Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Remote Control Machines: Play Like An Executive

WHAT: Remote Control Machines by Thames and Kosmos
DOES:  Learn remote control machine functions easily with this kit and then make your own crazy contraption
INVEST: $84.95
AGES: 8+  
TOOLS: My Body Needs to Move, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Like An Executive
GIVEAWAY PRIZE: You will get your own Remote Control Machines Kit mailed to you!!!

There are only two times that I have actually apologized to my kids for not having bought them something.  The first was a book that I thought my son obsessed over way too much but he loved it.  (It actually ended up inspiring a lot of art work- some of it was sold!)

The second time was to Tester #1 and I did this last week.  I told him that I was sorry that I didn't buy this set for him sooner.  I thought it was out of my price range and now that I think about it, I have spent that kind of money before and on toys that are not even half as awesome as this set.

The first time he made himself gather everything in advance, he almost went crazy. Argh. executive skills!

Once he realized that the fun part was just around the corner, getting started was no big deal.

Tackle the Executive Skill of Organization and Planning

The first couple of challenges to make a car and a three-wheeled car are pretty simple.  My ten year old needed no help but then... things started getting more complex and I found my son looking less interested.   Hmmm....  He couldn't possibly be bored?

I soon realized that the trouble was that he was overwhelmed and thus had difficulty getting started (another executive skill: task initiation). Even if he could follow each direction well, managing his anxieties about finishing a seemingly large project or just even getting started can be tough.  For #1, I found that it was pretty good to help him get organized first. Some kids can just figure it out and do it but some kids don't get that and often start working when conditions aren't optimal such as:
  • they have enough time (planning)
  • they have a clean space to do it (organization)
  • there will be help if needed (planning)
  • he has all the pieces and batteries (organization) 

    hint: all of these are executive skills every child needs to be successful
Once you tell them that organizing is that one part that is hard for them, it is easier to get through. Naming the enemy makes him less scary.

We found that writing the name next to the picture helped us get to know the parts and helped us search for them too.  We learned a lot. We even copied this page to use whenever starting a new challenge.  Do you know what a "sprocket" is?  I just like the way that word sounds.

How Is This Different from LEGO Set Building?

First, we do have LEGO Technic at home and just in case you're wondering- these sets not compatible with each other. One difference you should know is that since children are so familiar with LEGO already, finding pieces in a pile of bricks is easier. I do believe that kids develop a visual "parts vocabulary" way before they know how to name the pieces- which some may never learn anyway. If you have the vocabulary (visual or verbal), it is easier to build your knowledge faster.

As you can see, the child must figure out which piece to use next.  Still, the directions very very detailed.

I love the folding car.  Watch the video with our Riverstones.

The largest difference however are the directions.  With LEGO, you usually are instructed to gather a few pieces and then you can perform the step but with Remote Control Machines, the child is required to discern what is needed based on the diagram.  Moreover, a chart of necessary pieces (in pictures and numbers only) is given which I assume most kids would try to gather before starting.  Some lists are long and this is tough on impulsive kids. (Impulse control is another executive skill) 
Don't get me wrong.  I know some LEGO sets are very complex.  Harry Potter's castle fried #1's brain last year but I wanted to note the differences in instruction because if your child has strengths in visual spatial skills but  has poor organizational skills then this toy is FOR YOU! My son realized that he was just terrible at getting the parts organized first but once that agonizing step was done, he was grease lightning. He was so happy with himself! I could use this example to illustrate other challenges he has now and in the future!

Sometimes technology is an oldie but goodie. Tester 1 learned about the Archimedes screw pump in his science class at Iridescent Learning. His class was challenged to make a pump that could work in an artificial heart.   Pictured: Archimedes screw pump drawing from Wikimedia 

He never got to make the pump but with a little piece of plastic folder rolled up and sealed with tape and his RC Machines kit, he made himself a pump for his "blood."  How? This kit contains "Worm Gear II" which is apparently like the Archimedes screw!  Woo-hoo! I love Iridescent Learning!

Actually, even if you had a great organizer but poor builder, this would still be the toy for you.  My little guy who usually is not interested in his big brother's STEM sets wanted this one so badly, I had to buy it for him! (but all pics here are from just one set)  He's almost 8 and he's good at organizing and so this kit will help him with his visual spatial skills and his visual discrimination skills.  I just know it!

He built this one on his own.  A drill.  Of course, a drill.

Little Execs Need to Practice Executing

Your child's brain is the pilot of his body, is it not?  But a remote control is a human pilot's tool to direct a machine.  Thus, in a sense, remote control machines could possibly help us think about actions, including our own. You would think Remote Control toys were all about speed and flash but this toy, while it can be fast, is more about designing and improving that design. Think about what would happen if your child built a bulldozer and wanted to push something and it didn't work as well as imagined.  He would then have to use his executive skills to make it all work. (start, organize, plan, problem-solve, self-monitor- check out the LD.org for everything you ever needed to know about Executive Functioning)

The complexity and rigidity of machines can show us how amazing being human can be!
This is the "Minecraft Mobile"  Kids ride and play Minecraft.  Ipads and armchairs are everywhere.  I was hoping he'd build a mobile home with the Roominate pieces like this one from Cool Gadgets Concept.  BTW, the bonding agent here is Glue Dots.  We LOVE GLUE DOTS HERE. Glue dots keep every toy friendly and working together.

Tweaking happens best when constructing is fluid. Like a calculator, it allows kids to do higher level problem-solving. If putting things together and making it work was difficult then kids would be too exhausted to be creative.  I think that is the end goal, isn't it?  We don't want our kids to just do what the book says. (But the book is good for teaching, for sure) We want them to make something wild, something personal, something meaningful, something that makes them happy.

For more information about Executive Functioning read my story at Quartz starring Cookie Monster and wise words from the National Center for Learning Disabilities' Dr. Sheldon Horowitz

And NOW.......

USE Rafflecopter to Enter This Amazing Contest to Win Your Own Set of Remote Control Machines

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

TO BUY ONLINE through Jenn's Amazon Link: (yeah, support Toys Are Tools!)


Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturers of anything mentioned here for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 




  1. http://www.thamesandkosmos.com/products/exploration/candy.html Candy chemistry looks nice! I would probably not get it for my own kids because I try hard to steer away from candy obsession, but I could see this being very motivating for some of my students. Slightly sad that you have to supply your own ingredients, but as a kosher consumer I suppose this is also a plus because I'm not paying for ingredients I can't use.

  2. Good point. Some people may want to use sugar substitute.

  3. I WISH STEM toys were being used for STEM ed in schools. No such luck around here though. My son is going to be attending a new expeditionary learning charter school in the fall and it is supposed to incorporate STEM. I'm looking forward to it if they do it successfully (fingers crossed).

    I will say, his elementary school last year had a lego robotics club, but he couldn't get in because demand was so high.


  4. Thames and Kosmos is AWESOME! My son would like one of just about every product they have! I know where I'm shopping for birthday and christmas this year. Would love to see a review of one of the electricity kits on Toys Are Tools!


  5. I also like the The Planets, Moon, Stars, Solar System & Rockets. My daughter would love it. (Gianna)

  6. I think they would work in schools. It would be more fun to learn for sure. (Gianna)

  7. If your kids love racing, then Remote Control helicopter with Large Hand Remote Controller car is a perfect gift for them. Every Remote Control Products can Move Forward, Backward, Left and Right, Up and Down. This remote control car, remote control helicopter, rc trucks, rc plane, fms plane parts, rc drift cars, hsp parts, rc helicopter is powered by battery and responds excellently when moved in directions of their choice.