It is a delight to discover that Lego Dacta's Early Simple Machines, a new resource intended for key stage 1 technology and nursery classes, is in fact "Duplo Technic" at least that's what my seven-year-old termed it after opening the box.
He condescended to let dad "have a go", as he is actually working with Motorised Systems - Lego Dacta's recent release for key stage 3 and 4 pupils. But this illustrates the value of adopting Lego Dacta approaches: there is a consistent development in the concepts of structures and mechanisms. Early Simple Machines now introduces these at an earlier age with a complete set of support materials and teacher's guide.
Not to be confused with Toolo, Early Simple Machines uses similar components, with the same connections as Duplo, and enhances them by adding a new dimension: gears and pulleys. The essential building elements are Technic-like beams (with holes for axles) of varying lengths which can be assembled with other components into a variety of simple models.
The Early Simple Machines class kit, four construction kits in green trays with lids, stacks neatly into a blue cardboard storage box. Accompanying each kit are four sets of construction cards, a teacher's handbook and one set of project cards. Lego Dacta has deliberately kept the whole thing as straightforward as possible.
The quality of the individual components is extremely high and, like Duplo, should weather even the most severe bashing about. My only criticism of the system relates to the number of teeth on the two gear cogs (40 and 24 respectively) if they had been chosen with one being the exact half of the other, then some useful maths could be extracted, such as "how many times does the smaller gear turn compared with the large one?". It would help lay the foundations of understanding gear ratios.
Early Simple Machines adds a valuable dimension to Duplo, laying down fundamental concepts of simple mechanics and usefully preparing children for later Technic I and II construction kits.
Lego Dacta - stand 305