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Mini Unit Beams: Bridge Builder

Lower Age: 6+
Price: $149

Mini Unit Beams: Bridge Builder is a 620 piece building kit that includes parts such as I-beams, girders, linkages, wooden columns, and semi-flexible tension links, all of which are stylized to look similar to actual construction components! Included with the kit is a blueprint-styled fold out poster that details the construction of a basic suspension bridge model. While the instructions are stylized and interesting to look at, they’re not a strictly step-by-step walkthrough of the construction process and they offer a chance for children to exercise some critical thinking and observation skills, because the instructions provide just enough information to communicate what the outcome should be. The toy also encourages perseverance, as it can be somewhat difficult to decipher the intricate details of each step of the building process.

One of the high points of the model is that the components are strikingly versatile; I-beams can be joined end-to-end or adjacent to one another, and can be slotted in perpendicular as well! When combined with the different joints and tension links, users have a ton of different building options! Unfortunately, at times, the tension links were a little challenging to work with and would fall apart without much provocation; even so, the end structure was durable enough that they could handle rough play when properly built, and it’s entirely possible that children would incorporate the model into larger cityscapes!

Users are also encouraged to design and build beyond the basic model; the product website shows a number of other creations built with the parts from the kit. A nice touch is the inclusion of a large number of parts beyond what’s required for the base model, allowing for modifications of the basic suspension bridge or the creation of even more varied structures. With all these options open to young engineers, it’s a great chance for them to exercise their design thinking and create their own civil engineering projects!