Magnificent Mechanical Meccano
Meccano is one of those toy brands that, like Lego and Tonka, seem to have been around forever and yet keeps evolving and adapting with the times. I’m sure there are many engineers out there who owe their first fascination with construction and design to their childhood Meccano set, and today there are lots of new variations of Meccano ready to inspire a whole new generation.
Meccano was invented in 1901 by Frank Hornby (also responsible for Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys), a clerk from Liverpool, England. Using the principles of mechanical engineering—though he had no formal engineering training—he patented a model construction kit consisting of perforated metal strips, plates and girders, with wheels, pulleys, gears, shaft collars and axles for mechanisms and motion, and nuts and bolts to connect the pieces. All you needed was a screwdriver and spanners to put the models together.
Not only was the system a wonderful toy, but it was incredibly educational and taught basic engineering principles, as well as less tangible things like patience, organisational skills and the satisfaction of personal achievement.
There have been many, many Meccano sets over the years—and many changes to the Meccano colour scheme! Electronic parts were introduced in 1970, plastic parts in the 1980s, and ownership of the company moved to France and Japan. An interesting fact is that Meccano is one of the very few products that has remained completely interchangeable since it began—you could still mix components from a modern set with those from a set over 100 years old!
Meccano is now a household word and a much-loved and classic brand. The International Society of Meccanoman was founded in 1989 in England and now has some 600 members in over 30 countries. There are annual exhibitions around the world and hundreds of clubs and websites, and thousands of Meccano enthusiasts.
So how do you become part the Meccano phenomenon? Well, let’s have a look at some of the Meccano sets for all ages that are available from Toys Paradise!
The good news is, kids can start playing with Meccano at a very young age. The Meccano Kids range is designed for children as young as 2 years old, with big chunky plastic pieces perfect for small hands. The very cute big-eyed Ladybird (7 pieces), Snail, and Caterpillar (14 pieces) are great sets to start with.
When your child is a little older, about five years of age, introduce him or her to the wonderful Build & Play sets that make big, chunky vehicles—multiple designs with each set, and complete with tools, screws and easy-to-follow instructions! The Car, Tractor, Side Car, ATV and Plane are all versatile sets with lots of big parts to make several different vehicle designs.
By now the Meccano bug will have well and truly been caught, and the best solution is is a big box of Meccano pieces so your child’s creativity can have free rein! The Mechanical Box 1 and Mechanical Box 2 sets are specially designed for young children, and each consists of over 100 pieces, pinions, cranks, mechanisms and gears so that youngsters can discover the principles of mechanics for themselves while they play. Fun and educational, each set can be used to build 10 different models (tools and assembly instructions are of course included) and comes with a brightly coloured storage tub to make tidy up time easy!
For the ultimate in construction freedom, you can’t go past a 150 piece Construction Bucket, chock-full of easy-to-assemble plastic parts so your child can build as many toys as he or she can imagine. The instruction manual gets you started with ideas!
For kids a little older still, check out the fantastic Multi 2 Model Set Helicopter, with two model designs and 103 parts. You can build a rescue helicopter or a functional crane, both with different dynamic actions! The Multi 7 Model Set includes 182 Parts, tools and instructions, to build easily and quickly 7 models (one at a time!), all with a cool futuristic cyber theme; a buggy, bike, and sidecar are just some examples. Finally, the 190 piece Multi 10 Model Set is amazing value and will keep your budding engineer absorbed for hundreds of hours building 10 different model designs and many more that they can imagine! Tools and instructions are of course included, and a gear box produces simple mechanical functions for different movements!
Meccano hasn’t just rested on its reputation, but moved into the 21st century with the Spykee Micro Robot, and exciting and innovative new direction for Meccano toys. Spykee is a six-inch tall robot with a beautiful futuristic design that you assemble yourself in the true Meccano tradition. He’s available in green, purple, orange and blue. But once Spykee is built, the fun is just beginning! He’s your personal mini robot that runs around on rubber tank tracks: full forward movement, spin, articulating head and arms; all easily controlled via an IR (Infrared) remote control. This adorable robot is just like a new pet, but without all of the mess and fuss! Plus Spykee has four different sounds and dazzling light effects for hours of fun!
It’s obvious that Meccano still has lots of surprises in store and is still going strong over 100 years since Frank Hornby patented the first construction kit. As someone obviously so in touch with that special sense of childlike wonder and play, I’m sure he’d be just as excited as we are at seeing the Meccano company make pet robots!