Another ‘COVID-19 Snow Day’ and a New Box of Tricks.

Education Featured
All Images: Sarah Pinault

It’s time to dig into a new box of tricks. We have Lego-ed, Go-noodled, and gamed our hearts out, it’s time for a blast from the past, bring out the marbles.

While my kids love a good old fashioned game of marbles, aggies and all, right now they are experiencing the marbles of their dad’s youth through a new Marble Run kit. Marble Run is like a vertical maze for you to create and run marbles though. I remember this being popular when I was a kid, but I didn’t have much to do with it. For my kids, this is an ideal toy. It combines their love of construction toys with something new. It pulls in their love of mazes, of moving pieces, of watching things in motion. All three of them love to set something up, and then watch the consequences of what they have done, before tinkering with it some more. In our Marbulous Marble Run kit, they find all these things. And thank goodness, because we have a lot of days at home ahead!

Our kit is a pretty basic kit, certainly geared more towards my younger kids, though all are happy with it. With gears, tunnels, tubes, bells, and slides, you set up a labyrinthine course for your marble to run through. The kit comes with a small guide book containing four levels of construction ability; easy, medium, hard, and hardest. My kids range in age from four to ten, and have all been able to attack one of these levels. All have enjoyed doing the runs in the book, and making up their own adventures. After the first few go rounds, my four year old was pushing away all help and managing quite deftly on her own. Within no time, all had disregarded the guide book, grabbed our other toys, and were incorporating all kinds of things into new inventions of their own. Even trying to get a balloon involved.

Way back before the grandparents lived a mere mile away, when we used to travel frequently to Logan airport, one of our favorite things to do in the arrivals lounge was watch the Kinetic Sculpture. In essence, a giant melodic marble run. This particular one was designed by George Rhoads in 1986, and was called “A Lesson in Futility.” The kids would watch in awe as balls the size of candle pin bowling balls would rise and fall, melodic pings and pangs sounding throughout the hall. You could hear it all the way at the Dunkin’ Donuts, but my kids liked to be pressed right up against the glass. I suppose they wouldn’t be doing that right now.

In Marble Run they get to recreate this for themselves, though the bell is not nearly as loud. The construction and enactment of the toy itself, is anything but a lesson in futility. It is a lesson in many other things however, problem solving, team work, art. It checks of a lot of our pseudo home school boxes, and is a welcome break and sneaky lesson in engineering and gravity! For my youngest, deprived of Pre-School, it is great for the continued development of her motor skills, far less frustrating than her brothers Lego kits. All of my kids struggle with the awareness and managing of their own bodies, and the company also touts this as a great toy for helping kids recognize and develop spatial relationships. The jury is still out on this one, but we’ve tried Karate and Yoga, so this certainly can’t hurt!  At the moment we are five people in a 1200 sq.ft space, and so our testing ground is slightly skewed.

This kit continues to entertain and has become a valuable tool in our quarantine kit. It’s not exactly on Amazons priority list, but is still shipping direct from the company. If you are looking for another tool for your toolkit, this is a great addition. If you are looking for something a little more advanced, or with more moving pieces as it were, check out GeekMom Sophie’s review of next generation Marble Run kits, GraviTrax and Q-Ba-Maze.

GeekMom received a copy of this item for review purposes.

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