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multitasker toys for the win

knex scrambler

The other day, Joshua helped the girls make this amusement park ride out of Knex. The battery operated motor makes it go around in circles, and as it does, the seats go up and down.

Not gonna lie…it’s pretty cool.

knex amusement park ride

$0.29 bears from the craft store are the lucky riders. 😉

The girls also made some zip lines for the bears out of Knex.

knex zip line car

Well, the cars are Knex..the zip lines are yarn.

Some of the lines have sort of a dangerous slope. 😉

yarn zip line

Watching this reminded me again that the toys which provide the very best value are the those that can do multiple things.

knex zip line

I’m sure you can buy toy amusement park rides, but the trouble with those is that they can do exactly one thing. When you get bored of the amusement park ride function, the joy of that toy is gone.

But a toy like Knex provides endless play options.

(Joshua helped the girls attach a camera so they could make a POV video of the zip line experience)

(Joshua helped the girls attach a camera so they could make a POV video of the zip line experience)

Once you get tired of the zip lines or the scrambler, they can be totally disassembled and made into something new.

(Bonus: I don’t have to store a zip line or scrambler…just a box of Knex.)

Maybe I’m just getting old or something, but it does seem like in the last several decades, there’s been a shift away from multi-tasking toys to unitasker toys. For instance, when I was a kid, my brother had Hot Wheels tracks that could be configured in multiple ways, but when Joshua was little, all we could find were preconfigured tracks (Boring!) They had lots of bells and whistles, but very little versatility.

And while I’m writing a curmudgeonly post, I’d like to complain about the poor quality of most of these unitasking toys. It’s bad enough that they do one thing, but even worse is their tendency to break at the drop of a hat. And since they’re usually all one big piece, the whole thing has to be trashed when something breaks.

Legos, Knex, and Duplos, however, can do a bajillion things, and if one piece breaks (which rarely happens), you don’t have to throw the whole collection out.

Thus endeth the rant on modern toys.

P.S. Our box of Knex was a hand-me-down, but I just checked, and it appears that Knex are still available. I think you could find great deals on these at yard sales or on eBay too.

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Jan Elizabeth

Tuesday 17th of December 2013

The unitasker toys have come about for the very reasons you don't like them - if the kids get bored fast and/or they break, you have to buy new ones. It's just another aspect of our ever-promoted, rampant consumerism. It's nice to see so many parents here who see through advertisers' wiles!


Wednesday 9th of October 2013

Love the K'nex - amazon has some sets on 50% off sale today only (10/9) in case you need some for Christmas!


Sunday 6th of October 2013

We love Duplos in our house. We have a lot of the themed sets, but there is definitely no limit to the imagination. We also got my daughter a train set from BigJigs last year (wooden) that can be configured however she wants. I do enjoy Little People, which would probably be considered more of a "uni" toy. My favorite thing though is that she puts all of her princess Little People on her pirate ship. I also loves when she repurposes things (i.e., uses the clothes from a magnetic paper doll as cookies for her kitchen). I definitely tend towards more open ended toys. Love this post :)


Thursday 3rd of October 2013

My boys loved playing with K'nex when they were younger. They definitely provided much more entertainment than a unitask toy, so I totally agree with you on your rant.


Thursday 3rd of October 2013

Knex are awesome, my brother played with them A LOT as a kid and I remember doing a science project in the 9th grade with Knex and a solar panel battery. Pretty cool!

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