Today I’m going to talk about the toy that gets played with the most in our house:
I always feel a bit hesitant to blog about toys, because I really don’t want to feed into parents’ feelings of “needing” to buy all.the.toys for their kids.
But what I am passionate about is parents providing good quality, open ended toys for their kids. There’s a lot of choice out there, overwhelmingly so. Occasionally I get messages from parents asking for toy recommendations. And so I have decided to get over my feeling of “feeding into” the culture of “you must have this toy for your kid to be awesome” and publish this blog post that I started writing ages ago.
Less is more when it comes to toys:
In our house we are actually in a (seemingly never-ending) process of paring back the amount of toys we have and focusing on quality over quantity. Less is more, and choosing good open ended toys that will give hours of creative play is something I’m trying to focus on.
I’m now focusing on toys that allow my kids’ creativity to flourish. Toys that last the distance and span a large age range. Toys that give me a chance to have a cup of tea while the kids are deeply engaged in play! So if you’re also interested the same kind of thing, then please, read on.
And then of course I googled them. And was GOBSMACKED at the price. Because guys… these things are EXPENSIVE. Like $200+NZD (depending on the exchange rate) expensive.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t get them out of my mind. I really wanted to get them for our kids. Like as in I obsessed over them for a few months. Deliberating the price. Discussing with my husband. Messaging a few friends who I knew had them. Reading all the reviews I could find. Weighing up whether they would be better than the (much) cheaper version from Kmart (read more about this below).
Because I’d never even seen them in real life.
And I was having a lot of trouble reconciling the fact that I’d never even held them in my hands, yet I was planning on spending $200+ on them! I’m sure some of you can relate.
I finally bit the bullet and bought them. The clincher was the fact that the friends I had messaged raved about them (thanks friends). And I also asked my parents to contribute towards them for the boys’ joint Christmas present – a huge factor in this decision making!
We bought our 100 piece translucent set from Amazon as that was the cheapest price I could find at the time (even after the insanely expensive postage price was added).
And then they arrived:
Of course all of my deliberating meant we left it till the last minute to order them and I was freaking out that they wouldn’t get here for Christmas. But they did, and I was stoked. The postage time from Amazon is pretty true to it’s stated timeframe. I packed them away for the kids to open on Christmas Day… even though I just wanted to get them out and play with them IMMEDIATELY!
And then they play:
On Christmas Day, we were away on a camping holiday with extended family. We opened the Magnatiles in our tent and had a bit of a play before joining the extended family. Our boys had thought that the Magnatiles were pretty awesome, but what I personally was MOST impressed at was when we bought them out for the whole group of cousins to play with together.
It was AMAZING. There were 8 kids playing with them aged from toddler to tweenager. The way they all sat engrossed in building things was just incredible. I was highly impressed at the age range that this toy appealed to!
Throughout the course of our holiday away (5 weeks) I continued to be impressed at the versatility and appeal of Magnatiles. We spent some time with the other side of our family and all of the kids on that side (age 3 – 8 years) loved them and played with them a lot too. The adults also found them really fun!
It’s not possible to store them in the cardboard box that they come in as they are packed in like sardines in a very-specific-way-that-no-one-ever-could-replicate-again. So I went out and purchased a plastic Sistema box that they could live in for our holiday.
Six months on:
We got home from our holiday and the Magnatiles made their way into our collection of toys here at home. Now, I’m a huge fan of toy rotation, but the Magnatiles set is something that stays out ALL of the time. I store them in a wire basket from Kmart, which just happens to be the perfect size and as an added bonus is metal, meaning the tiles stick to it and it can be used in the structures that the kids make.
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And how do the kids play with them? Well, let me count the ways:
- build houses with little “rooms” for small world play
- build a giant tower as high as they can go
- build spaceships (or whatever else they want)
- sort them into colours
- make a track for cars from one side of the lounge mat to the other
- make symmetrical patterns on the carpet (my five year old)
- see what else in the house they can stick to (my 18 month old toddler is particularly into this – transferring them from our lockers to the fridge and back)
- make “robot buttons” on their shirts (I was particularly impressed with this one, maybe inspired by their Grandad?) – it’s really hilarious
Honestly there’s so many ways to play with Magnatiles and it’s so interesting to see what they come up with. I will sometimes extend their play by providing little figurines or blocks alongside, by most of the time I just leave them to it.
Magnatiles seem very hard wearing and the quality is excellent. Of course they get scratched but that’s to be expected. We have had one get a little bit of a dent in it which I’m not sure where it came from, but it hasn’t affected the magnets and it can still be played with. The boys smash the towers down on a regular basis and even stand on them when they haven’t been tidied up (just being realistic here). None have cracked nor do I expect any to (fingers crossed).
But should I really spend $200+ vs $50 at Kmart?
Like I said earlier, I agonised over the decision especially over whether I could get away with spending a lot less on similar (but not the same) magnetic “tiles” from Kmart (known as ‘Magformers”). If you DO have the Kmart version, or can’t spend $200+ on Magnatiles, then please don’t stress or feel like you’re missing out! I’m sure your kids get lots of good quality play out of the ones that you have. I have compared them to Magnatiles a bit by playing with them at Kindy and Playcentre.
In my opinion a huge plus of Magnatiles is that they are a solid tile. Kids love this as they can more easily “hide” items inside what they’ve built. I’m constantly finding little squares with animals or figurines hidden inside! Magnatiles can also be built with more easily as they have a square edge (meaning they can stand by themselves) compared to the rounded edge on other brands. The magnets are also SUPER strong. Complex creations seem to be more sturdy when built with Magnatiles*.
In summary I have absolutely no regrets about purchasing Magnatiles. Was I a bit nervous about spending that much on something unseen? Yes. It was a lot of money for us (I’m a Mum that has absolutely no qualms about shopping second hand gifts for my kids). But the investment has already paid off and I know they’ll get years of play out of these. We are a mostly screen free family and as part of that I truly believe that having good quality open ended toys makes “no screens” much easier. Magnatiles has been a huge part of that journey to less screen time for us and has made the journey a lot easier.
If you can get your hands on some Magnatiles before you buy them, then have a play and I guarantee you’ll be convinced of the quality and endless opportunities for play. Some toy libraries stock them (find your nearest one here).
I hope you’ve found this review helpful, especially if you’re like I was and on the fence about buying them. I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t regret it if you do decide to go ahead with your purchase.
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* If you’re interested in more comparisons between the two brands then just google ‘magnatiles vs magformers’, there’s lots of reviews online.