Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Toy Review 1: Quadrilla Marble Railway Basic Set
So, the gift-giving holidays of 2008 are over. Phew! As usual, between us, their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, the kids got more than they asked for and more than they needed. Some of it was wonderful and some of it was... well, returnable. I thought that over the next week I'd give reviews of some of the best and worst gifts given to our children, not to brag about what they got, but as a guide to my fellow parents out there.
First up is one of the best toys: the Quadrilla Marble Railway Basic Set. This was actually purchased by me for Airius (on sale through Oompa Toys) after reading every review I could find online. Airius loves to work with his hands but still lacks the fine motor skills needed for writing, drawing, and many other creative endeavors, so I thought this might be a nice step up from the typical building blocks that he's been playing with for years.
My favorite thing about this product is the endless learning opportunities it provides. Each block has its own specific function, so it requires some problem solving skills and a basic grasp of gravity/physics to form an effective marble run. The manufacturer provides a guide with building instructions for several fun configurations, but my kids almost immediately wanted to go into uncharted territory and make their own setups. Awesome!
My biggest complaint about the Quadrilla is that it is touted as being a wooden toy, but there are actually plastic parts to it. Each of the wooden blocks has a small plastic ring at its junction point, and some of the blocks have other plastic bits to guide the marbles. The wooden pieces are beautiful, though, and the blocks are dyed in water-based stains. A lesser complaint is that the structures are a bit delicate once they're set up. It's relatively easy to knock things out of whack while sending down a deluge of marbles, which of course makes the marbles go everywhere, but as long as things don't get too rambunctious it usually stays intact. There are plastic sets that lock together more securely if you don't mind the tradeoff of plastic versus wood. The occassional diversions are great learning opportunities, if you ask me, requiring the kids to slow down and troubleshoot their structure to figure out just where things are going awry.
There are many add-ons for the basic set that can be purchased to keep your child's imagination growing. We haven't yet tried any of these or shown them to the kids because I'm trying to discourage "collector mentality," but we will be keeping them in mind for later gifts if the kids seem interested.
Overall, this is a product I would highly recommend to other parents. Even today, nearly a week after it was opened, all of the kids are enjoying this toy. The Quadrilla is much, much more expensive than its fully plastic counterparts, as is to be expected, but I think the extra price is worth it.
Overall rating (out of 5 stars): ****
Educational value: ****
Ease of use: **** (recommended for the 5 and up crowd especially)
Environmental Friendliness: ** (they get docked extra for misleading advertising)