Tag Archives: Play Merrily

Review: Edtoy Magnamobiles

Edtoy Magnamobiles from Play Merrily Toys

Last year, when choosing some of our favourite things from Play Merrily, I mentioned how I loved the look of the Edtoy range so when the chance to review two of the vehicles came up, I asked very, very nicely if we could be chosen! We were sent two of the Magnamobiles to play with: an SUV and a racing car.

Play

Edtoy Magnamobiles SUV and Racing Car in pieces
Edtoy Magnamobiles are wooden vehicles made from about nine pieces that cleverly click together due to rotating magnets. The pieces will therefore always connect, and never repel each other.

Because of the strength of the magnets, they can be played with just like any other cars and vehicles – although if they have a severe crash, they might need to be rebuilt!

They can also be taken apart and played with as a construction toy. There is plenty of play value with these toys covering imaginative, creative and construction play. The cars are easy to manipulate for small hands and manipulation of the pieces will improve fine motor skills.

This video shows how the pieces click together to build the racing car:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSuZHn0DUpE]

MG (6) and DG (4) both loved this addition to their car box, and cars became the central focus of their imaginative play for several days after the Magnamobiles arrived. Creating new cars from the pieces was a huge hit. The only reason I don’t have any pictures of them playing is because they’re at school all day and the light is terrible in the evening so the pictures are rubbish!

Here’s some playing with the pieces to construct new vehicles – I’m nowhere near as creative as my children are I’m afraid! Note that the wheeled piece can be either side up to make different creations:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99yT0Jm_Di4]

Practicalities

The first thing I want to point out about these cars, which has very little to do with the cars themselves, is that the boxes are very easy to open and unpack. You know the scene: it’s Christmas (or Birthday) morning, the shiny wrapping paper has been torn off, the boxes have been played with, and now your little one wants to play with what’s inside! The box is opened, and… two hours later you’ve at last finished untwisting wire tags, snipping through plastic ties, tearing apart cardboard packaging that appears to be glued to the toy. With the Edtoy Magnamobiles, you open the box, lift out the contents and hey presto there’s a toy to play with. This really is a huge selling point for me!

These vehicles are exceptionally good quality. They’re made from chunky pieces of wood that are easy for small hands to grasp and manipulate. Although the packaging says they are suitable for age 3+, this is probably due to the magnets. With supervision, I think children from around 18 months will get lots out of these and interest in them should hold for many years.

The magnets are strong enough to withstand the cars getting battered. I made two videos testing the magnets, which you can view on YouTube. Showing magnet strength can be found here, and magnet rotation can be seen here. The click when the magnets come together is very satisfying, and you might notice in the videos above that I love twisting the pieces to hear the magnets click!

The number of pieces quoted on the outside of the box is puzzling. The vehicles include two plastic pieces that connect the wheels together, and these seem to be included in the count. But even so, that makes ten total pieces for the SUV rather than nine. I’m not sure what the plastic connectors are for, as they restrict wheel movement and look more like packaging.

There are some limitations to how you can fit the pieces together due to magnet configuration. As you can see in the picture below, they are either single or in pairs and you can only connect them if the configurations match. However, this also adds to creative skills needed for young children to put them together, which can only be a good thing.

Edtoy magnets

Price

Edtoy Magnamobiles with other cars for scale

The image above shows the two Magnamobiles next to an Imaginext Motorised Batmobile (RRP approx £26) and a Wow Toys Dynamite Daisy (RRP approx £11) plus a standard Corgi-style car for scale. Compared to the plastic vehicles, the price of £17.95 (correct November 2013) is in the same range. Given the added play value of being able to mix-n-match to create your own vehicle, this makes the range very attractively priced.

Summary
A great toy with varied playability. The limitation in connecting pieces due to magnet configuration is a little frustrating, but the durability and play value more than make up for it. A single vehicle contains lots of play value and creativity in itself, having more than one just increases the fun. MG (6) and DG (4) have played with them daily since they arrived and think they are “brilliant” and “fun”. In MG’s phrasing, they are one thousand fun! There are lots of other vehicles to choose from, including a fire engine, buldozer, helicoptor and ambulance. Recommended for children from 18 months to 8 years, and their parents.

Disclosure: We were sent two Edtoy Magnamobiles by Play Merrily Toys in exchange for an honest review.

Play Merrily and Craft Merrily

With it now being reasonable to talk about and plan for Christmas in a serious manner, I thought I’d share some of my favourite online places to get presents from. The first of these, PlayMerrily, is my go-to shop for presents all year round. I have been a huge fan for several years, I think they price very reasonably and they’re an example to all small businesses with their customer service and online presence. The ranges are excellent, and I can happily spend hours (seriously!) browsing through. They test and stock the best new imaginative and educational toys available.

There’s been the Dream Toys list (yuck in my opinion!) and the Slow Toys list (yay!) but here are my top five Christmas presents from PlayMerrily based on my daughters’ (and friends) testing:

Hama Beads
36,000 Hama Beads!I became a convert to Hama Beads only about a year ago. I’d seen the midi sized beads in the shops but they looked too small for my girls. I was encouraged to try the Maxi beads (My First Hama Duck Car & Girl Set) and they were an instant hit. We quickly moved onto the midi beads. There are so many things you can do with the beads – not just actually making designs but colour sorting, making bowls and all sorts of decorations by melting in the oven. Bead Merrily and Simple Crafts have loads of ideas. So my first gift recommendation is either one of these box sets if you’ve not tried Hama before or go wild and treat the family to an enormous tub of beads.

Budkins Dolls
Budkins Heart of London Gift PackThere are so many Budkins dolls to choose from, I’ve written about them and their bus before. I love how versatile these little dolls are and they are the centre of many, many imaginative games in this house. They cover many traditional tales, fairies, knights and pirates so are perfect for most interests. They may seem expensive for a small doll but they are robust. Personally I’d spend the money on the dolls and then make a cardboard house or pirate ship with your children to play with, they’ll probably turn an empty cardboard box into whatever they imagine anyway 🙂 MG and DG’s interests have been fairies and pirates, so that’s most of the dolls we have. I tend to ensure they have a good mix of genders and ethnicity, and avoid anything overly stereotypical!

Miniland Snap Circuits
Miniland Electric Circuit Kit - Electrokit 88 ExperimentsThese kits are so much fun! We have the Electrokit but I’m so close to buying the Car and Boat kit. [update 2013: both kits have now been thoroughly tested, and are well played with!] Both these are snap circuits – the electronics are housed in robust pieces that ‘snap’ together (like poppers on clothes) to make the circuits. There’s a huge booklet in the Electrokit listing the 88 circuits (yes, there are 88 but lots of them just involve swapping one switch for another etc, even so there are still plenty of options – there are not 88 pieces, but enough for plenty of play) plus another booklet on electricity. The set is aimed at 8+ so to be honest we haven’t read through the educational booklet as it’s above their level but the kit is still more than usable with 3 and 5 year olds (with supervision in case younger children break the lightbulb and fan which are more delicate); the 5/6 year olds who’ve played with it have managed to follow the circuit diagrams without supervision. Great hands-on learning with lots of playing around finding out what happens with different layouts. The fan can get so fast then if you turn the switch off the plastic bit flies into the air which puts all of us in hoots 🙂

Wooden Train Set
Bigjigs Wooden City Road & Railway SetI think wooden railways are fantastic, they have tons of play value and every time they’re different because you make the tracks in different ways. We’ve been collecting various sets and add-ons since MG was about one so we have a huge collection. Neither of my girls have been that interested in puzzles, but they’ll put train track together which I think covers that skill very well. There are phases when the track is out constantly, and times when it’s not seen for weeks on end (we’re in one of those at the moment so I expect they’ll come back in fashion again soon!) I’ve generally bought accessories separately rather than huge sets but for an easy one-box present, there are a huge variety of starter sets available. BigJigs are great value for money for both rail and road, and I think if I was starting from scratch then this combined road and rail set with station and parking spaces or this wonderful rail set with airport (including runway!), bridges, station and garage would be great.

Magnetic Blocks & Building Sets
Edtoy Smart Block - ArchitectureMagnetic wooden building blocks really add an extra dimension to building blocks. We’ve got the John Crane set (reviewed here) but I love the look of the Edtoy sets which weren’t available when I was looking for magnetic blocks. If my girls were interested, I’d start with the architecture set and maybe a fire engine or helicopter, but they’ve started on my old Lego sets for their construction needs so I can’t justify more wooden blocks. These look fantastic though and knowing PlayMerrily’s attention to quality I’m adding them to my recommendations! [update 2013: The Edtoy vehicles are excellent.]

At the moment almost everything at PlayMerrily has 10% off so it’s the perfect time to get your Christmas shopping in. I think the discount is on until the end of November, but do check with them to be sure. [deleted 2012 offer]

Hama Bead Pattern: Union Flag

The summer of Olympics and Diamond Jubilee have ignited an interest in flags with MG, especially the union flag so she’s been drawing and making flags and we looked up how the Union Flag is made from St Andrew’s, St George’s and St Patrick’s crosses.

Hama Bead Union Flag plus St Andrew, St George & St Patrick crosses (as squares)

My blogging completely slid over the summer holidays, plus MG and DG have a tendency to strip naked making photo taking opportunities few and far between 😆 So I’m a little late to the party, so to speak, but I’ve never planned on being topical!

Thanks to Merry at Patch of Puddles and the Merrily Empire, we have the Hama Bead bug! MG mainly loves making rainbow patterns, DG puts beads on randomly. Other than plenty of beads, they love the Maxi Bead Set I reviewed here, and this transparent board for midi beads. For the Union Flag pattern, I used a large square board that came in this Dinosaur kit but this transparent square board would be perfect as the design can be viewed through it.

The gaps in the circle aren’t intentional, I just haven’t worked out how to iron the designs to make them robust enough for MG & DG’s playing yet!

After making my Union Flag design, I found that Merry had already done a much better and proper union flag at Bead Merrily plus almost identical square flag designs but I’m still posting mine up!

You can download the design here, I’ve tried to make it to match the size of the beads so it can be easily followed or put under a transparent board. You need to print it full size on a sheet of A4 to use as a pattern.

Hama Bead Pattern: Union Flag

Note: Links are not affiliate links and all products mentioned on this page are ones I have purchased myself. Please see my review policy.

John Crane GoGo Magnetic Blocks

I bought these blocks about six months ago and they have been very popular with MG and DG from the start. The box contains 32 wooden blocks and 2 axles, 28 of the blocks have magnets on some sides and 4 are wheels. There is a sheet with twenty ideas of things to build and a cotton bag for keeping the bricks in if you don’t keep the box. The box has been sturdy enough to survive the last six months intact so we’ve used that instead of the bag, apart from when the blocks turn into shopping for other imaginative play.

The magnets in these blocks are quite strong but are also very easy to part so constructions can be made and played with but easily re-made when required. I managed to hold up 9 bricks under one magnet, but that was stretching the magnet’s strength. In the picture there are seven bricks held by one magnet, and that fell apart soon after, but they are that strong. There are more than enough blocks for one child to construct and play. When both MG and DG use the blocks together it’s possible but not as much fun for them, but they’re sisters so fight over everything most of the time 😆

The age says 3+ but these blocks are great for toddlers because they reduce the frustration of blocks falling apart. Of course you need to be careful with magnets but these are well fitted into the blocks and after six months of being battered around they’re showing no signs of wear so it’s extremely unlikely that the magnets would stray and the blocks are big enough to be difficult to swallow!

One of the things I love best is that you can build shapes that don’t quite follow the rules of gravity. It makes for some fun constructions. MG has followed some of the patterns because she likes to do that, and DG has insisted I make something from the patterns for her but generally they both make their own constructions and the ease in which the blocks connect mean even younger children can make fairly complex constructions.

I was going to write that the only downside is the price, when compared to non-magnetic blocks they do seem expensive. However I’ve just done some searching online (Google, Amazon and eBay) and found that (a) there are not many magnetic building block sets available in the first place, (b) these John Crane / GoGo blocks appear to be the best value for wooden magnetic blocks and (c) Play Merrily are very competitively priced.

These are not just standard building blocks though, they are magnetic and this does add significantly to the play value. MG and DG barely look at “ordinary” building blocks (and we have some really beautiful Haba ones) but will play with these for hours. Not to mention all the educational value they’re getting learning about forces and gravity and magnets of course… We love these blocks and don’t hesitate in recommending them.

Disclaimer: I was not sent these blocks by PlayMerrily for review but I have had a discount account with PlayMerrily since August 2011 and therefore paid a reduced price for this product. All my reviews have been written because I loved the products and are for items I freely chose to buy for my daughters, unless otherwise stated. I choose to review for PlayMerrily because of their fantastic and friendly service.

BigJigs Roadway Zebra Crossing Set

When Merry from Patch of Puddles put out a Twitter call for reviewers for Manhattan Toy products, I jumped at the chance before remembering that actually I don’t have any children young enough any more… However Merry also offered products from the BigJigs Road and Rail series, which we love.

It is no secret that I adore wooden toys, and I do think that wooden rail sets are up there as one of the ‘must have’ toys for children (right up the top of the list with boxes, sticks and mud!) I’ve been fortunate to be sent the BigJigs Level Crossing Set to test for compatibility with other Road sets, and when I was looking at that I fell for the Zebra Crossing Set which Merry kindly sent to us for review.

The first lovely surprise on receiving the package was how the set was presented in its box. Often these sets are in closed boxes with only pictures on the outside but with this you can see what you’re actually getting, which was very exciting for DG as she helped me unwrap.

The box had already been torn before I took the picture, but I glued it back together. Sharp eyes will see the join! The box has been battered somewhat so just look at the lovely things inside...

As a hit on its own, it worked as DG instantly tore the box open and started playing (and has selected it independently on many occasions since). However, we do have other road and rail pieces so these were soon added into play, along with other cars and trains. DG got the first play because MG was at school when the parcel arrived, but MG has also stolen it from DG played with it regularly too.

Here's the Zebra Crossing in action with some Plan City roadway. DG is driving a train carriage over the road bridge, of course... This is a set-up in order to take the picture because I stupidly didn't take any when the girls were actually playing with the crossing, but it looks fab doesn't it?!

This set includes a zebra crossing road piece, two other road pieces, one car, two orange beacons, a street lamp, a children crossing warning sign and two wooden children. The fact that the whole set is based on UK road signs is a huge bonus, and therefore can also be used in conversations to talk about how to cross safely. My children quite enjoyed running over the wooden people at this point, I don’t think that was quite what I meant to get across to them!

Zebra Crossing Set and Level Crossing (no other sets included in this picture). Please don't take the fact that our Level Crossing is broken as any sign of the quality of the product. It's just my children leave their toys in weird places and some idiot in big boots didn't notice it was on the floor where it shouldn't have been and stepped on it *cough*

As a toy in isolation, this set probably isn’t quite enough to keep attention for too long. However, it doesn’t need a huge amount to give it longer play life. It would be great with one of the starter road sets, but the addition of the Level Crossing Set not only gives a connection to any existing rail sets you may have but also includes two slopes that make the transition from carpet road to wooden road easier for the cars, trains, trucks or whatever vehicles the children have chosen to use.

There's a reason she's called Destructo-Girl... I think she might be running a child over in this, back to the drawing board with road sense education...

All in all, a definite hit with MG and DG, and a great addition to any wooden road and/or rail sets. I’m really grateful to Merry for giving me the opportunity to review this. If you don’t already read Merry’s blog then I also heartily recommend going to Patch of Puddles to catch up.

Disclaimer: We were sent a BigJigs Zebra Crossing Set from Play Merrily Toys in exchange for a review post. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own.

John Crane Wooden Tube Sorting Board

I bought this to put aside for Christmas so this is a sneak-peek review before it’s been really played with. I thought my two-year old would enjoy this (she likes putting things inside each other) and as she was napping I opened the box to have a look inside.

“Ooh, can I have that?” asked my 4.5 year old

“Okay… It’s a present for Christmas so you can’t have it but you can test it out for me.” I handed it over.

She put all the tubes in their spaces on the board, matched the shades of colours inside each other and then mixed up the colours putting them inside each other.

“So what do you think?” I asked.

“It’s boring.” she said, as she made a tower with all the cylinders and then started matching the sizes together again. Eventually I managed to retrieve all the pieces and pack it back away for Christmas before her sister woke up. 🙂

I’m not sure what the game is, as there were no instructions in the box, but I’m sure my girls will make up many games themselves. They never follow directions anyway! I really liked this sorting board. It’s got tons of educational appeal: different diameter cylinders (biggest/smallest) shades of colour (lighter/darker) making towers fitting correct sizes into the board sequencing widest to thinnest, tallest to shortest… It’s a tactile, sensorial game too: the wood is beautifully smooth and the colours are vibrant. It would not be out of place in a Montessori toddler room. Forgetting the educational appeal, its beauty will shout out for children to choose it for play and its versatility will keep it in play again and again.