Tag Archives: wooden toys

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

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,

All board as Elf Bec talks Trains

Elf-Bec-WordPressLast week we interviewed the newest member of the elf family and this week we move to the oldest – Elf Bec! Elf Bec has been at Entropy since its inception almost ten years ago, since then she has worked in a variety of roles and is now Entropy’s buying elf. She is responsible for making sure that products don’t go out of stock and identifying new and exciting items to add to our range. As Elf Bec holds this power, it is no surprise that her favourite range is one that she picked and introduced to Entropy herself – Hape Wooden Railway and Train Sets.

“When I first saw Hape Rail I knew straight away that our toy lovers would adore this range. Firstly, the price point is fantastic. Secondly, Hape Rail is extremely innovative. The ingenious way they incorporate moving parts, musical instruments and more into each item is brilliant. Lastly, this is one of the first train sets that I’ve seen that features bright and bold colours that attracts both boys and girls. Also, the inclusion of sweet little animals does a great job at getting children who aren’t normally interested in trains playing.

Hape Rail Image

Before starting at Entropy, Elf Bec was a nanny for a family that had two young boys. The boys loved trains, and through watching them play, she realised that they were picking up heaps of new skills. “Problem-solving, imagination and creativity and fine motor skills and dexterity are just a few of the skills that children gain and refine through train play,” said Elf Bec. Bec is now a mother of a very handsome two-year-old boy who unsurprisingly LOVES trains.

“I have train tracks coming out of my ears at home. During my many years working at Entropy, I have collected a range of Brio wooden train tracks. The fact that my new Hape sets interconnect with my Brio tracks along with Thomas Wooden Railway, Chuggington Wooden Railway, Melissa & Doug Wooden Railway and BigJigs Wooden Railway is fantastic” said Elf Bec.

If you have a train addict at home or someone who might like Hape Rail makes sure you check out our range.

Elf Ang thinks Fagus is Fab

WordPress-ImageWhen you work in a toy shop all-day, every-day and so close to so many great products it is very hard not to have a favourite. So we decided to ask the Elves and Chief Poobah what brands they have a particular weak spot for and why. Over the next six weeks, you will not only learn more about the magical staff members that make Entropy what it is, but hopefully, a lot more about some of our awesome products and brands.

Kicking things off for us is our magnificent front counter Elf – Elf Ang! For those who are located in Townsville and visit the shop regularly, you might know that Elf Ang is bonkers about Fagus. Whenever a new Fagus product arrives in stock noise and excitement level reach maximum capacity. This week was more extraordinary than most with THREE new products arriving at Elf HQ (the Container Tipper Truck, the Speedy Race Car and the Hay Wagon).

When first asking Elf Ang what she most likes about Fagus “old-school”, “classic” and “proper toys” was her immediate response accompanied by elaborate hand movements. After explaining that online customers, who can’t come in and feel the products, might need a bit more info she said. “Fagus products are how all toys should be – simple, unadulterated, tactile and with a special story behind them”. For those who don’t know all Fagus vehicles are handcrafted without the use of nails, screws or staples and are instead interlocked, dowelled and glued together. Better yet, they are made by people with special needs who work under the instruction and guidance of specially trained artisans.

The only thing that Elf Ang doesn’t like about Fagus is that she didn’t find them earlier. As a mother of two boys, she wishes that she had known about them when entering motherhood. “Each piece is timeless and has its special feature that sets it apart”, said Elf Ang. Her nine-year-old son was gifted a Fagus Dumper Truck last year and religiously uses it to transport his extensive collection of Papo Dinosaur Figurines around the house and to display them. Ang assures us that this Dumper Truck will become an heirloom piece in her family that will be passed down through generations.

Entropy Named Australian Toy Retailer of the Year

Australia's 2016 Toy Retailer of the YearIf you haven’t already heard, we have been crowned Australia’s Toy Retailer of the Year, and we couldn’t be more excited.

The Retailer of the Year Award is an annual accolade conducted by Toy & Hobby Retailer Magazine where industry peers vote on who and what has made the biggest impact in the world of toys in the last 12 months. The fact that we were voted number one blows us away and also gives us a really good excuse to reflect on 2016.

Firstly, loads of new products from many different locations around the globe found a new home on our shelves. Just to name a few, we introduced Meiya & Alvin, Caaocho, Hape Rail and Kinderfeets – who was named 2016 Preschool Toy of the Year. These products added to our already diverse range of quality, wooden and educational toys giving our customers an even better reason to shop with us.

We also held a record number of competitions, where we saw our customers get super excited about winning some very cool prizes. Our Easter and Christmas Wish List competitions are traditionally our most popular competitions, and if you didn’t get involved last year, we recommend that you do this year. All competitions in 2016 were run via our social media accounts meaning that toy lovers all around Australia could get involved.

Toy lovers proved that they are well and truly social in 2016. We had heaps of interacting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest; at all times of the day and on every topic under the sun. If you want to be one of the first to know about what is happening at Elf HQ follow us on a social media channel that suits you!

Lastly – the parties. If you haven’t noticed elves like to party, and I don’t mean to brag, but boy-oh-boy do we do a good job. In 2016 we threw heaps of parties which attracted old and new toy lovers. Unsurprisingly our Christmas and VIP party drew a sizable crowd; however, the biggest attendance rate was drawn by our teddy bears picnic. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many stuffed animals covered in craft glue and sprinkles in one location!

Importantly, none of this would have been possible without the support from our wonderful suppliers, business partners and associates. They willingness to bend over backwards to support us and our crazy ideas is invaluable.  We sincerely look forward to many more years working together to ensure we continue to create cherished childhood memories through providing the very best in wooden, educational, and traditional toys.

We hope you are strapped in and ready for another amazing year full of heaps of new and exciting twists and turns. We’re not entirely sure what the next 11 months will look like, but we promise it will be worth the ride.

The Manhattan Toy Company’s Skwish

Skwish (1)

If you are in the market for a hardy rattle and teething toy don’t look past The Manhattan Toy Company’s Skwish. The Skwish has been around for years and is still as popular as it was when it first hit the market.

As the name suggests the Skwish “skwishes”. However, as you may have guessed, there is more to this toy than just this funky feature. Made from renewable rubberwood and super strong elastic, this quirky toy will always bounce back to its original shape. Five wooden sticks are the fundamental structures of the Skwish. Elastic strings attach to the top and bottom of each stick magically transforming, the otherwise pile of wooden parts, into a three-dimensional toy. Each stick has a wooden bead threaded onto it which slides back and forth; making a soft jingle that is just the right volume to please your child and not bother you.

Finished in a bright, non-toxic, and water-based paint sore gums will find a happy relief on the many surfaces of the Skwish. With loads of different ways to move this toy little hands will never grow old of twisting, “skwishing”, plucking, moving and shaking this fabulous wooden toy.

Skwish MTC

With a tonne of awards under its belt, including being named one of the Best 25 Toys of the last 25 Years by Parents Choice, it’s not hard to understand why the Skwish is a crowd favourite. Check out the video below to see how the Skwish looks, sounds and moves.

Five Minutes With… Green Hat Workshop’s Cameron Lee

PLANKS are dynamic technical building blocks that are designed to inspire creative minds. They were created by Melbourne school teacher and father Cameron Lee after experimenting with similar materials in the classroom. They have since become popular among budding (and fully grown!) engineers who use them to build almost anything they can imagine…

Cam Lee of Green Hat Workshop

What made you decide to turn a teaching tool into a business? I wanted to create my own job and eventually my own business, customised to my own interests, with all the good things about teaching that I enjoyed and none of the rubbish.

What’s Green Hat Workshop’s philosophy in a nutshell? At Green Hat Workshop we value thinking very highly. Edward de Bono’s creative Green Hat, which we take our name from, dispenses with habitual thinking and restrictive frameworks and focuses instead purely on creative ideas. We manufacture, source and popularise products which are without restrictive frameworks, are open-ended and intuitively appeal to all abilities.

Green Hat Workshop Planks 100

What do you particularly love about PLANKS? Because each face of a plank construction block is cut so exactly, I love that builders can easily do things that look difficult. People constantly amaze themselves with what they can build. I love watching kids who begin every task thinking that they ‘can’t’ and realising as they work that they ‘can’. Once they have seen that, they can’t ‘un-see’ it and it leads them to experiment in ways that they don’t normally. They leave the workshop buzzing with energy and possibility.

How are PLANKS different from traditional building blocks? They are identical and have a precise shape. This means they are not simply a chunk of wood, but are rather pieces to a delicate puzzle or precise elements to a design, rather than simply stackable. The length of each piece offers a wealth of counter balancing opportunities and the exact faces make balancing them easy – I’m often asked if they’re magnetic. They may seem small, but if stacked the right way can easily be taller than the builders themselves.

Green Hat Workshop Planks 200

How important are toys that inspire creativity? It may seem a little far-fetched to some but, to us, toys that inspire creativity are essential tools for Australia’s future and therefor extremely valuable. Except in some extreme cases, we all play. From pilots making up rhymes while going through their safety checks, musicians and athletes visualising a success in front of an audience, to any number of people who are intuitive or problem solve; they are all engaging in a form of creative play. Studies have shown that children possess greater creative problem solving ability than adults, and play is a great way to move from things and experience we are familiar with into realms of the unfamiliar. Toys are instruments of this movement.

What do you love the most about what you do? I enjoy getting feedback from kids and parents that PLANKS are the toy that they keep returning to over-and-over again; that it’s the thing they most like to play with friends and family, and that they too are finding new things they can do with them all the time. I love engineers rediscovering joy in construction and parents rediscovering play. I love the fact that their children can easily and authentically be a part of this experience.

Planks in the classroom

What are you working on now and what can we look forward to? Now that would be telling 😉

What do you do outside of Green Hat Workshop? Spend as much time as possible with my busy little family. I also play with ideas and experiment with new products for Green Hat Workshop and I spend time with the youth organisation Lord Somers Camp and Powerhouse and Mirabel — a great kids’ charity.

See the PLANKS range on our website.

Planks in Colour