Girder and Panel Kits, Where Engineering Equals Fun!

by nessel on March 24, 2011

Tekton Plaza

I have a theory that every child born – boy or girl – loves to do two things,  run around screaming and building.   I have no expert advice on the screaming part – perhaps a nice set of ear plugs???  On the building side, I do have some ideas…

Kids at a young age start building with blocks, then Lego and at some point around 6-8 years old, it seems that they outgrow the building phases.  In truth, I don’t think kids ever outgrow the desire to build, they just age out of the typical building toys. How do I know this?  Simple, give a group of older kids the Girder and Panel building sets from Bridge Street Toys and you will see their love of building spring back to life!

Tekton Tower Building Sets Show Everything Old is New Again

The Girder & Panel building sets were first released in the 1950′s by Kenner Products.   The toy had a good run in the 50′s and 60′s but then it disappeared from the market for a while.  Now, Bridge Street Toys has brought back the Girder & Panel series and a whole new set of towers, bridges and buildings is on the market.

In our article, The Top 7 Toys That Will Make You Wish You Were A Kid Again, we touched on the Girder and Panel building sets from Bridge Street Toys that we saw at Toy Fair 2011.   We have now had a chance to fully test and evaluate the Tekton Tower, The Boston Manor and the Tekton Truss Bridge sets.    The only question we have after testing it – why did these great building toys ever leave the market in the first place?

What Exactly Are Girder and Panel Sets?

This short video will show how the Girder and Panel building system works…

As you can see, kids love to build with these sets.  It is easy to build tall building and kids can just let their imagination run wild and build what ever they like.  I should say that since that video was shot, the kids have built highways, bridges and a whole city is being developed.

As shown in the video, the sets consist of columns, beams and panels.   The pieces snap together and you can build very sturdy, tall structures.  As opposed to Lego or building blocks, the Tekton Tower or Boston Manor are not going to fall over if you bump into them.

Boston Manor

What is So Special About Building with Girder and Panel Construction Set?

In reviewing these sets, we had kids of all ages who had a great time building skyscrapers, towns, cities and bridges.   The fact that the pieces snap together and you can build very tall towers, really appeals to older kids (8 and up).  There is just something about building a tall tower that does not fall down when you blow on it!

Parents will love that the Girder and Panel sets teach real physics and engineering.  The parts are 1/87th HO Scale – so it is just like building a real tower…only 1/87th the size.  In addition, the manual that comes with the set teaches kids about real buildings, architecture and engineering.   I have to say I learned a great about all the different architectural styles of homes, just by reading the Boston Manor building guide.

The best part about the Girder and Panel kits is that kids can make whatever they want with them.  I watched my kids build a zoo for their animals, then a police station and then a tunnel for trains.   The Girder and Panel kits encourage kids to use their imagination and the open-ended structure of the toy had the kids playing with it for hours on end.

Pros of the Girder and Panel Kits

  • Makes it Easy for Kids to Build Tall Structure
  • Versatile and Open Ended Play
  • Can Mix and Match Parts from Any of the Kits
  • Teaches Kids Engineering and Architectural Design
  • Manual Provides Fun and Interesting Information
  • Structures are Strong
  • Appeals to Boys and Girls of All Ages
  • Great for Science Projects

Cons of the Girder and Panel Kits

  • More Expensive Than Some Other Building Toys

Is There Anything That Could Make These Kits More Fun?

In this review we tested the Boston Manor kit, the Tekton Tower Kit and the Bridge and Turnpike Tekton Truss Bridge kit.  There is only one thing that the kids thought could make the Girder and Panel sets more fun – water! Kids of all ages just love to play with water.  Well, guess what – Bridge Street Toys makes a Hydrodynamic kit with working tanks, pipes, valves and an electric pump! This kit looks very cool and we will cover it in a separate review.  [Update - The Hydrodynamic Kit Review is Now Up, Click Here to Read It!]

Conclusion: Bridge Street Toys Girder and Panel Kits

In case you have not noticed yet, we loved the Girder and Panel kits! Yes, as a Dad I like that it teaches engineering and architectural design – but that is not why I love it.  Before Toy Fair 2011 we did a post on what qualities a great toy should have.  We stated a toy needs to be versatile and provide tools for kids imagination.   The Girder and Panel Kits absolutely meet these requirements, and therefore the kids play with them for hours at a time  – and that is why I love these kits.

We have NEVER given out a 5D review, our highest rating – but that changes today…

Girder and Panel Kits from Bridge Street Toys Gets 5 D’s -

5D Rating - Awesome

Any Product That Receives 4 or 5 D’s is Dad Does Approved!

Dad Does Approved
Here is our complete rating chart -

Dad Does Rating System

More Information:

Bridge Street Toys

In this review, we used the following kits -
Boston Manor about $46
Tekton Tower about $40
Bridge and Turnpike Tekton Truss Bridge about $43

FULL DISCLOSURE: We received Girder and Panel Kits to review.   We received no money for doing this review and receive nothing if you do decide to buy the Girder and Panel kits.  If your kids becomes a world famous architect after using this kits, can you ask him/her to name a building after us? This is a real review, by a real Dad (and his kids)!

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