Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Bamboo Builder Marble Runs

Bamboo Builder Marble Runs

Fall 2017 Toys
Ages: 4 & Up
Manufacturer: Fat Brain Toys
Price: $139.95

The 168 piece Bamboo Builder Marble Run set includes sturdy bamboo pieces, marbles, ramps, spirals, track hole covers, connectors and tunnels (or shafts, depending on your perspective). Everything feels good to hold; the appealing colors are from water-based paints. The clever rope-loops corral the marbles and a storage bag will hold many pieces. The "instruction manual" is more an explanation of the function of each color coded piece than a doctrine for detailed assembly.

Our many and varied testing experiences demonstrated that it takes a little while (several sessions of play and with initial adult assistance) to master assembly. Repetition (and some guidance) is key for the success of this toy— and that's the appeal and the point— for children (or any of us for that matter) to learn, they must be challenged, through trial and error, and grow with each session. When asking a 9-year old builder if he thought the Marble Run was difficult to assemble, he responded: "I like a challenge. It makes me think I can do better."

Some of the children wanted immediate gratification–quickly trying to roll the marbles before the pieces were properly attached; delayed gratification was another welcomed lesson. As was cooperative play. Parents, as well as older siblings, were eager to help and explain the process to younger ones so they could build, play, and learn together.

Parents' Choice Foundation's PlayAbility Scale™ rated the Bamboo Builder Marble Run very strong in developing cognitive skills including problem solving and critical thinking, as well as visual and motor skills. Added benefits were vocabulary (symmetric, elevate, alternate, spiral, connectors, base support, track, direction adapter, three-way junction, one & two direction cylinder, accelerator ramp, configuration) and the many STEM lessons learned through play.

Kathy Smith   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Kathy Smith has been leading preschool classes through playful learning for more than 25 years. Her tales of "Who is messier, 'Miss Kathy' or the children?" is a comedy act in the making. Family friendly, of course.

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