Handy Hands Workshop is a workbench with a difference. As well as giving children the opportunity to practice their DIY skills, it teaches colours, shapes and numbers through a variety of projects.
The workbench is constructed of sturdy moulded plastic that requires some assembly (an adult will probably be needed to help here). It includes easily attachable legs that can be adjusted to various heights depending on the age of the child. It can also be used without the legs for placing on a table top or other suitable surface. Tools include a hammer, a wrench, a saw and a screwdriver, which slot into their own compartments. It also includes a vice and a tap, for those joinery and plumbing jobs.
The real star of the show though, is Handy, a friendly robot handyman who sits atop the bench and is on hand to offer help and encouragement. He's very lively--his mouth and eyebrows move in synch with his voice and he also dances and moves his arms. Use the screwdriver to tighten his nose and he sneezes, tighten his ears and he giggles. Handy is activated by pressing the "On" button on the front of his overalls. There's then a choice of two modes, both of which use animation on the LCD screen on Handy's front to guide you along. The Exploring Activity allows you to explore all the features of the workbench, from hammering nails to tightening bolts. Handy helps by identifying when the task is completed properly. The Building Activity is based around various "blueprints"--project cards that are inserted into the top of the bench. You can then choose a task from locations in and around the home, including building a go-kart, mending a chest of drawers or repairing a robot. Handy gives a step-by-step commentary advising which tools to use. If the task is completed successfully, Handy is ready to praise: "Job well done!"; if not, he offers advice on how to proceed: "Let me give you a hand". Complete three projects and you're rewarded by Handy dancing to a short melody. Safety issues are also highlighted by Handy warning that some tools may be sharp, so care should be taken. And like any good workman, he's aware of the necessity to tidy up at the end of every job, as he reminds you with the "Pack it Up" song before he's switched off.
Handy Hands Workshop is both appealing and educational, although because of some small parts, it's not suitable for children under 36 months. It's most likely to be appreciated by children aged 3-5 years old, especially boys.
Handy Hands Workshop requires four LR20 (Size "D") batteries, which are not included. --Alison Drury