I often get asked for advice on choosing ball tracks. With Wonderworld’s Trix Trax range just having hit our shelves and Haba’s new “My first ball track with sound” set new on the market, I thought it might be helpful to provide you with my “buyers guide” based on some of the most frequently asked questions. So here goes:
1. What’s the difference between Haba and Wonderworld and which set should I buy?
Haba’s ball tracks come in two ranges:
“My First Ball Track” which is suitable for 18 months+
With very vibrant colours, “My first ball tracks” are robust, with a low to the ground ball run, offering great stability and easy building. The balls are 5cm in diameter so there is no risk of choking.
The bestselling classic Haba marble run range which is suitable for 3-10 years.
The classic Ball Tracks are all about speed, gravity and momentum. The basic sets and most of the add-ons don’t have curves so the balls go through re-directing blocks. There is lots of emphasis on sound with the add-ons providing lots of different wooden or metal sound effects.
Trix Track ball track is suggested from 3 years and up (in my opinion 3-99y – I love to play with it!)
Wonderworld come in very characteristic primary colours and their all about a different aspect of science, namely engineering, multi level play and cause and effect.
Their features or “trix” incorporate many different pivoting elements making them quite distinct from Haba.
It’s worth having a look at their images online or my review on the DKL blog to help you get an idea of the differences. Both sets have lots to offer and it’s really depends on your child’s age, what sets, if any, they have already and personnel preference.
2. What’s the best starter set? What age are they ideally suited for?
Children can usually independently build the other Haba and Wonderworld sets between 3 – 5 years.
- For a 1 year old I would obviously suggest Haba’s “My first ball track” although it may depend on their levels of concentration and previous experience with building toys, (Please read my next post for more info on which of the “My first ball tracks”).
- For a 3 year old the Trix Trax is a great place to start. The 2 way flipper is the most stable as it builds in a square and I found the Hammer Slammer combined with the Spin and Swirl is also very stable.
- The Hammer Slammer has multi level building and is different from other ball tracks because it involves 5 balls which operate in sequence around the track so although a little too complicated for a 3 year old, it’s great for slightly older children.
- The Haba classic ball track is more suitable for 4 or 5 year olds as customers have found they can be easily knocked over by a 3 year old and older siblings find it hard to build with their younger siblings around. However, if you add on the Haba Technics set this will stabilize it.
- For very young children there is lots of enjoyment to be had from building and playing with the sets together with parents and they can learn lots from just watching, listening and investigating.
3. How easy are they to set-up?
Certainly the first time you set up a Marble Run you’ll need to help your little one. I found it took about 15 minutes to start but I got quicker. It’s worth remembering that each Wonderworld part comes separately wrapped so you need to allow for that and it’s not easy if you have an extra pair of impatient hands trying to help out!
4. Can you combine sets?
Absolutely. One of the best ways to get the most out of these ball track sets is to combine sets. This allows you to come up with different designs and challenges and enables the nature of the play to develop with your child.
However, Haba’s My first ball track is slightly different in that it can only be used as the final (add-on) end of any Haba classic ball track and the different versions of My first ball track are NOT compatible with each other. I’ll do a separate review on these soon.
5. Are they sustainably made?
Yes. There’s lots of information on the website about the eco credentials of both Wonderworld and Haba if you’d like to know more. It’s important to me that even their packaging is made from 70% recycled material.
I’ve found that the tracks have something different to offer children at different ages. By way of example (and of course under my supervision), my 19 month old gets endless hours of fun just rolling the balls even though she’s not quite ready to put the track to the test. And as I’ve said already, if you combine the sets your children will continue to get something out of them as they grow.
I’ll let you know my thoughts on the new “My first ball track with sound” from Haba as soon as it’s in. In the meantime, if you found the above guide helpful or have any questions about getting the most from ball tracks, please post them below and I’ll make sure that I answer them as quickly as I can.