My eldest boy and I recently spent an afternoon playing with his scale electric set. There were a few stumbling blocks to overcome first though, most notably the fact that the thing didn’t work.
That is not at all surprising though given that the set has been, for a considerable length of time, subject to the heavy handed attentions of my youngest boy who is car besotted and not exactly gentle on flimsy toys made in ‘the east’ intended for children twice his age. I had on occasion witnessed him driving the delicate little cars over obstacles like shoes, fireman helmets and the cat. All of which subtracted from the longevity of the toy.
The first stumbling block was the fact that the plugs that connect the controls and the power supply to the track had all been snapped off in situ. A notty problem to say the least. To resolve it, there was a tweezer operation followed by the splicing of wires, the installation of copper pins harvested from other toys and my trusty magic toolbox and the use of electrical tape and chewing gum mashed together to get power restored to the track and controls. I felt a little like MacGyver at the end if I’m honest.
The cars themselves had also seen better days but we managed to breathe new life into them too, though the red car I think is very nearly beyond its sell by date.
The track itself had several dead pieces which were, I can only assume, as a direct result of toddler drool. You know the kind I mean, where your child is so transfixed on something they’re playing with that they simply can’t keep their mouths closed and prevent drool from collecting in and tumbling from said mouth. The stuff looks a little like a mountaineers safety line anchored at the lip and touching the ground in a long strand, fastening itself at various points on its journey downwards against the toddlers shirt. Yes, some of that stuff was definitely a part of the problem and the rusty pieces of track were quarantined.
Finally though, we are ready to race and immediately there was a problem.
As slight as my boy is, he has a particularly heavy thumb. The car on the track in his lane was now operating at two polar opposite speeds; light speed and dead still immediately following a crash. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for traveling fast, but not at the expense of actually going somewhere. In a perfect world we would have had unlimited track (ala James May) and then we could definitely have used his age appropriate racing style. But on the carpet in his room with a small track cobbled together with perseverance, we needed a little restraint around the corners (all four of them).
Our race became a seemingly endless cycle of fixing the brushes under the car, placing the car on the track, watching it lurch forward and then immediately exit dramatically through the plastic barriers I had attached to each of the track corners to finally end up roof down on the carpet amid squeals of joy.
My boy was beaming. He was so happy he lit up the room and was falling over and doing joyful belly rolls when the crashes were particularly energetic. His enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself completely caught up in it. Eventually though, practicality won out and I put both cars on the same track and handed him the master control. The maximum speed of a single car on the track was now halved across the two slipstreaming cars and together they raced, gratefully, around the track attached front bumper to back with no accidents over a fifty thousand lap marathon. My boy was very well impressed with the newfound handling capabilities of the tandem cars and didn’t seem to miss the speed and calamity of our earlier races at all.
Then, as with anything else, his interest in the toy waned over time to nothing. I was eventually left staring at a track where one car was towing the other to nowhere and my boy was flicking through the children’s programs on the television.
As I left the room I heard the toy let out an audible sigh of relief.