Roger von Oech’s Magnetic Toys

whack ballsCreative Whack makes several types of magnetic balls.  Each ball comes with a booklet to extend the use of the ball.

The booklets contain three sections.  The first section encourages playing with the ball and provides additional figures to create.

The second section is titled “Creativity” and does contain some good exercises in pattern exploration and encourages extended thinking. However, it is heavily wrapped in touchy-feely, mindfulness, use it as a metaphor type language.  I skipped it twice before deciding I had to read it to be fair.

The third section in the booklet covers the inspiration and math behind the shapes.  The math behind the different sets allows them to be combined for extended play.

My reaction to each of the sets (I have the x-ball, y-ball, and ball of whacks) was pretty much the same.  Initially, you have to discover the polarity of the pieces to see which ends attract and which repel.  The next stage is to start trying to puzzle out a pattern to make the ball.  At about half way, the pattern is clear, and the magnets are pretty much pulling pieces into the proper place.

These are cool toys, but I think it would have been a waste had I purchased them for my children when they were young.  They didn’t hold my interest long enough for me to complete more than a few of the patterns.  In a home, where it is competing with other toys, it wouldn’t be a winner.  However, in an environment with limited options for entertainment (at a grandparent’s, at a vacation home, tossed in a bag on a camping trip), they do allow for extended play.  They are also the kind of item I love to have available in my classroom.  It’s a perfect activity for a student who finishes a test early.  Due to the number of pieces, I wouldn’t leave it out.

The x-ball had a more interesting pattern, but I still was more drawn to the y-ball for play.  The Ball of Whacks was the best of the bunch and inspired more free play before I started looking at the booklet than the others.

Verdict:  They go to school for the students.  If they were less expensive, I’d go ahead and buy the rest of them.  They’re a little pricey for a sponge activity for school.

Available at Fat Brain Toys and Amazon.