Category Archives: Brand interview

Everything you Need to Know about Marble Runs

Marble Runs have been loved by children, teens, and even adults for generations, and it’s not hard to understand why. The satisfaction of rolling a marble down a track that has been built with your own hands is a fantastic feeling – no matter how many times you’ve done it before. There are several high-quality marble run systems available, so we understand it might be difficult to know where to start. As always the Entropy Elves are here to help.

Marble Runs have been loved by children, teens, and even adults for generations, and it’s not hard to understand why. The satisfaction of rolling a marble down a track that has been built with your own hands is a fantastic feeling – no matter how many times you’ve done it before. There are several high-quality marble run systems available, so we understand it might be difficult to know where to start. As always the Entropy Elves are here to help.

When considering marble run systems, think of them as the ultimate building toy that will be used throughout childhood and beyond. Marble runs are designed to be built up and broken down, each time with a different objective and each time improving children’s (and adults) creativity and problem-solving skills. As children grow and develop, their marble run can do the same.

At Entropy, we stock three major wooden marble run brands. They are Hape’s Quadrilla system, Haba’s Ball Track and Wonderworld’s Trix Trax marble run system. Each of these brands is fantastic (obviously or else they wouldn’t have a home here at Entropy) and has specific features. In no particular order, we’ll give you our thoughts on them to help you decide which one to choose.

Everything you need to know about Hape Quadrilla Marble Runs

The main distinguishing feature of the Hape Quadrilla range of marble runs is that they are built to a specific plan. You need to follow the plan precisely in order to make the marble run work correctly. If you are even a quarter of a turn out with the orientation of a block, your marble can spit out somewhere it is not meant to. For this reason the Quadrilla system is great for problem-solving but is less ‘open-ended’ than other systems. Quadrilla blocks connect to each other using a peg-like mechanism which means they create a sturdier structure than other systems. If you knock it accidentally though, it will all come apart (often spectacularly). Quadrilla uses traditional glass marbles, which are pretty small. For this reason, younger children might not have the fine motor coordination needed to play initially, but they learn this quickly! The age recommendation is from 4 years, and at this age adults will need to help with the build.

There are multiple sets available ranging from entry-level models to challenging structures. Each main set has an instruction booklet to introduce you and your child to the basic principles of playing with Quadrilla. The booklet also includes a variety of tricks and tips on how to make connections between blocks and tracks. A single Quadrilla Marble Run can be rearranged in a number of different ways. The included booklet shows how to make up to 20 different builds, and encourages the builder to create more using their imagination. All Quadrilla Marble Runs can be joined together to make fantastic larger runs, just let your imagination run wild! Quadrilla also offers loads of cool extenders and accessories to add to your track.

If you’re looking at starting your Quadrilla marble run adventure, our recommended choices are The Cyclone or The Challenger set. You really want to choose a set that has a combination of straight tracks and circular elements (like whirlpools). This gives you the best bang for your buck. Our experience at Entropy is that those that start with smaller sets than The Cyclone or The Challenger nearly always add to their collection quite quickly.

Everything you need to know about Wonderworlds ball runs

As the name suggests, all Wonderworld Trix Track marble run sets include both tricks and tracks. Each set has a lot to offer with multi-level play and a trick that exemplifies cause and effect. All Trix Track sets feature wooden runs, a wooden ball (it’s bigger than a traditional glass marble) and plastic risers. The dimensions of these three elements are consistent across the entire Trix Track range making all sets compatible with each other. A single Trix Track ball run is designed to be built one way. However, add another set, and the building opportunities are only limited by your imagination. The plastic risers and wooden tracks in this range connect (the plastic risers have pegs that fit into specially designed holes on the underside of the tracks).

Wonderworld sets are made from rubberwood which makes them very sturdy and suitable for younger builders. The wooden marble is bigger at 3cm, and easier for younger hands to manipulate. They are relatively easy to build and quite stable. These features make them a good choice for child care and family day care environments for children aged 3 and over. If you’re looking at starting your Wonderworld ball run journey, our recommended sets are:

Everything you need to know about Haba's Ball and Marble Runs

Iconic German toy manufacturer Haba have an extensive choice of wooden marble run sets, which can be broadly broken into the ‘My First Ball track’ range, and the standard ‘Ball Track’ range.

The Haba My first ball track range is designed for children aged from 18 months, and this is a key distinguishing feature. This age rating is possible due to the large building blocks used and the size of the wooden balls (they are 5cm diameter meaning they are larger than a standard small parts choking warning). The low-to-the-ground runs and robust wooden pieces offer stability and easy building for young children. If you’re looking at starting your Haba ball track collection for a child under the age of three years, we recommend that you choose anything from the My First range.

Haba’s Classic Marble Range (from 3 years)
Haba’s Classic Ball Track Marble Run Range is designed for ‘children’ aged 3 to 99 years. This range is all about speed and momentum. Haba’s marble run sets consist of wooden building blocks, wooden marble runs, glass marbles and, depending on what run you pick, plastic clamps. The building blocks (which are used to raise the wooden marble runs) and the wooden marble runs do not ‘interlock’ but are instead either stacked or in some kits secured with cleverly designed plastic clamps. All Haba wooden construction toys are designed on a 4x4x4cm block design. This means that Haba marble runs are compatible across the range, but also with Haba building block sets (additional clamps can be purchased separately). For example, if you start with a Haba wooden building block set, you can later integrate it with a Haba ball track set. This feature offers great play value and longer-term value for money.

The My First Range is also designed on this 4x4x4cm design. However, as the wooden blocks are much larger, they must be added to the end of the marble track when being integrated with a Haba Classic Marble Run Range.

Our recommendation for a starting point with the Haba ball track system is this large set. It has everything you need to get started.

So there you have it, we know there is a lot of information there, but let us try and summarise it for you:

Quadrilla: build to a plan, less open-ended, better choice for older children, teenagers and adults.

Wonderworld Trix Track: sturdy, larger wooden balls, good choice for younger children and multi-child environments.

Haba: fantastic quality, great play value as the systems are compatible with wooden block sets, open-ended and creative.

And a final piece of information from us, please note that these marble run systems are not compatible across brands; but within each brand they are.

A summary from the Entropy Elves

Hape Quadrilla

Haba

Wonder World

Made from Rubberwood, plywood, beech wood, TPE, PA, ABS, PET High-quality beech wood Environmentally-friendly rubberwood
Country of Design Germany Germany Thailand
Country of Manufacture China Germany Thailand
Age Range 4 – 99 years My First Range Classic Range 3 – 10 years
18 months – 3 years 3 – 99 years
Marble Size & Material Glass 15mm Wooden Ball 5cm Glass marble 15mm Wooden Ball 3cm
Build to Plan Yes No No Yes
Free Build (with one set) Yes No Yes No
Compatible with other marble runs in the same brand Yes See above for details Yes Yes
Cross compatible with other brands No No No No
Extension & accessory sets available Yes No Yes No

Ravensburger Review

banner-ravensburgerThere is less than a week before our Mid-Year Sale finishes for another year. Just a reminder that we have 25% off Sylvanian Families, Schleich, Melissa & Doug, Playmobil, Ravensburger and Siku! It’s unlikely that you will see a sale this big from us before Christmas so make the most of it.

We hope you have enjoyed learning more about a few of the brands that feature in our Mid-Year Sale. The elves have certainly been surprised by some of the facts that were uncovered. We hope this week is no different as we shine the spotlight on Ravensburger.

Ravensburger is an internationally renowned brand that makes puzzles, games, arts and craft, science activity kits and photo puzzles. The company was founded in 1883 by bookseller Otto Maier in a town named Ravensburg; in Germany. Ravensburger’s first publications included guides and instruction manuals for the building and craft trades. In 1884, the first game appeared under the title “Voyage round the World“ – carefully handcrafted, beautifully finished and modelled on Jules Verne’s bestseller ”Around the World in 80 Days“. This was quickly followed by learning and children’s games, card games, strategy games, books and children’s art and craft kits.

Ravensburger Games is the leading producer of puzzles and handicraft products in Europe and is the market leader of games in Germany. The company makes over half of its sales outside Europe.
Ravensburger products are made for families everywhere. Since inception, the brand has abided by their guiding principle to deliver “only the best”.  Every product that Ravensburger creates and sells is made with enjoyment, education and “togetherness” in mind. Ravensburger is one of few companies with its own production facility in Europe. In fact, 85% of all Ravensburger products are made at two production sites one at Ravensburg, and the other at Poliçka (Czech Republic).

The high-quality products that Ravensburger produce are split up into age groups. This feature makes it easy for parents to select items that suit their children’s current skill levels. This is reflected in Ravensburger’s puzzles where the number and size of each puzzle piece change with the recommended age of play.

Ravensburger-halfRavensburger have always been proud of their puzzles. Each puzzle piece is made with such precision that it fits perfectly with its surrounding pieces. Unlike other puzzles, there are no gaps between any pieces (thanks to Ravensburger’s soft click technology), and when the puzzle is completed, it looks like a piece artwork.

Ravensburger’s products have loads of educational benefits. It is not hard to believe that their products are loved by so many – including the elves here at Entropy. The elves hope this blog has provided you with more information about Ravensburger and their products. The mid-year catalogue sale ends on the 31st of July; if you would like to buy your child, or yourself, a puzzle we recommend you do so now!

Meet Melissa & Doug

Want to learn more about the fantastic toy company Melissa & Doug? Read this blog to find out how they started and how far they have come!We are now three weeks into our Mid-Year Sale and it’s time to turn our attention to another fantastic brand that features in it. Melissa & Doug products have proudly been stocked on our shelves since we opened almost ten years ago. Their range of quality wooden toys and puzzles, along with their educational and craft products makes Melissa & Doug an essential aspect of our range.

Based in North America, Melissa & Doug is a leading designer and manufacturer of educational toys and puzzles. The company was founded in 1988 when Melissa and Doug Bernstein left their corporate careers to start their own business.  Starting in Doug’s parent’s garage and selling their products out of the back of a beat-up car they created their own empire while raising six children!

Instead of telling you more about this fantastic brand we thought that we should let Melissa and Doug do the talking. Watch the below video to hear the Melissa & Doug story.

If you want to learn even more about Melissa & Doug their website has a wealth of information. Our mid-year catalogue sale finishes up on July 31st. If you would like to introduce some Melissa & Doug products to your child’s playtime we recommend you do it before then! Until next week,

A box full of stories

Lovers of nonsense, fun and chaos, the Elves caught up with Karen Mennie — director and designer at Australian company Glottogon — to find out more about their quirky and attractive range of games and puzzles that celebrate the joy of make-believe.

lifestyle dino BIG puzzle

How are your puzzles and games different? We use bold, vibrant colours — we love colour and we use it often! We use original illustrations from emerging and established artists and we only use each illustration for one product – you won’t see the same repetitive image over-and-over in our collections. We believe madly that beautiful products are much more fun to play with for kids and adults and we spend lots of time making sure our illustrations are magical and unique… the more crazy and chaotic the better! Our products are easy to use and easy to tidy away; plus they look wonderful on the playroom shelf!

Karen at Glottogon

What’s the secret to an engaging puzzle? For us; the first step is the image, layered with lots of colour. We want crazy, interesting characters and attractive imagery that both kids and adults will get joy from revealing.

What are the biggest lessons children learn through puzzling? Puzzles and pre-schooler games such as Domino and Memory are a great way to develop concentration and patience, problem solving and hand-eye coordination, and social skills (learning to take turns, to win, and to lose). Children between two and four years who play with puzzles have been recognised as having better developed spatial skills and more ability in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects (more).

 

mermaid people puzzle_WEB

How did you come up with the ideas behind your games? I decided wanted to design games and puzzles that were a little more unique than what I could find on the High Street. I love make-believe, and have always loved to daydream — becoming a parent has reminded me how delightful it is to use my imagination, to question the smallest of things, and to always ask “why?” So one day I thought, “why not?” and started to find a way to source and manufacture our own products.

Can you tell us about your eco values? We strive to ensure our products are not only made well, but also made to last. We use recycled materials, vegetable-based inks and hand-craft every single one of our boxes… and that’s a lot of boxes! We design each one to be super strong and for the puzzles and games to be mega durable so that everything lasts and continues to be fun for years to come. We have no desire at all to add to the landfill.

What’s great about designing in Australia? It’s so full of opportunity — the attitude to life is very much ‘can do’ and that helps hugely when you are following your dreams. Plus there is the little matter of sunshine – such a fantastic motivator!

What do you love most about what you do? The truly EPIC feeling when I receive one of our new product samples for the first time – it’s so exciting to see all the design parts together in real life (as my four-year-old would say!).

fairy BIG puzzle_WEB

What’s your overall vision (now getting to the really deep questions!)? Play – Dream – Fly is our motto. JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, puts it best: “I do believe in fairies, I do! I DO!!”.

You recently launched in Europe. Congratulations! What does this mean for your range? The short answer is – it will grow! We have been inundated with requests for new themes and products… did someone say Vikings??!

Glottogon_WEB

Do you have any particular favourites? Gosh, this is a tough question… I adore the Dino Derby BIG puzzle as it has so many hidden characters that you find something new each time you play. My kids are four and two which is a perfect age to play Memory Match Pirate – with a huge dollop of cheating I need to add!!

lifestyle trio space1_WEB

Biggest play tip for parents? Laugh, have fun, and remind yourself how fabulous it is to just play – playtime is such a gift.

Where does the name Glottogon come from? We get asked often about the name of our company, which is not really surprising as it is a little odd! It seemed that I had spent forever dreaming up a name for our business… one that would be different, memorable and; at the same time; mean something special and unique. I often listen to Sam (aka the husband) speaking with his Mamma. They are Greek, so they don’t really talk quietly… it’s kind of a festive shout to and from each other at ALL times — they don’t whisper, they usually speak loudly, and they often just YELL! And so I decided upon a bundle of Greek words which, in turn, became GLOTTOGON: Glo-tog-uh-nn from Greek meaning “story, tongue, language” and “generation” — it more or less means “the beginning of the story” or “about a new generation”. I think it’s apt, certainly unique, and I hope you agree — a little bit special!

Check out the entire Glottogon range.

Step into the kingdom of Schleich

Schleich is a wonderful German brand that is responsible for the creation of thousands of super realistic hand-painted figurines. The Entropy Elves caught up with Schleich’s head of business development and product management, David Albert, who is based at Schleich HQ in Germany, to find out more about this iconic toy.

The animal figurines have been in production since the 1980s; what were the very first ones? In 1935 Schleich started with wire figures and the first Schleich figurines were the Smurfs. The first animal figurines were farm animals and horses.

Schleich animals of the world

How do you decide what new Wild Life and Farm Life animals to introduce? We are always trying to introduce animals that have never been produced in the past and, of course, we want to provide our customers with a fresh and exciting assortment.

Schleich – Farm Life Drake 13824

NEW Schleich – Farm Life Drake 13824

Schleich - Wild Life Black Panther 14774

NEW Schleich – Wild Life Black Panther 14774

How do you ensure that each Schleich figurine looks as life-like as possible?

      1. We work very closely with research institutes and universities to make sure that every figurine looks as realistic as possible.
      2. We do the complete process in-house — each toy is precision-engineered by a German master craftsman who works on a wax mould for up to six weeks for the finest detail. After injection moulding and finishing, the figurines are all decorated by hand.
      3. Schleich also has a very exact quality control program which also guarantees the highest quality.

Do you have any personal favourites? I definitely love the male elephant. It looks so impressive with its huge tusks.

Schleich Asian Elephant Male

What do you think people love the most about Schleich? The quality of the figurines and their very realistic look and feel.

Besides fun; what other benefits does playing with Schleich figurines have for children? The educational value is quite high while playing with Schleich figurines. All of our Farm and Wild Life animals exist in real life and they have the same proportions and colour as the real ones. With fun and exciting play concepts, Schleich encourages imaginative play and a child’s creativity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s something that may surprise people about Schleich? Every figurine is hand-painted meaning each figurine is unique. An Elf figurine, for example, takes 100 steps to get painted. This means that each figurine looks a bit different than the one right next to it.

Elf Wedding

Are there any nice stories from over the years about children and their Schleich figurines that have particularly stuck in your head? We receive lots of letters from all over the world from children telling us about their animals and favourites. Schleich has dedicated staff members who answer the letters.

Schleich T-Rex arriving at Schleich HQ

The latest team member at Schleich HQ in Germany

How common is it for adults to collect Schleich? We have a lot of customers that are adults and most of them collect our beautiful horses or the Smurfs.

Get your Schleich figurines for 25% off until July 31, 2017, and enter our competition Bring Schleich to Life before Monday, July 31.