The holiday season is almost here! If you’re like me, you’ve been keeping an eye out for gifts since October.
I have a big problem in that I want everything I purchase to have the most bang for my buck. In other words, if it doesn’t get used till it breaks, I somehow feel like it wasn’t value for money. I know that’s not always the right way to look at it but it’s been my mindset on most things since probably high school. I really need to balance out this mindset and it’s work in progress.
Anyway. So now that I have to start thinking about what to get my children for Christmas, I figured it’s best to start with an inventory and assessment. What toys do we already have? And how much are they being used and played with? What do we keep on the shelf, keep but take out of rotation, and what do we donate?
Today, I’m starting with a look at our open-ended building toys. Here’s what we have:
- Magformers. (Canada here) This is an awesome toy and I love how our set has these giant cards that Zachary can use as a template to help him build some of the structures. It’s been sitting cold on the shelf for a while, but I think it’s mainly because once the structures are built, you can’t exactly haul them around and play with them. The boys have this thing now where they love building guns and swords and so they’re more likely to use a toy that they can build and then play with it as a pretend gun or sword. However I can see so much STEM potential in the Magformers, so maybe it will end up being on our learning shelf rather than toy shelf.
- Junior Engineers Construction Set. We’ve had this toy since Matthew was only 3 or 4 years old, so it’s going on 7 years strong! It’s been played with by Matthew and cousins, moved across the globe to Canada, and continued to be played with by both my kids since Zachary was only a toddler. I cannot believe how durable this product is. It’s plastic, but it’s some serious plastic. The boys have made everything from catapults to cameras. When Zach was younger, I made a hammering activity using this toy. My favourite feature though is the compartmentalized tote that it comes in — every organized mom’s dream! It’s an older toy, but one that’s definitely worth checking out.
- Klikko. This was a gift from grandma this summer and Zachary was just slightly over 4 years old. His fine motor skills weren’t as developed back then so he often got frustrated with the toy. It was quickly forgotten in the summer, so I kept it away with the intention of bringing it out again in about 6 months or so to see if Zach would be ready for it. Imagine my surprise when he suddenly requested for it about a month ago — it’s like he stored it in his memory to be pulled out when he’s ready (kind of like what I did physically.) Long story short, the toy has been in his room for a month and he loves it. The best part is: I just discovered that you can use it to teach fractions and geometry! Now there’s my bang for buck that I love.
- Gears. (Canada here) This one goes in and out of season. But it does get picked up and played with voluntarily. The problem with it is that because Zach is in a “creation” phase right now, he has a tendency to want to create a pretend object using this toy. So he assembles it together to make a chair or a building for example. Not that it’s a problem, it’s just that there are other toys better suited for that purpose. This toy has a wonderful logic, reasoning and problem solving aspect to it though, so perhaps it will see more use when Zach is 5 years old.
- Q-ba maze 2.0. (Canada here) This is a marble run toy that was last year’s Christmas gift from our neighbour. Initially I thought it wouldn’t be a hit since we already have a wooden marble run set, however I was wrong. It turns out Zach doesn’t quite favour our wooden marble run because it doesn’t lock in place. It topples easily and frustrates him. The Q-ba maze however, has interlocking pieces and can be built up pretty tall. I have to say that the Hape Quadrilla (Canada here) looks like a pretty awesome alternative — the Wall Street Journal has an article about how these toys teaches kids to code.
- Wooden blocks. (Canada here) Unfortunately these have been abandoned in favour of the other open-ended toys. I still like their educational value though. This is a tough one.
So bottom line for our inventory of open-ended building toys? I would keep the Junior Engineers, Klikko and Q-Ba Maze out on the toy shelf since they are already being played with on an extremely regular basis. I will most probably take the Gears out of rotation for now and reintroduce it next summer. I will also take the Magformers out of rotation, however need to figure out how to incorporate it into our Math shelf as a learning tool.
Unfortunately I think the time has come to donate the Wooden Blocks unless I can figure out how to use it as a learning tool. Ooh … perhaps use it as a Reggio inspired invitation or provocation? 🤔 If you have any ideas, please let me know! What are some of your kid’s favourite open-ended building toys?