Both my kids absolutely love DUPLO. We have a big box full of it, and it’s one of those toys that will entertain them for long periods of time – and as long as they don’t both desperately want the same key piece at the same time they can play together very nicely! Not being the most creative person when it comes to building things, I have mostly left them to their own devices when playing, and It’s been interesting watching how they do very different things with the same basic blocks. The geekdaughter at almost 5 is starting to try to make the things she sees in the pictures, whereas the geekson, at 2, is pretty much concerned with making tall towers (as modelled by the geekdaughter in the picture to the left). I have been wondering whether there was more I could do to encourage creative play with DUPLO, and that’s why I am so excited about the new “Read and Build” range that has just launched.
It’s such a simple idea I’m amazed they didn’t do it before! Produced in conjunction with Dorling Kindersley, who are possibly my favourite book publisher in the whole world, LEGO DUPLO Read and Build sets contain a board story book and a number of DUPLO bricks. As you read the story you are shown how to make the characters from the story out of the bricks. You end with a very interactive experience which works for kids between about 18 months and 4 years old. For younger kids you can start off asking them to find particular coloured bricks as you build the characters before their eyes; for slightly older ones you can point to the pictures in the book and ask them to pick out the bricks that match. Older preschoolers should really enjoy working through the book independently and making the characters without assistance.
There are currently three different Read and Build sets available – Busy Farm, Let’s Go! Vroom! and Grow Caterpiller Grow! Because we’re on the LEGO DUPLO blogger panel for 2012 we were lucky enough to be sent all three to review. As the geekson is currently learning animal names and sounds I decided we’d try “Busy Farm” first. Busy Farm tells the story of Farmer Ted’s day, and the animals he looks after. There are four animals to build – a rooster, a pig, a sheep and a cow, each constructed very simply with only 3 or 4 pieces of DUPLO. As soon as we got the set open the geekdaughter took control, and she built all four of the animals with no help from me at all. She then very generously allowed me to read the story to the geekson. It’s an engaging story with ample opportunity for talking about the animals and making the animal sounds, and the geekson loved it.
Since opening the pack it’s something we’ve all gone back to time and time again. We took it away on holiday with us, and it was the perfect size to just tuck in a suitcase, and yet it kept the kids quiet for a decent amount of time. Because it comes in a resealable pack you can keep the bricks and the book safely together, which is important as you wouldn’t want to lose one of the pieces as they are not “standard” DUPLO bricks and might be tricky to replace. We still haven’t opened Grow Caterpillar Grow or Let’s Go! Vroom! yet because at the moment the kids are happy with Busy Farm. However I am sure my car-loving boy will love building the car and plane that come with Let’s Go! Vroom! and I’m looking forward to making a caterpillar that changes into a butterfly in Grow Caterpillar Grow.
All in all I think these are completely inspired sets with years of play in them. I am really enjoying playing with them with the kids and watching them get the hang of building something other than towers. LEGO DUPLO Read & Build has a recommended retail price of £9.99 which I think is very reasonable considering you’re getting a good quality board book as well as a number of DUPLO bricks. I think these would make great birthday or Christmas presents for pre-schoolers. You can order online at the Lego DUPLO website.
Disclosure: We were sent three LEGO DUPLO Read & Build sets for the purposes of this review.