Nintendo Labo review: why we loved it

We were approached by Nintendo a few weeks’ back and asked if we’d like to try out a set of their Nintendo Labo. Labo is (oh God, excuse the very layman language about to unfold…) a box of stuff that includes: a gaming type card (that fits into the Switch console), plus a set of cardboard templates and customisation bits. You pop the card into your Switch and then follow the very clear on screen instructions to make (with the console and controllers at the heart and motoring each ‘make’) different toys. We had Toy Con 1 which contains 5 x toy kits to make, ranging from 10 mins to 2010 mins. It’s PEGI rated 3. But it’s suitable from 6+.

Now, I had seen an advert on telly and even looked them up previously and considered buying a Switch JUST so we could try out Labo, as I knew my kids – Arthur in particular – would love it so much. So naturally I said yes – as long as they could send a Switch too, which they kindly did (thanks Nintendo!).  In the back of my mind I was worried though: would having the Switch (and the Labo set) be yet another reason for my son to get addicted to his screen time.

Let me set the scene a bit more. So, Arthur is just 8, and Beatrix is just 6. Arthur is very into screen gaming – whether that’s on his XBox, on his Dad’s iPad, or on his fairly new Kindle Fire (something I bought for them both so I could set screen time automatically and have increased parental controls). We have to really monitor screen time – and also limit it. I know many parents allow their kids to self-limit, but my belief is that Artie and Bea would struggle with this, so we have a limit of one hour per day.

Anyway, I’m going to be completely honest – during the holidays I’ve definitely allowed the screen time to tip over an hour on MANY occasions. This is because I am HUGELY pregnant and Ive just given myself some crap parenting credits over the holidays – merely to stay sane and allow myself some quiet time when I’ve really needed it.

I digress…

So I was already very aware that the kids were acting a bit like crack addicts when it came to ‘screen time’. When the Nintendo arrived, after a few days getting used to playing normal games on it (without the Labo) with Dad to oversee (Mario Cart and some other Mario one – very innocent and age appropriate but still had the ability to reduce both kids to stressed out tears for one reason or another!). At the weekend I announced we needed to take a step back from so much screen time – a week off to be precise. They have moaned and asked for it every day but I have stood firm. To ease this blow I said we could have a family session trying out the Labo set.

In truth I was apprehensive – would it be stressful? Would I be able to follow the instructions with them? Would it just intensify their obsession with gaming??

On Sunday we set about trying out the Nintendo Labo. I was really, pleasantly surprised.

Don’t get me wrong: there were a few bickering moments between us all as we got to grips with it, but overall, it was really fun.

Here are 10 great things about it, in case you were thinking about trying it with your tech-loving kids:

1. It promotes the close following of instructions – the step by step instructions on screen are very clear and easy to follow.

2. It necessitates team work (if doing it together). Yes I had to referee at times, but eventually they did start to work together well.

3. It shows kids that you can adapt technology to make different things happen. They were amazed that the vibrating feature was what powered the movement, for example.

4. You can get very hands on and customise your build, i.e. stick an elephant face on the RC car and colour it in. Bea loved this aspect as will other creative kids.

5. They get a lot of play out of each ‘make’. They still are playing with the elephant radio car a few days later!

6. Great rainy day activity. It was a really wet day and this was the perfect activity for an hour or so.

7. Very satisfying for the child who feels like they achieve something when they complete the build. They felt really pleased that they made something (pretty much) on their own. I did get involved but mainly for peace-keeping!

8. Hands on, interactive, instead of sitting zombie like. Gaming can feel very zoned out, but this didn’t.

9. Adults will love it too. Seriously. It’s fun!

10. Great for promoting STEM careers and interests to girls – Bea loved it.

Check out our video here to see us in action and get a better idea…

It’s perfect for parents, like me, who see the good and bad in screens and gaming.I don’t want to cut it out of their lives, as who knows – Arthur could work for Apple one day as a coder, and I love to encourage Bea’s interest in tech (but she isn’t as naturally into it as Artie). So I try to balance the stuff I’m not keen on (how utterly immersive it can be, occasionally making them stressed and anxious), with the good stuff (like in this instance, learning about engineering).

Would you try Labo? Have you already got it? What’s your take on it? Let me know!

Disclaimer: Nintendo sent me some free stuff to try but no money changed hands and this review is totally honest.

If you fancy buying the Nintendo Switch or the Nintendo Labo then here are some links to Amazon (these are affiliate links so I earn a small commission if you click and buy).

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