Over the past few months, we’ve had a few different Geomag kits come in, and my kids have dove into them and have had a lot of fun. So, now that they’ve been playing with them for a bit, it’s time to give you our take on three of their offerings.
Geomag has been creating these sorts of learn-through-play toys since 1998, and have a wide variety of options. Would kids like these rather than the standard sort of, say, Lego kits? Well, if my house is any indication, absolutely. We’ve had other magnetic tile kits in the house, and these from Geomag got the same sort of attention, with figuring out what could be built and what they could do.
The one that is the most free-form (and sort of an introductory level to the concept of building with magnets) would be the Geomag Supercolor 35 ($15). This is very much a build-what-you-want sort of a kit, and my youngest child grabbed these and quickly started to build all sorts of little things. While you might balk at picking up yet another plastic toy for your kids, take heart, as these are made out of recycled plastic. I also rather liked the fact that you’ve got a small storage box that holds the magnetic rods and steel spheres all in one contained space.
Sure, that leaves you with the plastic panels you can insert into your creations needing to be stored, but a zip-top bag quickly handles that, as well as giving you a spot to slide the storage box into for keeping things organized. While our older kids checked this kit out, it really was the domain of our youngest. And I’d say that’s where you should think to aim this kit as well – towards younger hands to get them used to working with magnets (and not trying to put the steel spheres in their mouths).
For our (and your) older kids, there’s the Geomag Mechanics lineup. While these kits emphasize play, you’re also learning at the same time. The first kit they got into playing with was the Geomag Mechanics Challenge Goal ($23.99). At it’s basic level, you’re building a small catapult that’s powered by magnets to shoot at an opposing goal. There’s also a bit of building here as well, as you’re having to assembly the plastic bits to build not only the cannon, but also the target section.
Then, once it’s all together, it turns into figuring out the angles to fire at, and how close (or how far away) to be to the intended target. This one got played with quite a bit, and when we had some friends over, all of the kids were all over this set, building what they could and then seeing how far they could shoot the spheres. Which, that’s worth noting – you’re going to need to do this in a spot where an errant shot isn’t going to break a piece of glass or anything, as the balls have a bit of mass to them. Still, though, this is something that you can have a lot of repeat fun with. No storage container here, but again, a zip top bag will see you through.
If firing dense metal balls through the air doesn’t seem like a good idea, perhaps you’d like your kids instead to learn about gravity with the Geomag Gravity Loops & Turns ($57). You can think of this as a sort of marble run toy, except with the dial turned all the way up to 11. With the use of the magnets, you can get some good speeds going on these tracks, and do things like vertical loops, and even have the spheres traveling and passing their energy on to another one (aka, run into each other) and thus continue on into the next section.
While it was originally our older kids who were playing with this when we first got it, it quickly became something our middle child was the most interested in. She’s right on the cusp of the age range for this toy, and that was evident. For building this, you do need to keep things properly aligned, and make sure everything is clicked in together properly. So, you’ll want to assess your own child’s skill level, and perhaps plan to help to build it out with them. For us, we set it into a baking sheet, to help corral the pieces, as well as catch any errant spheres from a loose track piece.
This was by far the most complex kit of the three we were playing around with, but it also builds on what you see from the earlier ones. In fact, while coloration is different, you can see that it’s really the same components across each of these kits. This means that your child should be familiar when you get a new one in. Also, it means that you could feasibly mix-and-match or combine kits to come up with your own experiments and creations, just as you would with any good building kit.
While the magnetic tiles are great for building (and rebuilding) quick and simple structures to play with, the Geomag kits really do bring a sense of learning how things work, and building something that can actually, well, do something instead of just sit there and have other toys or figures sit on top of it. Don’t get me wrong – you’re not going to be setting them down for a test on mechanics and magnetism afterwards. They’re playing, but it should make those concepts easier for them to understand down the road, as they’ve built and experienced the things their books are talking about.
The three kits we looked at are just a small part of the Geomag catalog, and cover a few different age ranges. They’ve got quite a number of different kits – some differentiated just by colors and number of pieces, with others getting into the specific sort of things that you’re trying to build and learn. You can check out the full range at their website, and no doubt find them at your favorite local retailer. geomagworld.com