The 10 Best Marble Runs
10. Toto Marbulous See-Through
9. Galt Toys Super
8. Discovery Toys Marbleworks Starter Set
7. Quercetti Skyrail
6. USA Toyz
5. Hape Quadrilla
4. MindWare Q-Ba-Maze 2.0
3. Marble Genius Super Set
2. Funtok 105
1. Hape Quadrilla Twist and Rail
Choosing Toys That Challenge And Amuse
Every child wants to be engaged and challenged, therefore, playtime with the right orchestration by a parent or caregiver can amount to more than a period of amusement, but also of learning and growth both cognitively and physiologically. It will benefit a youngster well beyond the time her or she cleans up the toys and moves on to the next activity.
When it comes to younger children, especially those in their toddler years, play is not only one way to help foster these skills, it is in fact the ideal way. The importance of play cannot be stated unequivocally enough, and in fact no less of a body than the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has noted that play should be a right for every child the world over.
When exposed top to the right objects and activities (or in other words the right toys and playtime), a child can help develop everything from dexterity to emotional fortitude to cooperation skills to patience. On the other hand, play is also a chance for a child to have fun in a stress-free environment in which they can feel as though they are in control of themselves and the activities, which helps to develop an advanced sense of self confidence and the problem solving skills every one of us needs to possess throughout life.
The ideal playtime session involves choices facilitated by an adult caregiver or educator, but which feels like an experience of open opportunity. A child offered two or three toys or activities as opposed to being presented just one option will feel as though he or she is empowered to make a choice, while in practice the adult has directed the play activity by limiting the number of options. On the other pole, offering too many options for toy or activity can overwhelm a young mind, making it difficult for them to successfully make any choice and ultimately serving to be counterproductive.
When selecting toys for encouraging a productive, engaging playtime, consider those that operate on several cognitive levels. Blocks require proper associations of shapes and necessitate spatial reasoning, and may incorporate colors, numbers, and letters. Puzzles involve shapes and images (and even artwork). And once a child is ready for toys that involve both building and play -- toys that require planning and predictions prior to use, e.g. -- they are entering a whole new level of exciting and challenging play.
Choosing The Best Marble Run For Your Youngster
A marble run is an ideal toy for many inquisitive youngsters. Marble runs involve careful planning prior to execution, with a child required to think through the path a marble might take, a design and appearance he or she will enjoy, and a structure that will actually stand up on its own and allow a marble to roll smoothly along on its way.
Marble runs vary in complexity, with some involving oddities like elevators and loops. Whole other options are made from more basic wooden sections that simply channel a marble downward using gravity. A set falling into the former category can be enjoyed by kids well into their elementary years thanks to their potential for ever more elaborate, challenging designs. However, such an option may confuse and confound a younger child, frustrating them rather than encouraging enjoyable exploration.
Simpler sets may absorb a toddler for hours as he or she engages with their marble run using both trial and error experimentation and hones those critical thinking and planning skills. But of course a set too simple for an older child (or a toddler of sharp intellect) will quickly become an elaborate paper weight.
When in doubt, choose a marble run that might be slightly advanced for your child or student; you can always put it away for a few months and try again later. And also consider only offering some of the pieces initially. A child can grow comfortable with the planning and construction involved with a marble run using part of the set, and then enjoy adding more and more components over time.
Just be sure to note that marble runs contain many pieces, certainly including the actual marbles, that are a choking hazard for small children. Adult supervision is needed if there is any chance of this danger.
Integrating A Marble Run Into Learning
Beyond the critical thinking skills and the physical mechanics that are inherent in playing with a marble run, these classic toys offer myriad other opportunities for learning and exploration. A parent or caregiver can integrate something as simple as counting skills into marble run play, asking a child to choose and use a certain number of marbles at a time or to count each as they send them on their "run."
Marble runs also allow for easy practice with colors, though the purchase of additional marbles might be required. Marble runs can also help a child practice creating patterns, by sending a specified arrangement of marble colors or types down the run in the right order.
As a child grows and learns, a marble run can even be used to start understanding physical forces like gravity and centrifugal force (or centripetal force for the truly advanced child) and he or she can try integrating their marble run into other systems, such as by linking them with a set of dominoes or controlling some aspects of the marble run with other devices, such as simple machines or even electronics.