My Five year old received a Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck from Santa this Christmas and the whole family had fun making a live action video (…except for Grandma who was horrified that we started a fire in our back yard).
Live Action Video
See Wyatt’s new Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck come to life and put out a real fire. See the crook who started the fire get caught in a dramatic chase scene.
Review of the Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck:
The controls are easy to learn for a five year old. After a day of practice Wyatt was able to drive it around our kitchen island. The sound of the sirens and ladder is reasonably tolerable for the adults. It seems fairly sturdy thus far after three days of rough play. One surprise was that the remote is attached to the back of the truck by a cord that is about four feet long. This was unexpected and at first I wondered how this would work out. I quickly realised it was a non-issue because during play Wyatt is never more than two feet away from his truck. Wyatt was disappointed that the truck did not come with firefighter figures. This disappointment did not last long because he very quickly realised that his firefighter PLAYMOBIL(R) figures were the perfect size and fit in the bucket.
At $59.99 the toy is not cheap but also not as expensive as other RC fire trucks on the market that are a similar size and do similar things. It is not a scale model and would probably not be of interest to an adult RC hobbyist.
The one change I would make to the truck would be to make a larger water tank. The tank is so small that it only sprays continuously for about one minute before needing to be refilled. The good news is Wyatt can easily refill it himself. To make the film I jury rigged a plastic bag of water to the back of the truck so that he would have an abundant supply of water to put out the fire.
Please note if you use this toy to put out a real fire, adult supervision, a review of safety protocol and a bucket of water is required. Even with these precautions there is an inherent risk in lighting any fire.
Please also note that the PLAYMOBIL(R) figures and LEGO(R) police car seen in the video do not come with the Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck.
I have been reading the book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, by author Stuart Brown. In Chapter One, he tells the story of how Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a premier aerospace research facility, discovered the importance of hands-on creative play. After a crop of older engineers retired, JPL hired top graduates from top engineering schools as replacements. But they discovered that this new group of engineers were lacking in a certain type of problem solving that was critical to their job. While they could grapple with complex mathematical theories, they lacked the innovative thinking that was needed to build aerospace robots that needed to adapt to different conditions. JPL wanted to find out what they needed to look for during their hiring process that would ensure they only hired innovative engineers. After doing some research and talking with their retired engineers, they discovered the difference between the two groups. The older engineers, when growing up, had made soap box derby racing cars, created hi-fi stereos, and fixed appliances, while the younger engineers had done none of this type of creative hands-on-play. JPL came to the conclusion that engineers who worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to see unique solutions, while those that had not worked with their hands could not. In their hiring process JPL began to include questions about youthful projects and play.
As a parent reading this, I realised how important it is to provide my son with creative hands-on-play. My next question was: what was the best way to offer him these types of opportunities? My son is only three so I am not going to let him dismantle and rebuild our coffee-maker just yet. The answer came with an old box of LEGO that my mother-in-law found in her basement.
My husband, my son and I are now deeply engaged in creative LEGO play. I am not referring to buying a LEGO kit and following the directions exactly. While building models with a step-by-step guide can be fun, I do not think it fosters creative problem solving. I do believe that building something from LEGO that no one has ever seen before does.
This brings me to my project of building a LEGO fire station with my son. It combines two of my favorite things: re-using old objects and creative play.
I have some step-by-step advice for you if you want to try this at home:
1) FIND OLD LEGO. Find someone who used to build LEGO when young and try to locate their OLD stash (note it is usually in a basement and under lots of stuff
2) EXTRACT OLD LEGO. Approach old LEGO boxes with care. The box my mother-in-law found disintegrated upon touch because the plastic box was so old.
3) WASH OLD LEGO. Your Old-LEGO might look very dirty and even might be moldy. Put Old-LEGO into washing machine with some Oxi- Clean and let soak overnight. Then put LEGO through a wash on the delicate cycle (no spin dry) and lay out on towels to dry.
4) RESIST NEW LEGO. This is a tough one. For instance, when my son and I were recently in a LEGO store I was pining for the $150.00 fancy NEW LEGO fire station. I had to keep telling myself that our OLD LEGO would make a fine fire station.
5) DESIGN AND BUILD your Old-LEGO fire station, hopefully with someone young to help bring up important design considerations such as, “Mama, what if a monster takes the fire fighters hats?” and, “where will the fire fighters put their juice glasses
Please notice detail of fire hat storage, high enough up that monsters can’t steal the hats. Also detail of the space in the truck, inbetween the seats, for the fire-fighter’s juice glasses. And finally the fire truck that my son built all on his own (the smaller one next to the ladder).
Lessons learned for all participants:
1) Yes you really can wash LEGO in your washing machine.
2) Reusing/recycling rather than buying new helps reduce landfill and saves you money.
3) Creating something unique with your hands can be fun and help young ones develop creative problem solving abilities.
My one word of caution is that this project may distract you from your everyday activities. I had so much fun building our LEGO fire station that I totally lost track of time. I ended up leaving only fifteen minutes to get my son and myself dressed and ready to leave to go meet a friend. Anyone who has ever been around a toddler knows that is an almost impossible feat!
Play well my friends.