Pamela Chan, Contributor
In our home we have never built a complex set of models using small construction pieces. Faced with the chance to build a Kre-O Transformers Galvatron factory battle scene, we knew that we were up for a big challenge. All the more so because our son is at the young end of the age range for using this type of toy.
What We Received
The Kre-O Transformers Galvatron Factory Battle kit contains 388 pieces for seven characters, a dino-bot and two buildings. Of the seven characters, Galvatron is the most impressive due to his size and the design features in his upper torso. This is the only set that comes with the red and blue colours as seen on Optimus Prime. Collectors who know the Transformer series will be able to determine unique details in this kit related to the look of the characters or the type of blaster they are carrying, for example. The Bumblebee and Vehicon characters have magnets on the back which allows you to use a crane to lift them into the air. Two of the three smaller characters are scientists. The factory includes a collapsing catapult.
The age range for the set is 6 – 12 years old. (Although the Kre-O video lists the age as 7 – 14.)
Inside the box the mostly small pieces were divided into bags of similar types of pieces. The smaller characters were in their own small bags. The box has a large, clear photograph of what the finished models will look like. There is also a 65 page manual showing how to build the models and a sheet of stickers that go on some of the pieces.
How We Used the Material
What is the first order of business for an adult when faced with the prospect of helping your child with a 388 piece Kre-O kit? At our house three adults looked at the bags in the box and collectively got a touch stressed out.
“Woa. That’s a lot of pieces.”
“Are they separated?”
“Yes there are.”
“No wait. They’re not.”
“They need to be organized.”
“No they don’t.”
“I’m going to organize them.”
“Don’t bother. It’s not necessary.”
“I’m going to do it anyway.”
Meanwhile one of the adults (we’ll call him Dad) started trying to put the pieces together while our son hovered around the table. Clearly this plan wasn’t working.
By building session five, our son was working with the material independently and took a very serious approach to the task at hand.
After we got off to a rocky start, we knew that we needed a complete overhaul of how to present the material so that our son/grandson could fully take part and eventually be independent. Since he has never used this type of set before, his experience using the material is quite different from how a 10 or 12 year old would approach the task. He can do maybe 15 to 20 steps in one sitting. Whereas a tween might stay in his room for hours until he is done.
At least for the younger set, an organized set-up is really helpful while you build the models. In the instructions there is an illustration that advises users to group the material in piles by colours. It is entirely possible that an older child could quickly dig through those colour-coded piles to find the piece that was required. We knew that for our young user – and for the sanity of the adults giving a helping hand – we wanted identical pieces to go in small egg containers with egg cartoons. Some of the larger pieces were set aside in three Tupperware containers.
We also had three more empty Tupperware pieces. One was for finished models such as the smaller characters. One is used to collect the parts for the section of the model that is being built. The last one is used to collected completed parts of a model that will ultimately be put together.
Establishing a Routine
During the early sessions, while getting used to the Kre-O method of building a model, we showed our son how to look at the instructions and identify the pieces that are being requested. He would scan the egg cartons looking for the pieces. We organized the pieces by area so that one carton might be dark grey pieces, for example. If he couldn’t find a piece, then we would give him a description of what he was looking for. If he still couldn’t find the piece, we would help him.
Once all the pieces were collected, we would look at the diagram and then start to build. There is no margin for error. If a piece has to be a certain way, there is probably a reason. If you have to set a piece back with a row around it for other uses, you have to take this into consideration. There are no duplicates for pieces. If you lose a piece, there is no replacement.
In the manual you will see which pieces are required to complete a section and there are photographs showing how to put the pieces together. Looking at the negative and positive space on the manual pages, the photographs of the material required could stand to be bigger. Even with good lighting, it can be hard to see the details sometimes.
Initially my son worked with his 9 year old cousin as she opened the kit and showed him how to put the figurines together. His first effort to try making the models was with his grandmother. Later on he worked with me twice and then with his father twice. He and his father were keen to finish the model together. Twice before the final building session, my son worked independently – only asking for help if he couldn’t snap a piece together.
Other than snapping hard-to-snap pieces together, an adult would help oversee his work in case he put a piece on backwards or missed the placement in the correct location. By working with different people, my son gained the confidence to try building the models by himself. Using well sorted out material and empty Tupperware to hold material and constructed parts helped. If they don’t exist already, Kre-O could consider making parts storage and sorting trays that can be used while building their sets.
For our son the challenge of looking at diagrams, understanding what was required, finding the right piece and construction models was highly appealing. Every day he would ask to work on his Kre-O. We stored the egg cartons and Tupperware containers – some with finished models – in a cardboard box that could be easily tucked away.
Once the models were finished, they were placed in the same box. The roof has been taken off and one of the sides has been flipped down. This is another product that Kre-O could consider making. A display stage helps to keep all the finished models organized. It would also be useful if there was one larger board that you could snap the other models on to. This would help to keep them from falling down.
Transformer models and story lines featuring battles, flame blasters or types of guns. For parents who are not keen on having their boys use toys depicting guns, there is always the option to remove the guns and keep the flame blasters. The latter is clearly a fantastical notion while guns might have more real life associations. This is a matter of personal preference. Many boys are drawn to these story lines and to these characters, along with the good guy versus bad guy focus. Some girls like the Transformer stories too. They like to receive robots and would enjoy putting this kit type of together. Our son’s twin sister didn’t show an interest in putting the model pieces together. This was interesting to me as she does like building with other building sets. However, once the models were put together, she has enjoyed sitting in front of the display area with her brother as they act out made up story lines.
Before trying this kit I might have assumed that my son isn’t ready to use this type of complex construction set. Now that we have seen how much he enjoyed working with this type of challenge, another kit of some type has been pencilled in on his Christmas shopping list.
Kre-O Transformer Galvatron Factory Battle ad video
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Disclosure: I received a sample of a product to facilitate my review. No other compensation was provided and all views and opinions stated on this post are 100% my own.