I am a building toy connoisseur. I’ve got wooden building blocks and Kapla blocks, Lincoln logs and tree blocks. I try to avoid the plastic building toys, but even so, I’ve got LEGOs and Zome rods, Darda tracks and Hot Wheels set-ups.
I mean, the KIDS have these building toys. Not me. Just the kids.
Anyway, because I know my building toys, I know what I like in a building toy. It’s got to be versatile, easy to start with but capable of making complex structures, and easy for a kid to incorporate into imaginative play.
In addition, I really like my kids’ toys to be American-made and either heirloom-quality or recyclable/upcyclable.
And yes, LEGOS are heirloom-quality toys in our family. And I sometimes upcycle building blocks.
That’s why, when the kid got a free YOXOmoto Doon and YOXObug Flye to build and play with so that I could write about them (query: could I eventually outsource the writing as well as the playing to the kid? Must keep this in mind…), I pretty much plopped my butt down in front of her as she was opening the first box and said, “Ooh, what are we making? Can I play?”
My kid is really nice. She let me play.
YOXO is a very eco-friendly building toy. It’s manufactured up in Minnesota from mostly recycled materials and water jet cutting technology, and it’s recyclable, as well, although it’s a little spendy, so I recommend keeping the pieces whenever possible and repairing them whenever necessary.
The most eco-friendly part of them, however, is what’s NOT part of them, and that’s 90% of the building materials. The kit comes with enough cardboard tubes and flat pieces to make the picture on the box, but the expectation is that your kids will use the cardboard connector pieces with whatever other pieces of cardboard that you have around the house–toilet paper tubes and paper towel rolls and cereal boxes and packing boxes, et.
In reality, thicker cardboard works better than thinner cardboard. My kid had a little trouble with cereal box cardboard (although you can definitely make it work), but once I ripped off the thick cardboard backs from all our sketch pads, we were ready to go to town!
Working together, we thought it quite fun to make up new connector pieces from our own cardboard. The kid’s Doon looks weird in the photo because I actually made those combined strut and hub pieces myself, because the kid wanted her buggy to roll.
My kid is super into imaginary games, so she liked the dragonfly kit even better than the buggy–she still got to build it (with adult help–the diagram was hard for her to interpret), but then she got to play pretend with it. It’s flying all cute in this photo, but then she made it fly down and eat my brains.
Did I mention that my kid is also a little violent?
Although the kits themselves cost money, the YOXO site also includes some educational downloads that are free. A couple are STEM-related enrichment activities that you can use to get a kid building, and Instant Superhero is a fun creative, dramatic storytelling game.
After the kid and I built the kits, we took them outside and I followed her around for the afternoon as she played. The buggy and the dragonfly fought, and then they made friends. The dragonfly flew around for a while. The buggy was introduced to the chickens. There was half an hour when they were lined up over and over again in the grass so that the kid could leap over them. Dinosaurs eventually came to play. They were abandoned for quite a while when I made the mistake of suggesting that maybe it was a rabbit’s nest that the cat was sniffing at across the yard, and then for longer when a tree fell at the drive-in next door and needed to be climbed on. But they were brought in when it got dark, and the kid flat-out refused to take them apart and put them neatly back in their boxes, as I’d dared to suggest, so there they sit on the family room table, ready to be played with again tomorrow after ballet.
I received a Target gift card from a PR firm for use on YOXO kits, because I can’t review something if my kids haven’t used it to build a Rube Goldberg-style cardboard booby trap for my bedroom door!