There is an episode of Blue’s Clues about “Contraptions” and the little guy loved it. Loved the ideas, loved struggling to say the word ‘contraption’, loved trying to think up his own simple contraptions. That made me thing of the board game “Mousetrap” which I looked into, but we’ve noticed that some of the games of our childhood just don’t live up to expectations. So I looked for a modern day update and was pretty pleased when I found this one.
Turns out it is a port of a PC version of the game, but since we didn’t know about that, it was pretty new to us. Basically, you have a limited set of objects to solve problems from the in game “Professor”. Balls bounce off walls and wood blocks, balloons float into the air, ropes make weights swing, scissors cut ropes, fans blow candles out or blimps across the screen. You get the idea – it is teaching physics and laws of motion in a fun, creative environment. And except for the first few introductory lessons, there really are no “right” answers, as several different solutions will solve the Professor’s challenges. For older kids, you can let them go right at the challenges themselves, for younger kids, it is a great opportunity to brainstorm with them and do some problem solving together.
Additionally, cause our boy is really getting into reading right now, he’s able to read a good portion of the text from the professor describing the challenge. That alone ends up being a satisfying task for him.
The downside is that the touch interface isn’t that intuitive. I can see how it is a port of a “mouse” interface and often times it is confusing for my boy. He’s used a mouse, but the touch interface is so much more natural to him that he’ll get confused or frustrated with the strangeness of the interface sometimes. When that happens, I’ll control the objects, and let him be the “foreman”. He gets a kick out of directing me and the awkwardness of the interface is soon forgotten.
Update – We’ve come across Casey’s Contraptions and given the kid friendly stance, the UI designed for the iPad, and the almost infinite replayability to the game, we have to recommend that game over Crazy machines 100% if you are planning on playing on an iPad.