For this gift ideas and review post, I thought I’d give you a little feed back on a type of toy we’ve had at least three different versions of around our house over the past few years: Marble Runs.
A Good Gift Idea
We began our experience with marble ones with one like this one (although it was NOT this brand). My son really enjoyed it, and I think it’s actually still here at the house somewhere. The problem with this particular set was that it was too complicated and wobbly for a child under 5 to put together on his own. The age recommendations on these are usually 3 and up, and while that’s a great age to enjoy playing with the ASSEMBLED marble run, children of that age are going to need quite a bit of hands on assistance getting the run assembled in the first place, and reassembled after it gets bumped into and knocked over or knocked apart by the child playing with it. It’s also just complicated to figure out how to put these together, especially for a younger child. It’s not a bad toy at all, but it just wasn’t the marble run experience we were really looking for.
A Better Gift Idea
Marble runs in general still appealed to us as a toy. I love the idea of assembling and thinking through the physics of a marble run, plus they’re just plain fun! So, we decided to try a more classic approach and go with a wooden set. This is a VERY nice marble run and it’s a set we plan to keep for a long time, but again, it was a set we really purchased too soon. We’ve had it for 3 years and my children (now 5 and 7) are just now becoming able to really play with it by themselves. So, if you’re thinking about a wooden set like this one, definitely wait until a child is at least 5 or 6 to invest in one. There’s no need to be in a hurry. They are really beautiful sets and can be enjoyed for years to come.
And finally, I happened to find these marble runs by Mindware earlier this year. These are GREAT, and perfect for kids of lots of ages. They are sturdy and not easily knocked over. The pieces are of a uniform size, so they fit together fairly easily and can be handled by small hands. Like most marble runs, they come with a few suggested runs to build, but they also leave plenty to the imagination. We have thoroughly enjoyed ours! My only complaint about the product is the packaging, which was obviously designed to appeal to adults and not to children. The packaging makes the toy look a whole lot less fun than it really is! On the other hand, I do like the shape of the box and I appreciate that it’s sturdy and the toy packs back into it with very little effort, and it can be stored on a shelf more easily than the two runs that I mentioned above. Those are all nice features in my book. There are also multiple sets of runs (at varying price points) made my Mindware, and the pieces are interchangeable, so if you enjoy one set, it’s something that can be added to and expanded upon to give you more options.
So, while really any of these three marble runs would make a nice gift for someone, my favorite, especially for children in the 4-8 year old range, would be the Q-BA-Maze by Mindware.