Reviewed by Elly Sax
When buying toys it is easy to get sucked in by TV characters and merchandise, and there is nothing wrong with following your child’s interest, but I find toys linked to a particular TV programme or film can sometimes be very expensive and the interest in them is often relatively short. Plus we have all been caught in the trap of buying the character, the car which the character drives, then you need the house they live in, oh and the boat from the episode where they once went down a river, the list goes on, the pile of toys grows and still their attention is fleeting at best.
As a parent and early years practitioner I much prefer open ended play. I’m a huge fan of allowing children to determine the direction of their own learning and then following where that goes. They are often far more creative than we are, and come up with ideas we would never think of. Toys which encourage children to use their imagination are my favourite and the Connetix range of magnetic tiles allow them to do just that. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) play is huge in learning circles and practitioners are always on the look out for exciting ways to deliver this type of learning, and that’s exactly what Connetix offer!
We had the Connetix Starter Pack delivered which contains 62 magnetic tiles. There are a variety of shapes in the pack, including 4 of the larger square tiles and a selection of smaller square tiles. The triangular tiles included are isosceles, right angled and equilateral. Some of the tiles are solid, others had an open centre and some had a partially open centre, a simple but effective way of increasing the ways in which the tiles could be used in play.
When the box arrived I was surprised at the weight, it was much heavier than I was expecting, the tiles fitted neatly inside the sturdy outer packaging which could be used to store the tiles. The box also included a cloth draw string bag which some people may prefer for ease of tidying away, or, for use when taking the tiles elsewhere to play.
We began playing straight away and I have to say I was not disappointed. The tiles are incredibly tactile, smooth plastic and chunky enough to feel sturdy without being too heavy, the magnets are strong and the corners of the tiles have rivets for extra safety. On our first play with them we explored how they made a good noise when the magnets stuck together, a very satisfying ‘click’ if ever I heard one. Then we moved on to building.
My daughter went straight in to build a 3D tower and I had fun exploring the pattern making capabilities, starting with making a snake, of triangles, then changing strategy slightly to allow my snake to have a repeating pattern. As we played we chatted about shape, size, colour, height, we used mathematical language without really thinking about it. At one point my daughter’s tower fell down, she was frustrated and we talked about why it might have happened, how she might try again in a different way, or, build something different. She decided to try again with a wider base to aid stability. Because there are no instructions of what to build and exactly how it should be done there is no failure and no right or wrong. I love this, it allows the learner to create their own rules and decide themselves when things are a success or not. As well as building a tower she was able to build her problem solving skills, creative talents, spatial awareness, her understanding of cause and effect, her resilience, perseverance and her self esteem.
The fact that the tiles come in a selection of colours is great, in the starter set you get the three primary colours (red, blue and yellow) plus the three secondary colours (purple, orange and green). This means you are able to create a lot of colour play, along with the building. We were able to create coloured cubes which had open tiles at the top allowing us to put small items inside, we chose craft pom poms, you could use this as a great activity for building colour recognition, also it’s fantastic for building fine motor skills and hand eye coordination, especially if you have to scoop the pom pom into the cube with a spoon, or tweezers, or chopsticks. This is what I love about this type of open ended learning resource, they allow you to play in so many ways.
Next we took them outside to play on the patio, as we began to build the sun hit the tiles and my daughter commented on the ‘rainbow shadow’ she could see. It opened up a conversation about light and colour. She wanted to draw the shadow so we grabbed some white paper and coloured pencils and had a go. The options of how to play are unlimited, yes you can build with them, but you can do so much more, and the only thing limiting you is imagination.
Would I buy these again? Absolutely, definitely, 100% yes. They are sturdy enough to withstand preschool play without being so big or heavy that they are unusable. They come in a decent sized box allowing lots of play but I think that fact you can buy larger packs, add on packs and extension packs is brilliant. And it’s great that all the packs can work with each other, add some pastel tiles into the vibrant rainbow ones, or, attach the ball run tiles to the geometric tiles. The sets available at the time of writing range between just under £10 up to £190 with lots of options available to purchase which can all be played with interchangeably. What a fantastic learning resource to have available!
RRP: £65 ( for the starter set we had, although there are other sets available)
This product can be purchased from https://connetixtiles.com/shop/