It takes a crane to construct a crane.
June 1, 2009 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I was recently delighted to learn that my 3-year-old nephew shares my profound fascination with construction cranes. Can you recommend a sturdy yet functional toy crane?

The one he got for Christmas has been broken into many, many pieces by now. His mother is visiting me in the U.S. next week, and because nephew has been asking for a crane, I'd like to make sure he gets one that will last him longer than just a couple of hours.

I looked at crane toys on Amazon, but I'm not sure what's appropriate for a three-year-old (AFAIK, he scoffs at "baby" toys). Bonus points if the toy is affordable and the package not too huge.
posted by halogen to Shopping (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have any crane toy suggestions, but I do have something else that he will really enjoy.

My nephew (just turning 5) has a profound fascination with vacuum cleaners, and one of the best "adult" gifts I ever got for him was a pile of printed service manuals for vacuums. They have those incredible exploded parts diagrams and all kinds of new vocab. He spends lots of time with them, and is very motivated to read the words.

You can find a lot of this stuff online, free. This manual has a very interesting page featuring crane operator hand signals. He will love it. I googled "crane operator manual" to find it.
posted by fake at 11:04 AM on June 1, 2009

You can't beat the coolness of Playmobil, though this crane set may be a bit to complex for a 3-year-old.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:06 AM on June 1, 2009

fake, those are pretty awesome suggestions, and I'm sure he would have gotten a kick out of them, but he's Bulgarian and doesn't speak or read English (he reads Bulgarian already, so he'd be confused by the foreign writing, I assume).
posted by halogen at 11:16 AM on June 1, 2009

My son spent his entire December anticipating the arrival of that Playmobil crane. He was 2 1/2. Every large package that arrived he'd ask, "Maybe cwane?". It breaks down to a reasonable size (so a truck can "tow" it) and it's held up to a lot of abuse. He still plays with it a lot at age 4.
posted by bendybendy at 11:51 AM on June 1, 2009

I may have a 60's era Russian crane operators manual in my collection, and I definitely have a few Russian posters featuring construction cranes, as well as some photographs from Russia which feature cranes. I realize Bulgarian is pretty distinct from Russian, but if you like I can scan some of these for you.

There's a developmental psych argument to be made for exposing him to lots of international things early, but my non-answers will stop here.
posted by fake at 11:53 AM on June 1, 2009

This is the crane you want, period. Tonka toys are guaranteed for life. They're tough and kids cane use them for years and years--nothing babyish about them. They often have books that go along with them (my kids had a "mighty dump truck" from Tonka that they used to ride on, and the Mighty Dump Truck book was one of their very favorite books at around your nephew's age).
posted by misha at 12:54 PM on June 1, 2009

My nephew was 3 this past Christmas, and I bought him this Bruder crane truck. He still plays with it constantly, from what my sister has told me, and at the time exclaimed, "This is my favorite truck!" His dad and I also got a kick out of it.
posted by autojack at 1:46 PM on June 1, 2009

Another vote here for the Bruder crane. (Never had the Playmobil one so can't compare.)
posted by lakeroon at 3:43 PM on June 1, 2009

I'm seconding the Tonka one Misha suggests: we had one growing up, it went through living on a farm, myself and my brother, and was still in good working order until a couple years ago, when I sold it. The one I had from the early 80s had strings which operate the boom and the bucket: it has a sand-carrying end, with an ingenious latch which allows grabbing dirt and dumping dirt via the controls.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:12 PM on June 1, 2009

I can't say enough about the Mega Bloks crane our little guy has. It's withstood two little guys for 3 years. And it works with Lego Duplo blocks, too. I know many people here will trash Mega Bloks for their blocks, but, really, this crane is awesome because you can build it into other things, use it with Lego to build other things, play with the action figure, drive trucks, lift loads, build towers and so on. We have the Bruder crane, but it can't hold a light to this Mega Bloks crane. We can use it in the house, outside, anywhere...and it stimulates all sorts of creative thinking in ways that a toy that's fixed cannot. Be sure to click through the different views in the link I provided -- and note that you can build beyond that. Most of the time, our guys have it set up as a regular crane, though.
posted by acoutu at 8:07 PM on June 1, 2009

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