My recent blog on educating kids on gears coincided with a birthday party invitation for a great nephew. Not having grandchildren of our own — I dare not put “yet” in that comment — we welcomed the opportunity to see the little guy and to celebrate his big day.
Rather than look foolish wandering around the local retail store, I logged onto the Internet and searched for “top toys for one year olds.” Low and behold, mixed in amongst the various noisemakers intended to annoy caregivers in the next room, was a nice assortment of gear toys.
I found it impossible to buy just one. The Rainbow Caterpillar has six different colored plastic gears that can be arranged on board to make a geartrain. It claims to teach color recognition, counting, visual memory, opposites, stencil art, and motor skills. Apparently strength reduction due to reverse bending on idlers is reserved for older students; e.g. Fun with Gears has even more gears! And with colorful patterns on the centers and a pegboard layout with thirteen positions. Gears can be slipped over the pegs and rotated with the crank to move those colorful patterns as fast as pudgy little paws can move them. The more limited objectives of hand-eye coordination and spectacular visual effects are touted; no warning on the dangers of recirculating torque in a thirteen-gear train are shown.
I could not resist adding Gizmo the Hedgecog to the collection, despite it being aimed at ages 3 and up. This toy offers as much content as the average undergraduate machine design class, including the use of gears, gear ratios, eccentric gears, speed reducers and increasers, and cause and effect relationships. Logical reasoning and fine motor skills are nurtured. Due to choking hazards — something not unknown to older engineering students — this toy will have to stay in my office for a few years. I promise not to lose any key parts!