Superstructs have been around for a long time. I remember buying my nephew a set for his fourth birthday back in 2007. Superstructs stood out to me back then because they featured parts with multiple textures (foam and plastic) and fun little characters.
But I wasn’t looking at Superstructs through a STEM learning lens in those days. But I sure am now!
I decided to get my hands on a set to see if Superstructs were still as fun as I remember, if my five year old daughter would be enthusiastic about them, and if they would help promote STEM learning concepts.
First, a little background:
- Superstructs are sets of building toys with panels that pop into place between colorful rods and connector pieces
- All the materials are durable and the Superstruct website states that the parts hold up well under “rough conditions”(I can attest to this: the set I gave my nephew went through a lot of rough play, both indoors and outdoors, and all the pieces are still in great shape.)
Superstructs kits allow for free-building, so children can get creative with the structures they want to create. They also offer plans so kids can follow directions to create a certain machine, gadget, or object.
Sets also grow with children’s interests and abilities. Products range from basic starter sets to specialty-themed kits focused on more specific interests (even including a Bluetooth-powered vehicle).
I love letting my daughter explore with building sets. Not only do I see her creative juices flow right in front of my eyes, but I also see her focused on problem-solving and planning. These are just some of the amazing benefits of using building toys to promote STEM learning.
When children engage with building toys, they practice and develop skills in all STEM areas:
- Science – physics, gravity, cause-and-effect, weight and balance
- Technology – fine-motor development, creating/using tools, hand-eye coordination
- Engineering – children plan a concept (or follow specific instructions) then work to actualize it
- Math – counting, adding, subtracting, measuring
The Superstructs set my daughter used was the Starter Set with 96 pieces. This may sound like a lot of parts, but some are quite large so she was not overwhelmed. (*Safety Note: Although many pieces are large, they still pose a choking hazard for children under 3.)
As she dumped the pieces on the floor, she announced, “I want to build something of my own,” meaning that she didn’t want to try and build one of the suggested structures that came with the instructions.
Her first observation was, “These are really easy to connect!” I was happy to hear this because I often have to help her connect the pieces on some of her other building sets which gets her pretty frustrated. I was glad she could accomplish putting the pieces together herself and focus more of her time on creating.
After practicing with the pieces for a little while, my daughter especially loved the large foam wheels. She decided to create “some sort of building with wheels, so the people that live there can roll the building from place to place.” Here was her first structure; she turned it on its side to make it roll:
Then she used the smaller wheels and shorter rods to create this rolling building:
Then she had a contest to measure how far each of her creations would roll. I asked her questions like, “Which one do you think will go farther?” and “Why do you think that?” to help her make predictions…just like actual designers, engineers, and scientists.
And, of course, we had to add in the fun little character that is included in the set:
We both had a blast playing with the Superstructs set. There were just enough pieces to create two rather large structures, but the number of pieces didn’t feel overwhelming. My daughter didn’t complain about picking them all up either (which she often does with building kits with lots of small pieces).
They were also easy for her to put together by herself, helping her feel very accomplished and independent. While we didn’t use the instructions, I looked through them and found them to be very straightforward. I know my five year old will be able to follow the directions when she wants to create one of those specific structures.
For next time, my daughter is looking forward to combining all of the pieces into one giant machine. I’m looking forward to using that experience to help her practice more beneficial STEM concepts with Superstructs.
For more information on Superstructs and their award-winning toys, visit the Superstructs homepage.