Whether you’re an avid tinkerer or just looking for something to get your gears turning, the Marbleocity Skate Park Maker Kit has something worth your time.
There’s more than meets the eye with Tinkineer’s Marbleocity Skate Park Maker Kit, from PlayMonster. During its construction, the marble track teaches kids beginner physics concepts, such as velocity and centripetal force.
While this might not sound appealing to most kids at first, this STEM toy makes these concepts and others fun to learn thanks to the excitement that comes out of successfully assembling the track. It takes about three to five hours to finish, and the steps are divided into separate “days” that make the more than 80 pieces seem less intimidating. Of course, kids can finish the track in one day if they want, they just have to make sure they leave time for the glue to dry.
Patience is a definite requirement for the construction process. The pieces won’t always stick perfectly on the first try, and kids risk breaking them if they press too hard. Since my experience with building toys stops with LEGOs, I expected to have a lot more issues with the construction than I did. However, the instructions are easy to follow as long as kids take their time.
Be prepared for a bit of mess—by the end of the five-hour building process, my hands were sticky with glue and sprinkled with little wood shavings. Lay out some wax paper and use toothpicks or Q-tips for the glue to help keep your work area—and your kid—clean while they tinker with the set. (Also: You’ll have to provide your own glue to assemble the park.)
The finished product is an elaborate set of gears and ramps that resembles a skate park, which brings to life to set’s included comic book, “The Tinkineers in Skate Park Lark.” The comic book further illustrates the concepts kids will learn about while they build the set in a more colorful, amusing form.
Once kids are done building, it’s time to get rolling. As they turn the lever and get the gears turning, the eight marbles will take one of two courses on the track: they’ll either launch off a ramp onto a set of seven “stairs” to zigzag through, or they’ll glide down a ramp onto a structure that resembles a grind rail skateboarders use.
The marbles will occasionally roll into crevices and corners and get stuck if kids aren’t careful, so to ensure their creation works seamlessly, they have to slowly turn the lever counter-clockwise, otherwise they risk the marbles getting caught in the gears. As long as they keep the gears spinning at a steady pace, physics handles the rest, and the marbles will continue rolling around the course without much of a hitch.
The toy is a hit as both a learning toy and a confidence booster—kids can take pride in knowing they made something so elaborate that operates like a machine, and they can walk away from the project with some fresh physics knowledge.