Ravensburger GraviTrax Starter Set

Editor's rating:
10.0
Nela Cvetanovska
Reviewed by Nela Cvetanovska
User's rating:
4.7
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We like

Educational and entertaining product

Intelligent and eye-catching design

Less expensive yet equally engaging STEM toy

Sharpens logic and problem solving skills

The ball movement is quick and quiet

Mind-sharping and fun group activity

Awarded as one of the best products on the 2018 NY Toy Fair

We don’t like

The pieces don’t actually lock together so children might bump them easily

How it works

Are you looking for an entertaining way to bring science closer to your children? Although there are a lot of scientific and futuristic animated series wouldn’t it be better if they got a real first-hand glimpse by experimenting and researching in the living room?

Now it is not easy to choose the right STEM toy for your children since you don’t want to intimidate them with overly complicated lab toys and discourage the potential further exploring in these fields. It would be rather nice if the toy is fun like a board-game, yet it offers building possibilities like a Lego set, and it has a marble run that will make the whole experience an educational roller-coaster. With that being said, behold the power of GraviTrax!  

This is not your conventional board game although it looks like one! It is actually a building set for a marble run that will make tiny balls slide down accordingly on the structure you’ve build. The starter set is so versatile since it has an enormous amount of content which allows each ball to take a different course so you can never get bored with its trajectory.

You will find a couple of booklets with building options however the final decision is totally up to you. You get to be the scientist, the architect and craftsman behind your own masterpiece, and the whole process will undoubtedly be an unconventional learning adventure.

Origin

Origin

Ravensburger are well known for their extraordinary puzzles and educational games which are based on the methods and principles of the founder Otto Maier. Inspired by the educational reforms which developed during his time, Maier decided to open a publishing store in Ravensburg which will focus on combining entertainment and education so children can learn by doing.

Even though the company initially started publishing presentation guides for craftspeople, how-to books and family games, their legacy includes educational activity games, model construction sets and art kits. The vast universe of Ravensburger was even granted its own museum which reflects the past traditional roots and their genuine vision for the future. The core value of the modern international company is Playful Development which seems like the perfect way to describe their GraviTrax starter pack.
Design

Design

The game comes with a hard-cardboard bottom grid of 4 base plates combined and designed in a pattern of white and lime-green hexagons. As you unbox it you will notice 2 large transparent levels which are meant to be used as supporting platforms for your upper layers. These are essential if you are building a 3 story structure. There are 6 steel balls in different colors. In addition, 40 large height tiles and 12 small height tiles are included as building components.

The tracks come in 3 different sizes, and you will find 3 long ones, 6 medium tracks and 9 short tracks. They connect without locking so you can easily experiment with them without damaging the other components. This however might be frustrating for children if they bump the tracks yet it is an awesome way to practice a more patient and careful approach to building.

A set of 21 curves should be more than enough to make different moving trajectories for the balls as well as 3 junctions, 2 switches, a 3-in-1 block, a vortex and a magnetic cannon. Moreover, 1 launch pad and a finish line are essential points so you can have a proper starting and ending of your gravitational journey. There are 4 basic tiles included as well as the adequate inserts of 2 catches, a free-fall, splash and a landing point.

Last but not least, you shall be granted a construction plan booklet, basic instruction manual and a task booklet and they come translated in several different languages. These are quite necessary and detailed since it is a STEM toy and you pretty much want all the information you can get in order to be able to create the marble sliding masterpiece.
Education

Education

This is an excellent educational toy if you want to get your child interested in architecture and science. It represents an entertaining introduction to the powers of gravity, magnetism and kinetics which are necessary to make the marbles run smoothly once the structure is created.

When you unpack the product, you will find 18 different construction elements and more than a 100 pieces to start your glorious creation. The whole point of the game is to offer an open-ended building concept through which you can create multiple version of tracks with different angles and heights. By doing this, the children can notice how every step they take has an effect on the speed of the ball and they will even learn how to manipulate it.

Whether they are guided by the construction plans which are included in the box or decide to follow their creative drive, the hexagonal pattern allows for the pieces to be oriented properly so they end up providing an interrupted gravitational fall every time. While shaping and observing their creation, children get a better understanding of the laws of physics and how they influence the path of the little tiny marbles.
Logic Skills

Logic Skills

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and it represents a cohesive learning paradigm of all 4 disciplines joined together. When combined, this subjects are no longer separate and discrete as instead they share a multiple goal which is abstract reasoning. Ultimately it means to piece together information by using logic through a thought-based exercise in order to get to a conclusion or form an inference.

The GraviTrax Starter set is great for building spatial reasoning and problem solving skills. It introduces children to cause and effect thinking and it helps them develop fine motor abilities. In the instruction manuals you can find simpler example models for building and more complex ones, which are conveniently adapted for beginners and more experienced puzzle solvers.

However, even if you don’t want to follow the rules of the model, you can still use your logic skills and follow the laws of physics. In that way, it’s actually a pretty creative toy since it allows children to express themselves and build something genuine. The most valuable point of any scientific experience is the journey and being rewarded with a positive ending result is quite satisfying.
Entertainment Value

Entertainment Value

When a product combines both board game features and building opportunities, it creates a fun group activity which will undoubtedly keep you entertained for hours. If you inspect each piece you will notice how they offer countless possibilities for the balls to take an interesting turn.

There are three different sizes of tracks that hook effortlessly once you join them with the other hexagonal pieces. Each tile has a loop that curves the path of the ball and you can use the components to make the balls curve, cross, free-fall or even do the magnetic fire cannon. The forms include starting and ending points for the balls, a three-way directional path, a split that allows the ball to cross, drop down or be released at the same time. There is even a switcher that can allow the ball to take a surprising turn.

The fun part is that even if you don’t understand the specific use of each tool in the game, you get to discover its importance while experimenting and building the creation. It will keep you occupied and amazed by your own dexterity while you’re trying to figure out how to unlock more features.

The toy makers even created an app which you can download for free on both Apple and Android. The GraviTrax App allows you to create new track scenarios on your smartphone while you are away and save the blueprints to use them later with your starter set. There is also a possibility of testing the marbles fall from its own point of view by using the Virtual Reality feature, however you are going to need a proper headset for the VR experience.
Ease of Use

Ease of Use

The name of the product might sound too scientific and complicated; however, this toy is actually a very simple starter set. You can quickly figure it out while experimenting with the tiles and tracks, while we can’t say the same thing about an actual gravity science project. After all, it is meant to give your children a close and simple approach to the basics of science, not frustrate them with complicated information that can’t be easily processed.

Even if you feel intimidated by all the content in the box, this might just be the easiest marble run to set up that we’ve come across. It’s easy to put together and easy to put apart. The balls are dropped neatly and simply while the marble movement is quiet and quick.

It is safe to say that you won’t need genius level skills to understand and manipulate the gravitational process although the design seems very next level and futuristic. Almost all STEM toys are intelligently designed so the learning process can be stress free and motivating.
Age Range

Age Range

Board-gamers will undoubtedly love this game however it is meant for children of 8 years old or above. Younger kids might find it too complicated and toddlers will definitely try to eat the marbles. However, children who are going to school would enjoy being challenged by a fun scientific experiment that is actually a creative play-time activity.

Even adults find it interesting and enjoy helping their children in the building process. It is quite remarkable to witness toys who will help you bond with your kids without pretending to have fun in the whole process. Board-games require focus, logic skills and attention and marbles bring a nostalgic feeling from gaming in the past, so with this toy you definitely get the best of both worlds.
Price Range

Price Range

This product is quite fairly priced since it’s a STEM toy with educational content that you can use over and over again, exploring its limitless structures and possibilities. Any type of board game can be used by multiple members of the family which means you can save up some money on buying separate gifts and surprise your loved ones with a fun group activity present.

By purchasing this product, you make a long-term investment, since you can re-build the structures and experiment with its components. It is highly unlikely that you will get bored with it, especially if you open it during the holidays when the whole family is gathered together and you need ideas for a bonding family activity.

Conclusion

Isn’t it funny how almost everyone shares a weird fascination with marbles? These small spherical toys have always been a part of the gaming experiences and continue to inspire toymakers around the world. In this particular product they play an important role in discovering the laws of physics by following the steel ball bearings on a track you get to build and organize by yourself.

The GraviTrax is a valuable investment since it will teach your child that science, technology, engineering and math can actually provide a fun playtime experience. It might even inspire your little ones to explore the world of architecture and building processes. Even if they are more into arts and crafts, this product will unfold their imagination and help them boost creativity while they figure out a way to come up with a new structural design.

The set allows you to experiment for hours by reshaping the tracks and rethinking every move. It will keep your child occupied with a valuable mission and sharpen its logic skills. Wouldn’t you rather have a toy to educate your children while they are on their winter break in a fun and unconventional way that won’t feel like a homework assignment?
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