Having been stuck for an idea of what to get our son for his fifth birthday, I was not hugely convinced by my husband's suggestion of the Big Trak. Educational value nil, and I really didn't see much longevity, either in terms of its ability to withstand rough handling or to maintain his interest. When all's said and done it is, after all, a remote control with wheels. I don't get the appeal. I probably never will. And I was more than a little suspicious of my husband's motives, considering he had been denied one by his parents when he was a child. But I didn't have a better idea, and I'm prepared to accept that my husband knows a lot more about what will keep a little boy happy than I do. Well, at least some of the time ;)
The end result has been a very happy boy and an equally happy daddy and a chance for the pair to play together with the Big Trak for hours on end. Of course it doesn't do anything very exciting, just trundling round the courtyard in whatever direction has been determined, but it's been more educational than I expected because the turns rely upon minutes of the hour, tying in with the time-telling we'd already been teaching him, and also teaching him some mental arithmetic as he works out the distances to programme so it returns to its starting point on the more complex routes.
The manufacturers rate this as a toy for 8+. Our son is not a prodigy. He's reasonably bright, but he's just turned 5 with the usual capacity of a 5 year old to use three separate remote controls competently (DVD, TV and Freeview!) and has found programming the Big Trak no problem. Perhaps when the toy was launched, 8+ seemed a reasonable starting age, but 5 seems perfectly achievable from watching our son play with it. His 9 year old cousin received a Big Trak for Christmas and also loves it, so the age appeal is broad, but the age limit could safely be lowered.
From my perspective as a Mum, the thing I like most about the Big Trak is watching my son and my husband playing together with it. There's genuine shared interest, rather than just an adult helping a child with something, and I have the feeling they'll still be as happy playing together with it by the time we reach the monster's sixth birthday next year. Top toy.