Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Solar System Adventure

Solar System Adventure

Spring 2014 Toys
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: SmartLab
Price: $14.99

You know you have a hit when your kid plays with something and immediately chooses it for show and tell at school. That was our experience with the Solar System Adventure. The kit has two easy-to-assemble models: one of a Mars Rover, and one of the planets in our solar system.

We punched the paper pieces for the rover out of thick, laminated paper, and folded according to enclosed directions. The wheels and some support pieces are plastic. Each part is well labeled, so we had the opportunity to really understand what each part of the rover does, and how the different parts function. The completed rover (approximately 8 x 10 inches) is more for display than for play.

For the solar system model, we assembled the 4" diameter base with battery, LED light and on/off switch quickly, then labeled each of the plastic 'arms' with the provided name of the planet, finally putting the correct plastic ball on each arm, and the sun in the middle. When turned on, the sun lights up. The arms with the planets don't move on their own, but we can easily rotate them around. And yes, Earth has a moon that rotates around it. The enclosed guide makes it clear that the model isn't to scale (how could it be when you could fit 1.3 million earths in the sun?) and provides interesting facts about each planet. (I had no idea that a probe to Jupiter vaporized in one hour!) My nine-year old and I took about 10 minutes to put the model together, and there really is something valuable in building it, to help us remember and make sense of the planets.

When my son ended his school day, and I asked him about show and tell, he was happy to tell me about their discussion on how the rover collects rock samples, and analyzes them. I was pleased my son took the rover to school, but I admit that I stole the solar system model for my own desk. every person who stopped into my office today wanted to touch the model and spin the arms.

This kit is a great way to introduce your kiddo to two models, in a short period of time. For $14.99, it's a great bargain to get both models, which is a good thing: I might have to get my kids their own copy of the solar system, so I can keep that one on my desk.

Barbara Chamberlin   ©2014 Parents' Choice
Barbara Chamberlin researches and develops educational software and media at New Mexico State University's Learning Games Lab. She and her husband have two boys.

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