend play. Many children crave structure and are more inclined to design an invention that soles a problem.
My son has never been one to create elaborate play schemes, he is an active sports player with entrepreneurial spirit who is motivated by helping others, solving a problem and making money. Toys like this not only help children think through scientific principles, but can serve as prototypes and the basis for a future business, too.
3. Be Patient and Communicate
It will be a challenge to not want to jump in and take over the process. Ask questions instead of telling children what to do. Sit back quietly, bite your tongue, and allow yourself and the kids to be vulnerable. Make mistakes and learn from them when there is no pressure. We certainly do not want our children to fail, but allowing them to experience a process like this with a safety net in place, will give them practice for the future.
It is also a great family activity that allows you to communicate with your child, to strengthen your team at home. Play allows children to let their guard down and relax, which opens the door for more in-depth conversations about other things going on in their lives.
Do not be in a hurry to finish. If necessary find a place to store your invention, work on it in another room where you can close the door and keep it safe, so you can take time away from it to work through the challenges and make adjustments.
4. It’s Okay To Need Help To Get Started
Some children are not born project managers. As adults being task masters is something we spent our lifetime trying to perfect. These are hard mindsets to change. Lots of pieces and no plan or direction can be very overwhelming and lead to anxiety and frustration. When this happens, some children will never get started, others will walk away without finishing the experience.
It’s better to look for inspiration and get involved, then to not participate at all. So, for those who need some help getting started check out the Rigamjajig Jr. play prompts.
5. Let Kids Experience It By Themselves First, Before Starting A Group
If you are experiencing Rigamajig Jr. for the first time, let the kids explore the kit for a bit on their own first. For many young children, working in small groups takes time and practice. Kids have a lot of unique ideas, and sometimes sharing is not easy.
Before embarking on a major group project, let the kids play on their own, or one-on-one with you, so they can understand how the pieces work, without the added stress of other participants.
What Do the Kids Say About Rigamajig Jr.?
At the end of first grade, my son participated in an Invention Convention. I know he was not alone in this mindset, but it frustrated me to no end that everything he wanted to create involved using a robot that would do something for him. I could not wait to spend some time with him exploring Rigamajig Jr. and this is what he said when we were finished:
“I loved Rigamajig. You get to use your mind to solve a problem.” Gavin, age 8
Where Can I Buy Rigamajig Jr.?
Thinking about Rigamajig Jr. for your family? Do you organize team building activities for children in the community like Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, robotics teams and Gifted and Talented programs? Looking to make a donation to a community play area, daycare or preschool for a Maker Space?
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Disclosure: This is a paid, sponsored post on behalf of Rigamajig Jr. Any opinions included in this post are my own. This post may also contain affiliate links. Should you click on those links, it may bring additional revenue to the site, at no additional cost to you.