We've been sent the 51 piece Starter Set (£9.99) and the 129 piece Deluxe Workshop (£24.99) for review. Suitable for age 6+, both my 6 and 8 year old boys were really excited and raring to start.
Inside the Starter Set you have a hammer and a small detail or compass saw (for cutting straight or curved edges), nails which are specially shaped for the 'wood', and several pieces of the wood material, The set comes complete with instructions for six projects, with enough materials to build three complete projects.
I think it's remiss not to include a ruler in the Starter Set as you do need it to follow the plans, however we already have a draw full of small rulers, and I expect most people (especially with school aged children) will be able to find one or 12 - usually with Minions or Batman on....
The Deluxe Workshop includes plans for 8 projects, and has a larger selection of plastic tools, including 2 sizes of hole cutter, a screwdriver, a large hand saw and a set square with cm measurements. It also includes hinges to really expand your building possibilities.
The Real Construction wood-like material is a blown plastic foamy material which you may recognise as it's occasionally used for packaging. It is incredibly light, a bit squeezy, and won't ever harm your child. For added detail it's nicely coloured and shaped with a grain similar to a light pine.
I'm a big fan of giving children real equipment and the knowledge to use it safely. Children are fascinated by tools, and are desperate to learn how they work, but sometimes you don't have the time to sit with them for 4 hours while they make a wooden bird house in the shape of a space ship.
Real Construction tools might look big and grown up, but are still entirely plastic and actually quite soft, so your child can work with less supervision, and are unlikely to cut themselves or anything else they shouldn't.
Each kit comes with instructions, and there are those plus loads more designs online. The Real Construction website is really easy to navigate around to get to what you want, incredibly clear and the instructions are larger and actually easier to use than the instruction leaflets. There are lots of different designs to try, and you will even find Speedboat instructions in The Beano!
My boys decided to make a more genteel craft for their first model, the Sail Boat. My 8 year old was in charge of measuring and cutting. He made a pretty good job. The planks of wood-like material are easier to cut with the large saw, the small one makes it a long job, but is perfect for quickly tidying up rough edges.
Hammering nails was done by my 6 year old, and it was barely moments before he was learning to use the weight of the hammer to gain extra strength into his hits. It is a good substitute for the real thing.
The plastic is tricky to mark for measuring, as pen rubs straight off, but that's pretty much best for the finished model. Some of the lining up (to nail through a dowel for example) needs a bit of working out and just like with real D.I.Y., your child will need to find best ways of doing things - and learn the skill of having 2 hands in 3 places at once.
My boys didn't get frustrated at all working with Real Construction, they totally understood they were learning new skills, and their proud Dad was happy to lend a hand when occasionally needed.
Very pleased with their finished sail boat, we tested it on water in the bath - and of course as it's almost entirely blown air-filled plastic, it floats beautifully. Real Construction also make a set with a motor for more advanced modellers.
The finished items made with the wood-like material look really good, and the projects are interesting to children and definitely caught my boys' attention. I'm impressed with how much it does behave like wood with the enclosed tools and fixings, and your child will definitely learn skills that will last a lifetime.
The Real Construction sets are available at many good toy shops instore and online, including Smyths - The Real Construction Starter Set is rrp £9.99 and the Deluxe Workshop has an rrp of £24.99 (currently £22.49).
We were sent our Real Construction sets for review.