Photo: Lauren Ro

My 2-and-a-half-year-old loves “helping”We will change the battery in Thomas’s Thomas trains. This is a small task that requires a tiny screwdriver, as with all battery-powered toys designed for small children. In other words, it’s not the most kid-friendly activity, but it’s one Augie relishes.

He also enjoys connecting his train tracks and taking them apart, making structures with his MagnaTiles (and destroying) and putting together his Duplo cars (and disassembling them), as well as meticulously repackaging toys in their original boxes (and taking the toys back out).

Given Augie’s penchant for putting things together and taking them apart, my husband and I started looking for toys that have that engineering spirit at their core. There are plenty of toolbox sets with wrenches, hammers and nuts and bolts. However, we wanted something more structured. Turns out there’s a whole genre of “take apart”There are many playthings available. These allow children to assemble a toy from a collection of parts and screw into something they can play with. Then when they’ve had their fill, they simply take everything apart until the next time they get hit with the building bug.

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Battat Take-Apart Crane

As I mentioned, there is a ton of such toys on Amazon, but we decided on this Battat crane truck for its non-primary color scheme, chunky parts, and nicer design (plus the fact that we trust this brand — it’s the same one that makes one of our favorite gifts for 1-year-olds, the B. Zany Zoo activity cube).

When it arrived at my parents’ house in Los Angeles, where we were on vacation that week, Augie was immediately interested in examining all the pieces. There are 30 in all, including a chassis, a cab, wheels, a truck bed, a crane, and an excavator, plus all the necessary screws, nuts, and bolts — a dream come true for a little boy who’s obsessed with vehicles. It even includes a power drill that can be used in both directions as well as three different drill bits. Although it is adorable and very lifelike, it is a little too advanced for his age.

Augie did need help from his grandpa the first few times, but he soon mastered the art of putting the larger pieces together. Each part is a different color, which makes it easy to identify what goes where, and the hardware is oversize — good for toddler hands, even if it takes a little trial and error to figure out which way to turn to tighten or loosen. The crane is the most difficult section. It requires assembling everything and threading many nuts and bolts. Augie can’t do that part on his own, but it’s such a small component compared with the rest of the truck that it doesn’t take away from his enjoyment of the toy.

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Apart from the fun factor, this toy is also educational. It teaches problem solving, fine motor skills, shape sorting, and requires sustained concentration. Augie was able to build a brand new crane truck with functional moving parts with a little help. When he got bored, all he had to do was take everything apart — which is, I’m guessing, just as fun as putting it all together in the first place — only to do it all over again.

B. Toys by Battat Take-Apart Airplane

If your child prefers flying vehicles, here’s a 22-piece airplane that’s slightly easier than the crane truck.

Or, you can try this little motorhome with an open roof.

Battat Take-Apart 4x4 Toy Vehicle

And a Hummer, if they’re into that sort of thing.

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