Tag Archives: STEM for girls

A Slow Christmas: The Hape Quadrilla Space City Marble Run

Hape Quadrilla space city marble runI spent last Tuesday night building a Quadrilla Space City Marble Run from Hape, as part of my build up to another slow Christmas. Actually, it wasn’t hard, even after a long day and I enjoyed it, although it did require some concentration. The marble run is built up from various colour-coded blocks and wooden tracks, unlike the more common plastic ones which come with long, ready-angled pieces to click together. But the creation process is part of the beauty of slow toys.

The box is suitably large and exciting and it’s all beautifully packaged when you lift the lid. It won’t be for long! However, there’s definitely enough space for all the parts to go back in quickly and easily when it’s time to tidy up.

Hape Quadrilla Space City Marble Run

Designed to glow in the dark, there are special luminous marbles and glow stickers to put on the blocks so you can have some extra fun. If the stickers walk off elsewhere, as they’re likely to in our house, you can still enjoy it as there are numerous ways to build different runs. There’s a booklet that comes with it that shows each build stage-by-stage, with the area built up greyed out each time.

Hape Quadrilla space city marble runAs with all Hape toys there are sturdy, sustainable wooden parts and I think D, now 2.5 and Scrip, now 5.5, will both enjoy playing with this, albeit D probably won’t have the precision to build the tallest towers or follow all the diagrams and the grown ups might be getting involved (which is no hardship). The space station top also glows in the dark and that’s one of the few plastic parts, but it’s not an essential bit.

There are a few fiddly bits needed to keep the marbles running smoothly and not dropping out the back, and it might take a bit of adjusting to make sure everything runs well (or maybe that’s just me!) but you soon get the hang of it. And I think this will be great as part of my desire to get Scrip more involved in STEM toys.

And the moment of truth? It took me about 10 minutes to build my run and then drop a series of marbles down to helter skelter their way through down in different directions, as the special blocks send them a range of ways, before falling into the collecting tray with a satisfying plop.

This is surely one the kids will love and I can’t wait to pop it under the tree for Christmas. The only problem is it’s a joint present, so let’s hope they share nicely.

Thanks to Hape for sending me a sample to review for the blog. The Space City Marble Run costs £84.99 RRP.

Technology will save us: Electro Dough Kit review (simple STEM for kids)

Electro Dough KitEven the pack looks exciting and a world away from the drab 80s circuit boards I was taught electronics on in secondary school. I love the idea of getting Scrip involved in STEM activities and this Electro Dough Kit, which lets you make conductive dough, learn how electricity works and play with lights, buzzers and switches, is perfect for her age group.

It’s one of the many kits on offer from Technology Will Save Us who contacted me about other products and then offered this to review. I leapt at the chance. Scrip loves sitting down for activities at the moment, which is brilliant, and I want to make her learning as rounded as possible. Whilst I know we’ve shared our love of books and being creative, I’m not sure I have instilled the same passion for science, which is a shame.

Electro Dough Kit

When I opened the instructions and I saw the classic circuit line drawings, light emitting diodes and all, those science classes came flooding back. Anyone else remember pinching people with crocodile clips and attaching them to each other’s school jumpers? There were some of those inside too.

But after a bit of trial and error we were both smiling when she first made a little LED light up and the kit very quickly brought everything to life in a way she could engage with. We started by making the conductive dough together, which is straightforward (with lots of salt to help the conduction) but needs some heating on the stove. Make sure you wait for it to cool down before handling as she was keen to add the food dye in straight away but it was boiling hot for a while. The consistency was really good, though.

Dough making

Then we started creating, using some inspiration from the pack but also from the website. Not having great science lesson recall, apart from the crocodile clips, I couldn’t answer all her questions straight away so it was useful for me to use some of the explanations from the pack. She quickly got the hang of the LEDs having to be positioned a certain way around and the wires going into the dough correctly, and we made a simple circuit and tested objects which conducted electricity and didn’t (you can also download a sheet to write these up). Then we moved on to using dough versions of our names, little creatures who kissed and turned lights on, making a buzzer go and then some ‘fireworks’.

She was keen to make a range of things and it was a morning’s worth of play. D started off with us then got more interested in putting his tractor in the flour. But then he did come back and sat for a long time building castles out of the dough and sticking jumper wires into the sides. So it was nice to have him with us too, although they recommend age four and up for this kit which I think is right.

Tech will save us

There’s a whole range of kits for four to nine year olds, including machines and solar-powered creations, gifts for 10 – 14 year olds, Micro:Bit kits and other gift ideas. So there’s lots of choice. They’re not cheap (starting at £22.99) but they’re well made with lots of electronic parts so worth the investment I’d say. Particularly if it makes them excited about STEM subjects. I hope they carry on with things like this in the classroom – there’s no reason to wait until they’re teenagers.

And while we’re on the subject of school, I’ve started thinking about PE kits and jumpers now Scrip’s going into Year One in a couple of weeks. A quick mention for a new find – my iron-on labels from My Nametags which I love because:

  • The kids got involved with choosing from a range of backgrounds, designs and colours for their labels with simple click boxes online
  • Being iron on, they’re dead simple to use and even go on things like a tennis racket cover
  • The labels have stayed put so far and seem robust even when washed
  • Scrip loves them so much that I’ve even stuck them on plastics with some sellotape over the top (you can get stickers too if you like a simpler life!)

My Nametags

Thanks to Technology Will Save Us for our Electro Dough Kit (worth £22.99) and My Nametags for our iron on labels (£12.95 including P&P).

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