K’nex Builds Interest In STEM

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There was much celebration!
There was much celebration!

We received six K’nex sets for my kids to test and review. We have two girls, aged 9.5 and 8, and a 5-year-old son. My son immediately opened a treasure chest full of parts and a book of 70 model ideas and started building. He was beyond excited for a K’nexosaurus Rex set, a motorized dinosaur build. The four other sets were aimed specifically at girls, and after a few minutes of looking at everything we’d received, my son wanted to open them all ASAP.

The sets aimed at the girls are meant to encourage interest in STEM. The sets included activities such as framing a house, building simple machines, and building a car with a motor. We received a plane and hang glider set, a carnival set with manual carousel, a set with two different houses, and a clubhouse set with a simple elevator, zip line, and the aforementioned car.

As soon as the girls got home, we started the build on the houses. I never played with K’nex as a kid, and as a LEGO builder I was very impressed with the packaging. The sets are well packed, with both the rods and the connectors color coded by length and shape. The pieces are also well-bagged in intuitive ways; main connectors were in their own bag and the pieces were organized in the order they’re used.

We had two main issues with the sets. First, some of the diagrams were really hard to mimic. As a 36-year-old, I found myself studying the pictures, trying to figure out which way pieces went and how they connected. While I wanted the kids to build independently, there were times that they really needed help.

More frustrating, though, was that the figurines in the girls’ sets kept falling apart. Legs and arms were popping out. The dolls’ hands were also not able to grip the zipline, and when using the elevator, the side of the clubhouse hit the figurine’s head multiple times. The company assured me that the loose limb issue has been fixed in the new sets they’re releasing, and I look forward to testing them to verify.

Much to my son’s disappointment, all the figurines are girls. K’nex has no plans at this time to add boys to the line as the sets are specifically targeting girls. The kids had a great time building, and my 9.5-year-old daughter was ultimately able to do a few full builds by herself. Every kid who has walked into our house for the last week has salivated at these sets and sat down to play for hours. Having played with the review sets, the new K’nex are on my list of things to buy for our home.

Sets can be purchased at multiple retailers; prices range from $12-$40.

Photos: Dani Weiss-Bronstein

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2 thoughts on “K’nex Builds Interest In STEM

  1. I don’t understand why K’nex wouldn’t have boy figures as well as girl figures. I get that the sets are aimed at girls, but some boys will play with them too. And some of the girls will want to do things like play house with the house sets (cause they’re, ya know, houses). Kinda hard to have a family (or at least a traditional family, which I would assume what a majority of girls would default to) if you’ve only got girl figures.
    Also, while I get that it’s important for girls to see themselves in their toys, isn’t it also important for girls to see themselves in their worlds in their toys? And those worlds are populated by both girls and boys. So why not include some boys. Or an expansion pack with boy figures or something…not like the differences need to be that big, just some different hair and maybe different colors on the clothing owul ddo it.

  2. I think they’re going to end up adding in boys. LEGO Friends also started with only girls, and the show now features boys as well. They just flipped the ratio from typical shows – 6-8 girls and 1-2 boys from what I’ve seen.

    It also fences off the sets from the larger K’nex world. Aiming them at girls is great, but being exclusive is less great. Having the girls then make the leap to the non “girly” sets can prove more challenging.

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