There are a lot of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) toys on the market these days, which is awesome…but can also be intimidating. Learning, building, creating and imaginative play are fantastic, it’s exactly what we want for our kids, but if they don’t play with it, what’s the point? Toys have to be appealing, engaging and fun. Tinkineer sent me their Marbleocity Skate Park to test out with my daughter.
As soon as Penny saw the picture on the box, she let out an “OH MY GOD THAT LOOKS AWESOME!” She was definitely interested. The test would be: would she stay interested?
The Marbleocity Skate Park, like all the Marbleocity products is made out of real wood, which already differentiates it from most toys on the market. Each of the approximately 70 pieces is laser cut and fairly easy to push out of the 3 wood sheets. Glue is required for the build and wax paper is helpful (though optional) as a work surface. The instructional manual starts with a graphic novel that explains a physics concept in an entertaining little story. The story, of course, relates to the toy, which, in turn, reinforces the lesson. Ah, the circle of life.
This is a building toy and requires time and patience, but the steps are broken down into five approximately one-hour increments. This was a learning experience for my 8 year old daughter and myself. I am not “handy” or patient or good at reading ahead. It is important to read ahead. Mistakes were made…but nothing I couldn’t recover from. I sometimes had to pry apart glued pieces because I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing.
Because I was uncomfortable with the process, I took the lead and did most of the building on Day 1. As I fell into a routine and understood the language of the directions, I felt more comfortable letting my daughter take the reins on subsequent days. Between the written instructions and the pictures, we figured out what needed to be done with minimal frustration. Some of the fits were tighter than I would have expected and we read and re-read instructions to confirm we were performing the task as required.
Once we got into a rhythm, Penny and I would read the instructions, flip back to the page that showed which numbered part was which, punch out that part, she’d glue and, depending on how delicate or difficult the task, one of us would install the piece. There is a tool to “check square,” which is important if if you want the Skate Park to work once the job is done. (This is, by the way, an expression I was unfamiliar with, but it just means that some of the parts need to be at 90 degree angles.)
The suggested age for the Marbleocity Skate Park is 12+, which sounds about right to me. Penny is 8 years old and I think she would have gotten frustrated and confused by the build on her own, but it was a perfect activity to do together. The hour long sessions made it feel like we were really doing something and making progress each day, but they were also nice because they gave a definite end point. When one (or both) of us started getting frustrated, the other would say something like “Look, just two more steps and we’re done for the night. We got this!”
Once done, the Marbleocity Skate Park works as a standalone toy or connected to another Marbleocity product (though it cannot be taken apart and rebuilt), and the whole thing can be automated. It also just looks damn good. The Skate Park retails for $59.99 and can be purchased on the Tinkineer website. Penny and I were really proud of ourselves and had fun making the Skate Park, which is now displayed as a work of art and an accomplishment in her room, but can also be played with and added to.
DISCLOSURE: I was provided a sample toy to review, all opinions are my own.