Mr Blobby finds his forte

29th November 1996 at 00:00
DUPLO PRIMO Construction sets by Lego Dacta Pounds 49.95 Age range: 3-5

Lego Dacta has introduced an exciting new product especially for the early years range. It is similar to the educationally sound construction sets for which Lego is renowned but has the benefit of having larger, simpler and more easily assembled pieces. It is known as Duplo Primo, which we put through our very selective Wickbourne test process, conducted by the early years group. It passed with flying colours, proving popular, stimulating and satisfying for everyone.

The set comes in a sturdy plastic box which is large enough to allow easy stowage of the pieces after play. You don't have to hold a post-graduate qualification in spatial relations to fit the parts back in the box either.

There are single, double and triple bricks, platforms, wheeled bricks, people, animals and Mr Blobby-like characters, which link together by simply stacking them. The set has the benefit of large, rounded pegs which make it easy to assemble for small children. Some of the parts carry pictures (three parts making up a giraffe, for example), spots, patterns and there is even a mirror, all of which are designed to increase the imaginative uses to which the pieces can be put. In fact, the Blobbies are simple representations of a wasp, a duck, a penguin, a ladybird and, happily, Mr Smiley.

Within a minute of opening the box, the cry went up "Oh! Look, wheels" and a car with two passengers was immediately assembled. The pictures of models on the box lid acted as a stimulus, and eager attempts were made to replicate them. A traveller's child lost no time in starting a fairground, and the continuous discussion between the children, soon led to the creation of a zoo using the basic animal shapes provided, and a transporter vehicle in which to take the animals for a ride.

The set is eminently suitable for young children, as it is durable and in primary colours, being easy to handle for those children with limited fine motor skill development. It forms a good starting point for progression in the use of the more advanced Duplo construction kits which generally have smaller parts and more intricate design capabilities. The basic characters provided, namely people, animals and Blobbies, allow room for imaginative role play and are more creative than some of the more specific characters provided in their other kits for older children.

Part of the value of construction kits is surely in the stimulation they provide in addition to the technological skills acquired. In the case of the Duplo Primo, the ease of use and the attractive variety of parts helped to encourage co-operative play, with much social interaction and a great deal of creativity and discussion. Within three-quarters of an hour, the test group had created, as well as the fair and the zoo, a playground, a variety of homes and a builders' yard. Talking and listening skills were fully used, and a thoroughly motivating and stimulating time was enjoyed by all.

Carol Raby is head of Wickbourne County Infants School, West Sussex

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