Magna-Tiles and MagFormers toy review
Having acted as a toy researcher and buyer for my parents’ shop , I am familiar with most of the products sold in specialty toy shops. When I’m out with the kids just shooting the breeze at a toy store, I rarely have that “wow” moment anymore. We stopped in the Learning Express in the Hill Country Galleria over the weekend. The Magna-Tiles and MagFormers toys were out on the kid’s play tables, and they are probably the best things that I have seen in a while for both the fun and the education factor. Wow!
Magna-Tiles and MagFormers are big pieces of plastic with internal magnetized ends that click together and separate easily so no worries about pinching tiny fingers or choking. The pieces are squares and triangles. (The MagFormers also have pentagons.) It did not take long for my 4 year old to figure out that she could put the pieces together to create 3-dimensional structures, and she discovered the necessity for symmetry as she created simple polyhedrons. My kid likes blocks, but she has never played with blocks like she has with the floor sample toys. She often gets frustrated when structures collapse, but the pieces hold together from the magnetization.
I don’t often get on soap boxes to teacher preach, but I will now. We do not provide our children with enough opportunities to learn through discovery the basic principles for math and science. We spend so much time with our young children to nurture creativity through the liberal arts (reading, writing, drawing) that I think as parents (and teachers too) we forget or maybe do not realize that we should be nurturing creativity through math and science as well. When I see toys like Magna-Tiles and MagFormers, I get very excited because here is something that is so simple, so versatile, and yet it teaches about shapes, symmetry, logical thinking, arithmetics, etc. without direct teaching. Spatial reasoning and abstraction are so difficult to show young children because it is one of the more intangible aspects of math and science. When I taught, if there was some “lesson” that I needed to convey to students, learning and skill retention was far more powerful when the kids would discover for themselves the answer within a loose framework of guidelines from me.
Toys like wooden blocks, Legos, K’nex, Tinker Toys, even train sets all serve similar function, to provide open ended discovery play that also teaches about spatial reasoning. I am going to add Magna-Tiles and MagFormers to the list of very cool manipulatives. A box of these things are not cheap though, starting at $35 and upwards of $100. Learning Express often emails coupons for $7 off so the next time that I get one of these, I plan to grab a Magna-Tiles toy to stash away for my kids’ holiday presents. Time to Craigslist some not-played-with toys to make room for something like this.
What other toys do you know that teaches math and science?
Learning Express locations:
- Learning Express of Austin – Gateway Market
9607 Research Blvd.
Austin, TX 78759
- Learning Express of Bee Cave
12901 Hill Country Blvd.
Bee Cave, TX 78738
- Learning Express of Sunset Valley
Sunset Valley Homestead Shopping Center
5207 Brodie Lane
Sunset Valley, TX 78745