What’s K’NEX®?

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K’NEX is a construction toy brand founded by Joel Glickman, which includes Lincoln Logs and Brio. The toys have evolved to include movement, motors, and programming, and are available for different age groups. K’NEX also offers educational sets for teachers. The plastic pieces provide a better fit than wooden toys, and children can enjoy spontaneous play. The sets can be combined to create larger models and have specially designed storage. Building tips are available on the company’s website.

K’NEX® is both a company and brand of popular construction toy that was initially conceived by Joel Glickman and first manufactured by the K’NEX company that Glickman founded with his brother Bob. Today, the company sells not only K’NEX® but also two other well-known and popular children’s construction toys: Lincoln Logs® and Brio®.
The idea for K’NEX® came to Joel while playing with straws at a wedding. The original product, as one might expect from the straw model, was made with rods and connectors. Later movement was added, with gears, pulleys and wheels. A third stage of development incorporated the movement with different mechanisms: motors integrated into the models and mechanical drives. A fourth innovation made it possible to program the K’NEX® and led to the CyberK’NEX®.

In addition to expanding the capabilities of the parts, there have been other changes to K’NEX® over time. The colors of the parts of the building changed, and as the models that could be built expanded to include space-themed vehicles and models, chrome parts were added.

K’NEX® products are intended for different ages of children, from kindergarten to nine years and older. Product offerings include themed sets that both target buildable models, such as vehicles, amusement parks, and gizmos, and also tie into other brands, such as Sesame Street®.

In addition to templates for play, K’NEX® offers a line of education products so teachers can incorporate K’NEX® into kindergarten through high school. The first set in the series is an early childhood set, referencing basic educational principles such as life cycles and transportation. For school-age students, targeted subjects include elementary and secondary school physics, with the exploration of simple machines such as wheels, gears, axles and inclined planes, along with solar energy; math and geometry sets for grades 1–3 and 4–6; and a biology-focused kit that allows students to explore DNA replication and transcription. A specially designed teacher’s guide is available for the DNA set.

Because the K’NEX®s are made of plastic, parents may find that their children experience less frustration with them than the wooden Tinkertoys®, for example, which have had some issues with a poor fit between the pieces. Also, despite the fact that kits can be labeled for certain possible outcomes, children can enjoy spontaneous play by simply putting pieces together without a formal goal in mind.

The sets can be combined to create larger models and there is specially designed storage for the toy. Building tips on the company’s website can help young builders avoid frustration.

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