Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Candy Construction: Familiarity is a Powerful Agent

 Building with candy is surprisingly scientific!  You won't believe this review! photo courtesy: Learning Resources

WHAT: Candy Construction by Learning Resources
DOES: promotes idea of using alternative materials for building, reduces intimidation because of familiar themes, spin factor creates simple illusions, excellent as a gift
INVEST: $34.99
TOOLS: Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner, More Make-Believe Please,  Social Scene Helper (candy is the ultimate people-connector), Think Like a Scientist/Engineer
Giveaway Details Below

I never thought that I would be featuring anything related to candy in Toys are Tools.  Like many other folks, upon becoming a mom, I joined the club of candy poo-poo-ers. Number 1 Son was barely given any candy until he was about 3 and even then he probably received nothing more than a few M&Ms from me.  It wasn't even about the cavities.  I just thought it was bad, bad, bad.

But candy is just candy.  Kids have their own mouthwash and floss picks now and there's more candy that's made without high-fructose corn-syrup.  So I've loosened up a bit and do let them have candy now and then.   But I understand if you still dislike candy.   I won't try to convince you but I will ask you to at least let your kids play with candy! That is, the Candy Construction Set by Learning Resources.  You may be really surprised at the results.  I was.

These pieces are all different in function and design.  Some fit tight and some are more loose.  Some are flat-bottomed and some are meant to roll.  The child has to tweak it to make it work.   photo courtesy: Learning Resources

Solution for Reluctant Builders?

Number 2 Son is not a builder.  After years of trying, I have decided that while I will continue to work on his visual-spatial skills, I will not expect him to build spaceships and race cars out of Legos or K'nex like Number 1 does. It's just not in him.  He is who he is.  He's got other talents.

But then listen to this!  I found out that when he has candy to construct, he's a different kid.  Thirty minutes after we opened our Candy Construction set box, my son built a car without being asked.  He just did it.  Right out of the blue.  Even my oldest son was in shock because he does the building for the both of them. What happened?

The other structures are more stable than this "Yummy Buggy," but it is still the cutest!

Familiarity is No Small Thing for Kids

So I looked at his eyes looking at the pieces he was holding in his hands.  And then I knew why this set would do well with just about any kid.  Candy is familiar, even if you don't get to eat it all the time.  For the born-builders, it will be a moment of novelty-inspired creation.  But for those who don't build so much, candy is so NOT-intimidating that any fear of failure for the spatially-disinclined may just melt away.

At first Number 2 Son played with me and built something small but very cute.  It was an abacus.  But soon he took hold of the directions and impressed the heck out of us by building a car!  I would have thought that all the colors would confuse him and that he might find it hard to pick up the right piece but again, it's candy!  It's familiar!  Thus following the directions is a lot easier and when it's that easy, then making something awesome like a swing or this "Candy-Go-Round" (below) is almost effortless.

Looks like a simple structure here but....
As you can see, kids can create their own little optical illusions.  Who knew that a candy set could achieve this?

What Can Be Learned?

Here is something I didn't know would be important - Patterns and Moving Patterns!  The patterns may look pretty average to you but when the kids spin something that sports a pattern, they'll find that they can create simple optical illusions.  You don't have to sit down and teach them anything.  Making this stuff leads to instant discoveries.

As far as building was concerned, the kids learned that the chocolate was more stable as a roof than as a car but that the car still looked the best.  Additionally, they learned how to "lock" things better with the "Jolly Ranchers"  It may sound silly but what they were really picking up was how shapes can support one another.   With guidance, I think the knowledge gained can be generalized outside of the candy construction set and onto other building models like Tinker Toys and K'nex.   Or better yet, you can teach them to just play with candy for real!

Look what happened during a study break at the Harvard College Engineering Society.  Gumdrops, graham crackers, and marshmallows!  How cool is this?!?   photo courtesy: Harvard College Engineering Society

I never had a study break like this when I was in school!  photo courtesy: Harvard College Engineering Society

That marshmallow thing is killing me.  I bet it is not as easy as it looks!  And how did they get the chocolate on that cracker?  photo courtesy: Harvard College Engineering Society

My son saw those photos and so of course he had to try it:

Dry Vietnamese rice noodles and gummy fish!  Can you believe?   Pantries are toyboxes too?

This is actually a tricky fine motor challenge!  But they devoured so much candy afterwards! Argh! I think I'll stick with the toy!

Can Candy Satisfy?

I keep thinking of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory where the kids are saying "Daddy, I want more, more, more!!!"   But the truth is that with 92 pieces in this set, it really does satisfy even the older kids.  This isn't one of those sets where you feel like making a skyscraper especially since the constructions become excellent pretend play props too.   Moreover, because I think this set really does contain the perfect amount of pieces, it also presents as a burden-free gift.  (One that won't subject parent of recipient to have to buy more or disappoint a child).  At the same time, no one will complain if you add to this set, come say.. December!  The giver of that gift will be quite popular!   

Lastly, and hear ye, all you grandparents, aunts, and uncles out there.  If you are ever worried about what to get for the holidays, nothing says "holidays" like candy canes and chocolate!  And as you can see in this review, it works well for both builder and non-builder types.  If I find them on crazy sale one day, I may just snatch a few because this makes for a delectable emergency present especially if you pride yourself in giving thoughtful gifts. The age recommendation says 4-8 and although I'm a confessed age rec-snob (I ignore them), I wholeheartedly agree that this is very ideal for this age group.

What else is there to say?  It's candy without the cavities infused with engineering principles and optical illusions.  You can't go wrong with that.

Instant pretend play prop.  It's quite magical.  photo courtesy: Learning Resources

Now it's time to win your own Candy Construction Set.   This the first time we've reviewed a Learning Resources product so I encourage you to visit, take a look around, and tell me what strikes your fancy! (25 entry points).  Your opinions and questions are most important!!!!!  Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below.  Ends 7/27/12  12:01 AM

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In case you are wondering.... Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any way by the manufacturer of this product.   Toys are Tools' testers did receive this product in order to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised.


  1. The magnet set looks great. How much will kids be able to play with it on their own?

  2. Looks like so much fun!

  3. I use candy models o teach my high school students all the time! They love it!

  4. This looks awesome! My daughter would love this.

  5. I'd love to see this reviewed! I'd love to try one with my daughter and review it myself!

  6. This is great! We have done and loved, building with toothpicks, marshmallows and gumdrops.

  7. Which of the two microscopes are better? The zoom one that connects to a computer
    or the one that you use outside?

  8. You must have a super fun household. It never occurred to me to build with gumdrops and marshmallows until I saw that photo! Do you kids eat up all that candy and marshmallow? I am afraid they will build so much and then eat it all and all their teeth will fall out the next day.

  9. Thanks so much for checking things out!

  10. Great question! Both look really interesting.

  11. Sounds like a fun class.

  12. I could see my students enjoying this during choice time in my classroom. Open-ended toys bring kids together and the theme is great! I love candy.

  13. The mystery hat looks like a great activity for language arts. How sturdy is it?

  14. We're in the market for building toys and this has to be one of the most unique sets I have seen. I think the colors and patterns - regardless of the candy resemblance, make it alluring especially for little girls. Definitely moving this on to the list of possible near future purchases!

  15. We would love to see your review about Froggy Feeding Fun. It looks like it takes counting to the next level, beyond memorization. But we question the quality of the product and ease for a pre-schooler to use it. I do like that it appears it could be a non verbal way for children to reflect they know how to count (we have a verbalization obstacle with our pre-schooler).

  16. Okay, you said it and it wasn't me but now that you said so... YES.... I sooooo seee this for girls. While every girl is different, this set totally screams GIRL to me even though when my boys (who loved it) played with it, they didn't look any less BOY to me. I feel like the set should be accompanied by Gnomeo and Juliet! Thanks for this great comment!

  17. Thank you for the suggestion. I totally need to hear what everyone else thinks. I only have two boys and while they like toys, they can't possibly like everything. Even with my two girl testers, there would still be some interests that are not represented! I am going to look into it. Best wishes with the verbalization obstacle. Sometimes I have my children draw or demonstrate their experience and/or knowledge when they don't possess the sentence structure and/or vocabulary to totally express what is on their minds. (if that helps at all) The frog product sounds interesting. I'm going to look at the catalog right now! Thank you!

  18. Froggy Feeding Fun!

  19. Color Mixing Glasses

  20. My boys have not built with candy but they love Legos and Lincoln Logs. They would love these.

  21. Love to See Alpha Pops Reviewed:

  22. We love to build with marshmallows and toothpicks. Plus gingerbread houses every winter :)

  23. My daughter would love this!

  24. New to the site - Jiming send me! LOVE the blog. My 2e son would love this!

  25. Judy Frangie CamarenoJuly 26, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    What a great site! I love playing with my kid, and I keep trying to get her to expand her building skills, though she's more into destruction that construction. Still hopeful!

  26. Welcome Judy! You made me laugh!

  27. Liv, Welcome! And thank you for the kind words! I think this site is really awesome for 2e kids that is why I also made sure that the toys are not just for building skills but also for kids who want to exercise their special talents more. Good luck!

  28. Those things are super super cute but I try to focus on ages 3-12 but perhaps maybe I will guest blog somewhere else where the focus in on toddlers. I saw those upclose in the Toy Fair and just melted. Learning Resources has awesome choices for 2 year olds. I feel like it is a rarity still to find toys labeled for "2+" Usually it's 18-36 months and that left me feeling confused when my guys were little