These are far from the basic plastic F-14s and aircraft carriers you made as a kid. Ugears are ridiculously intricate “self-propelled mechanical wooden models” from the Ukraine that look like something a 19th-century toymaker would build by lamplight on a snowy night. Except, your kid is that 19th-century toymaker!
The toy models are actually laser-cut from thin sheets of plywood and inspired by real-life/historic mechanisms. Ugears range in complexity and number of parts, from a simple mechanical flower to a 443-piece locomotive that can travel up to 15 feet and comes with a railroad crossing and platform. To build, all you do is pop the pieces off the sheets and connect using their “patented joint design.” Easy step-by-step instructions are included to help avoid frustrated outbursts, and no glue (or paint) is required. Also, no batteries, since they’re propelled using rubber bands and whatnot.
The 17 designs currently available fall into one of 2 categories: vehicles and cool gadgets/mechanisms, both of which will show off how smart your kid is. Transportation-wise, there’s a tram, combine, and steam locomotive. There’s also as a versatile 3-in-1 truck with active steering, shocks, and “a 4-cylinder rubber band engine” with moving pistons. Unlike the current squad that mostly just stands around waiting for Tobias Harris to score, these pistons actually move! With the right mods, you can add a trailer and even convert it into a fire and rescue engine with ascending ladder, or a tanker that opens and closes to reveal a hidden can of beer inside — exactly as you designed it.
As for the decorative models for grandma’s living room mantle, there’s a 20-minute timer, working safe with combination lock, treasure box, and the aforementioned mechanical flower that opens to reveal a wooden ballerina … standing on an aircraft carrier! If only.