When I was fourteen I think it’s safe to say that I wasn’t a complicated child. I was born in an era without iPads, or virtual reality and I used to watch the kids on ‘Why Don’t You’ wishing I lived in the city and could go to play ice hockey or absail down an office block. But the closest I ever came to anything more exciting than throwing stones into the local pond was the dry ski slope half an hour away and that wasn’t much good for anything other than extreme rope burns.
These days, I would like to think that I’ve got a bit more depth than a 14 year old but when Qwerkity dropped us a line and said, ‘we’ve got loads of stuff for kids, adults and anyone in between, do you want to take a look at something for us?’ I was proved wrong. Within moments, I saw ‘Make Your Own Robotic Arm’ and I was sold. Grown ups don’t get to play with enough toys in my opinion, we’ve forgotten how to enjoy them, so this was my opportunity to remember and I loved it.
A robot arm. That you can make yourself for 40 of your English Pounds plus postage? Seriously?! I couldn’t hold myself back and when it arrived it was open and had already covered the coffee table before Mrs P asked me in her this-isn’t-really-a-question voice ‘Is this going to stay on the table all week?’
Qwerkity’s tag line is ‘unusual, practical and fun’ – there are presents for pretty much anyone in there; something for your nan? No problem, how about a Lord and Lady Mug set? She’ll love it! A last minute present for your nine year old nephew’s birthday that you had definitely not forgotten? Get some edible bubbles in and you’ll be the best Unc ever. No-body ever knows what to buy their Dad for Christmas but this weird Conundrum Decanter should go down a treat as well as loads of other gadgets for men to choose from. Honestly speaking I spent a good hour looking through all the gifts thinking about both mine and other peoples birthdays. Check it out! It’s like being in the best kind of shop – all the things that you didn’t know you wanted, but now that you’ve seen them you want them immediately!
I had been hoping to create my Robotic Arm with The Child but the instructions are 14+ and they’re not kidding, it’s not the easiest to follow. Having said that, it’s not massively tricky either so as long as your average teenager can keep track of the six annoyingly similar looking but actually completely different screw types, you’ll be fine. Mrs P realised that if she wanted her coffee table back any time soon, she was going to have to join in, so she signed up to the team.
As my robotic appendage took form, I remembered the summer afternoons when I would conquer new worlds filled with bloodthirsty alien overlords thanks to my laser eyes and cyborg army. My meccano trucks would take me through the desolate landscapes of the back garden and get sucked into the Raging River of Despair at the bottom of the road.
The build took a few days to complete and only a few miss-starts. The worst bit was dropping the tiny parts and scrabbling around on the floor for ten minutes trying to find them again but we managed the final construction without much fuss. The build quality of the parts is good if not particularly solid, but my only disappointment was the controller. It feels less substantial than the rest of the robot and cheaper or less exciting perhaps. I dare say that The Childs Sister will attack the whole thing soon enough with the multitude of coloured paints and stickers that most things in this house seem to be subjected to if they stay still for more than a couple of hours or so.
I try hard to give The Child and The Childs Sister these types of experiences (perhaps not the Raging River of Despair, mum was pretty cross when I got home that day and in retrospect, swimming across the river rather than using the bridge was not the best plan I’ve ever had), and I would hate to think that video games and social media has overtaken the need for human imagination, there is certainly room for both.
Kids and Grown Ups need to find more time to play. Play more often, play together and play bigger. I’m so thankful to Qwerkity for reminding me what it was like to play, without having to worry about mortgages, bills and all the other responsibilities that we have. Now I’ve finished the robotic arm, I’m looking around for what’s next and they have so many more things to fire the imagination for me, my kids and all of you too, no matter who you are. And if you can’t find the time to play yourself, buy something for your kids and play when they’re in bed – they’ll never know. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me!