Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hobby Fun- Now with Eight Year Olds

Recently we were faced with the question of what activity to feature at our son's 8th birthday party. My gut instinct is to let children play outside until they are completely covered in watermelon juice, snow, or mud (depending on the season), but the wife advised me that modern families provide some sort of activity or event to the kids. My number four option was to have them all build plastic models of Japanese Giant Robots. Poor Amy considered whether the mud option might not be too terrible after all but eventually consented.

I went through Amazon and tracked down a crate of Gundam High Grade Universal Century models. I then opened each box and partially separated each piece from the sprues to make them easier to detach. My wife observed the detailed instructions, all written in Japanese. Then we laid out some tablecloth so the tiny pieces wouldn't get lost and let four 8 year olds go at it.

Mainly Just Watching Them Build
The end result was four highly entertained boys who needed about three minutes of coaching before efficiently building their models. At the end of an hour and a half or so they were more than half way done and all the models were finished at home that night. Each of the boys walked away feeling excited and proud and there were no meltdowns or frustrated faces. So other than feeling happy that my harebrained scheme worked, what's the lesson here?

Mainly, the lesson is that the Lego generation has been taught to build plastic models. Kids of my generation built Monogram and Revell tanks and planes but I suspect that the next wave of children would have been baffled by a plastic model. Now, however, you have literally millions of boys and girls who like nothing better than receiving a bag of pieces and a set of graphical instructions and then building away. Four of those kids took a look at the Gundam instructions, realized they were just like Lego instructions, and had a great time.

A few secondary thoughts come to mind. It was lucky that I knew which models to buy. The Tamiya High Grade Universal Century line is outrageously well engineered- the models fit together well and all amazing when completed. There is also the Real Grade line, which is newer, easier to find, and still simple enough for an eight year old. It's also helpful not to wait till the last minute. Hobby Link Japan is the best online source for these kit. I've used them often. Shipping from Japan can add some days to your delivery. Amazon is another source but shipping times can vary hugely and some sources may be unreliable in terms of how quickly they respond. Finally, local stores may carry the models. In Nashua The Comic Store has an awe inspiring level of in store stock, but at a higher price than through Hobby Link Japan.

Building models is fun. You learn a whole variety of crafting skills. You can learn history, art theory, all sorts of things.  And from my perspective it was very satisfying just to share a love of my own with a bunch of kids.

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