What We Like
Helps build concentration
Great for collaborative play
What We Don't Like
Includes many small pieces that are a choking hazard
Activity cards are hard to see underneath
As parents of two toddlers, my husband and I have found that toys with lots of small parts are usually quite the chore to clean up. Packed with over 140 pieces, the Educational Insights Design & Drill Activity Center was created to keep kids ages 3 and up entertained with STEM learning and play. We put it to the test on our 3.5-year-old (as well as our 21-month-old) to see if it really powered up their construction and creativity skills.
Kids can really fine-tune their motor skills and creativity with this playset, which includes a white 100-hole drill board, 120 colorful bolts (in red, yellow, green, blue, and purple), a battery-operated power drill, three drill bits (a flathead, Phillips head, and socket), a hand screwdriver (which can be connected to the drill bits), a combination wrench, and 20 activity cards. The board, tools, and bolts are all made of plastic that feels very durable, and the board was even able to withstand being used as a platform by our younger child, who weighs about 25 pounds. (However, we definitely wouldn’t recommend using the drill board as a step stool.)
The kid-friendly tools have large handles that are easy for small hands to hold, while the drill bits can also be easily snapped and removed from the power drill and hand screwdriver. The electric drill’s trigger is easy to push, but it did take some time for our kid to grasp the concept of the forward, reverse, and off switch on the back of the tool. The switch may also be harder for small thumbs and hands to reach, depending on your child’s size. The upside is that if the batteries run out on the power drill, there’s still plenty of play with the screwdriver and wrench. The drill requires three AA batteries, so take note if you plan on buying this as a gift.
The chunky bolts are about one inch in diameter and are also effortless to pick up and screw into the board. Our 3.5-year-old son has long passed the toy-chewing phase, but the small parts were still a choking hazard for our 21-month-old daughter. And given the number of individual parts, cleanup time can also be quite the hassle.
The set also includes 20 activity cards that are placed underneath the drill board as guides to create colorful designs. We found it difficult to see the darker colors (like blue and purple) from underneath, and our 3.5-year-old wasn’t particularly interested in them yet anyway. The cards might pique the interest of older kids, which is also an upside as the toy can “grow” with toddlers.
Entertainment Value: “So much fun!”
Both of our kids played with the set together in peace for a solid hour, handing each other bolts to twist into the board by hand and with the electric drill. Solo, our son was easily entertained by drilling and un-drilling the bolts. After doing so to the entire board, he exclaimed, “This is so much fun!” We can imagine that there’ll be plenty more fun to be had once he’s able to use the activity cards and create his own designs.
Our 3.5-year-old son was easily entertained by drilling and un-drilling the bolts.
We found that the tools and bolts offered a great way to distract kids during our own home fixing projects. Little ones have a tendency to want to “help” with jobs around the house whenever they see grown-ups with tools in hand, so the drilling set can also provide a fun and creative role-play activity while adults do the real (and less kid-friendly) work.
Educational Value: Some STEM benefits
Educational Insights has labeled this as a STEM (science, tech, engineering, and mathematics) learning toy. While we didn’t see much of a technology or science connection (besides the use of the electric drill), the set does deliver in helping to build kids’ dexterity and encouraging early mathematics. We used the bolts to count, sort by color, and create our own designs, while the activity cards give kids an understanding of ordinal numbers and positions.
Age Range: 3 to 6 years
Given that our 3.5-year-old was able to find multiple ways to play with the drilling set, we felt the toy was very age-appropriate. Even our 21-month-old had fun sorting and play-counting the bolts as well as using the power drill to screw the pieces into the board. Again, just keep in mind that the pieces may pose a choking hazard for younger tots.
Ease of Cleaning: Lots of small parts
Considering the entertainment and educational value, this multi-piece playset does pay off despite the many pieces involved in the cleanup. One upside is that the product box can be used to hold the drilling board during play, and then it can be easily closed for cleanup, even with the bolts screwed in.
Considering the entertainment and educational value, this multi-piece playset does pay off despite the many pieces involved in the cleanup.
Pro tip: It’s also a great opportunity to play the “cleanup game” and challenge the kids to count the bolts as they put them away by color. The rest of the accessories and tools can also fit comfortably underneath the drill board.
Price: A small investment for lots of learning fun
The Design & Drill Activity Center is priced at $39.99 MSRP, which is reasonable considering that it’s suited for ages 3 to 6 and provides at least an hour’s worth of play at a time.
Competition: An array of options on the market
Another similar toy that comes to mind is the Basic Fun Lite-Brite ($20 MSRP). The classic peg set includes six templates and the added light feature, so kids can see their art illuminated in neon colors. It doesn’t require any extra tools as the pegs are simply pushed into the tablet; however, the pieces are much smaller and pose an even greater choking hazard.
Educational Insights also offers other similar sets made for the same age range, such as the Design & Drill Take-Along Tool Kit ($29.99), which has fewer parts and is designed for traveling. There’s also the Design & Drill My First Workbench ($49.99), which offers a wider variety of tools and accessories, including nails and a hammer in addition to bolts and a battery-powered bolt driver.
Yes, buy it!
The Educational Insights Design & Drill Activity Center keeps older toddlers very occupied, encourages patience, and helps build motor skills (though it does contain easy-to-lose parts). As they get older, kids will enjoy using the activity cards and creating their own original designs, so the toy "grows" with them, too.
- Product Name Design & Drill Activity Center
- Product Brand Educational Insights
- UPC 086002041128
- Price $39.99
- Product Dimensions 12 x 12.25 x 3.5 in.
- Manufacturer’s Recommended Age 3-6
- What’s Included 1 drill table, 120 bolts, 1 power drill, 3 drill bits, 1 hand screwdriver, 1 combination wrench, 20 activity cards
- Batteries 3 AA