If you are a parent of young toddlers like me, you’re probably always on the lookout for that toy that will stand out above the rest. A toy that will be both engaging and educational, while also being durable, easy to clean and clean up. But none of this matters if your kids really hate it. In this article I want to explore whether Magna Tiles is such a toy.
What is a Magna Tile?
Magna-Tiles are basically magnetized plastic shapes that are made from high grade ABS plastic, which Valtech, the company that makes them, claims to be BPA free as well. The tiles are recommended for children of ages 3 and up, due to a possible choking hazard, although I’m not sure how it’s possible as the pieces are quite big. The Magna-Tile sets come in an array of shapes, all designed to build the most intricate structures with. Basically, the edges of all the shapes are magnetized, and the edges cling firmly to each other until pulled apart by hand.
It seems that the idea for Magna-Tiles (according to their website), was inspired by the mathematician Pythagoras of Samos who lived between 560 and 480 BC. He is mostly known for his theorem on right triangles,and he believed that if one can better understand mathematical and numerical relationships, one can better understand the world.
Why is it so popular?
Magna-Tiles has become a very popular product due to its ability to keep young minds occupied for hours. Kids seem to come up with the most unique and interesting shapes and buildings. What Pythagoras believed seems to be very true… Children seem to learn a lot about shapes and their relationships, and that, in turn primes their brains for understanding complex mathematics and physics later on. Many people report that it is the only toy their kids play with on a daily basis, without getting tired of it, so its definitely engaging and educational.
What do you get in a set of Magna-Tiles?
There are several different kinds of Magna-Tiles sets, which mainly differ in color and number of pieces in the set. There are two color types namely solid color, which are opaque, or clear color tiles which are semi-transparent. The different sized sets are mainly 32, 48 or 100 pieces, with a good balance of different shapes. The various shapes include small squares, of which there are many, large squares, of which there are typically only a few, Isosceles triangles, right triangles and Equilateral Triangles.
What’s the general consensus of people who tried them out?
Most of the reviews on the web recommend going for the 100 piece set right off the bat, as it provides enough pieces to build a decent sized structure from. They are also surprisingly easy to clean up due to the fact that they stick together. By far the most reviews have been very positive, but there are also some noteworthy comments in some of the customer reviews:
One person highlighted the fact that his 4 year old child gets frustrated when he tries to pick up the structures he built, and they subsequently collapse. Although others see this as one of the benefits. Some people also complain that they are too expensive, but then again others complement on their durability even when destructive type kids play with them.
Another person also said that the structures one can build are limited in size due to the weak magnetism, and seems to be limited to structures of around 150 pieces. Again, many others say that they bought 200 pieces of different colors (opaque and transparent), and their kids make many multiple structures simultaneously. So all in all there seems to be very little that’s really negative about these.
Where to buy
At the moment, it seems that the 100 piece sets are the cheapest at Amazon, as this is the direct store-front that Valtech (Magna-Tile’s creators) use.
“Every family with kids should have Magna-Tiles” – This is what almost everyone that bought them says. They seem to be a great investment, and chances are your child will love them. The true benefits seem to be that kids quickly learn how the different geometric shapes fit together, and that they get taught logic, spacial relationships, basic math and problem solving skills, all while building creatively.
What is it about these magnetic toys that make them so irresistible to children? I remember as a young child being fascinated by the almost “magical powers” of magnets. Chances are that you yourself may have fond memories of playing with magnets as a child if you’re reading this article. So I did some investigation into some of the more popular magnetic toys out there and I’m going to list a few of my favorite ones here.
This has to be my favorite of all the magnetic toys, as they have really captured the imagination of many children all over the world. It’s just one of those toys that children in general never seem to get tired of. Magnatiles are geometric plastic shapes with magnets around the edges, that make them stick together and allows them to be stacked into any kind of structure imaginable. If a part of the structure collapses, it’s easily fixed. And adding to existing structures is also very easy, and the different triangles combined with some squares can build an endless number of shapes and structures.
They are also safe for children over 3 years, and is made of BPA-free plastic. The most popular set is the magna tiles 100 piece set, that provides enough pieces to build larger structures. But not even 100 seem to be enough. The 100 piece set comes mostly in the clear/transparent color, and something interesting that I’ve seen people do, is buy the solid color set and mix it with the clear color one. That seems to be the way to go eventually, as it just really ads to the fun, and opens up more possibilities. My kids and I love them so much.
You probably recognize this toy, as it’s been a hit all over the world. I don’t know of one friend with kids that don’t have one of these in their house. So this is a firm second favorite It’s basically a square plastic drawing pad that works with magnetism to make drawings that can be quickly erased by sliding an eraser bar. The stylus is also magnetic, and draws a dark magnetic powder of some kind through a thick white opaque liquid to the surface of the pad to create dark lines. The eraser is also a magnet, that draws the powder away from the pad surface to make the display white again.
This delightful toy is also a hit with many people, and it is basically fridge magnets on steroids. The toy consists of various magnetic parts that are designed to funnel marbles along an interesting track downwards towards a little bucket that catches the marble. What makes this so interesting, is the 11 different parts included in the toy pack. The marble moves mainly along rails, but can be made to bounce of a Ferris wheel or bouncy “Tornado” ride, and also what they call serpentine chutes that catches the marble and then slowly lowers it into the next rail, and then returns automatically back to its original position.
It’s almost like one of those crazy automatic coffee machine inventions one sometimes sees in cartoons where a whole elaborate interconnected chain of events are kicked off when a small lever is pulled, just in order to trigger the button on the coffee machine to start making coffee (Dexter’s Laboratory anyone?) I really love this one, and so, it seems, everyone that bought one. I see there are now extensions one can buy for this that can add a launcher to the mix as well as pieces to funnel the marbles around the fridge corners. That just sounds like real awesome fun. Only thing to note is that it is only for ages 7 and up, due to the choking hazard posed by the marbles.
SmartMax magnetic set
This, like Magnatiles, is a toy with which to build shapes and small structures. It consists of very simple parts, which should be safe for toddlers. The parts are basically short, thick bars magnetized at then ends that connect to magnetic one or more plastic balls. The magnetism is apparently quite strong, and these toys can, according to its creators, carry up to 60 times their own weight. People also generally seem to love these, especially as toys for very small kids, but I’m sure older kids will enjoy them just as much.
This one also used to be one of my favorites, but they have been discontinued due to serious risk of inhalation death, and nasty intestinal damage caused by swallowing magnets. So now they’re not one of my favorites anymore, but definitely worth mentioning as possibly one of the coolest magnetic toys that used to be out there. They are basically an entire set of magnetized balls that form cubic shapes when put together. Playing with these almost makes one feel like you’re assembling molecules from individual atoms, and it’s a lot of fun, but alas, I don’t think one can legally purchase these anymore.
Jumbo Magnet Zappers
These are also very popular with children, and little boys in particular. They are basically two very strong magnets that are thrown into the air, which then start to spin, while making a strange clapping, whizzing sound. They are sometimes called rattlesnake eggs because of the sound.
So there you have it. My top 5 magnetic toys.