Reviewing the premium HABA wooden marble run
We were very privileged to get the chance to review one of the best – and biggest – marble run sets around when the lovely people at HABA sent us their Master Building wooden marble run set, plus one of the many add-ons that are available.
We LOVE marble runs, and over the years have amassed a few different versions. So the kids were more than happy to get stuck in for this review!
Wooden marble runs are usually considered the best of the best – not only do they look and feel beautiful, they also offer far more flexibility, challenge and play-possibilities than their plastic counterparts.
Wooden marble runs can be quite an investment though, so what is it that makes them so special? Read on to see what we thought of this HABA marble run, and if it’s as special as (let’s face it) it looks…
HABA’s Master Building Marble Run Set
The HABA Master Building set is a whopper, and arrives carefully packaged in a large (and HEAVY) box.
Opening this for the first time was quite a thrill. Inside there was box after box of wooden blocks and tracks. A satisfyingly big tin of marbles (containing 36 glass and 2 metal marbles) is included, which covers their basic needs.
The set also includes a bright yellow, metal, ‘Whirlwind’ funnel that is frankly huge (think bigger than a dinner plate). And also a variety of ‘special’ track pieces such as the bell bridge and various sound-making track sections.
And lastly, let’s not forget the two large cotton bags for storage. Yes, that was possibly my favourite bit!
HABA, like many German companies, has impressive environmental credentials and pride themselves on the quality of their products.
The wooden pieces are all made at their factory in Germany from sustainably and locally sourced beech wood. And they are finished with a non-toxic varnish that is smooth to the touch.
You get 77 pieces in this HABA marble run set. We found it plenty big enough for two kids to build some pretty impressive structures.
It might have been big enough for a couple of adults to get involved too, but so far we have not been allowed to join in… 🙁
Constructing the HABA Marble Run
Unlike most plastic (and some wooden) marble runs available from other brands, the HABA marble run blocks do not clip together. If you really want this feature, there is an add-on set of clips you can buy.
I must admit, before we received the set, I was concerned that this would make runs harder to build. Would the kids be able to create stable structures that aligned well enough for the marbles to get all the way through?
And now we’ve had a few weeks’ play with our Haba Master Builder wooden marble run set? Well, I have been completely converted to this way of doing things!
Freedom to build
Because the blocks and track don’t lock together, kids can put the HABA marble run together any way that they like. And they can even integrate other items into the play. You may notice above a couple of stools got roped into my kids play to be a support for the Whirlpool!
Of course, they have to discover themselves through trial and error what works and what doesn’t. T-Bird didn’t take long to work out that the sloping tracks must all connect high to low, for example.
And the repetition of play helps them remember these lessons for next time.
This makes it completely open ended – kids have to use their imaginations to create these marble runs; there are no instructions to tell them what to do.
It undoubtably is also more challenging this way. But that, for me, is a positive. I could see the imagination and problem solving that my 4-year-old and 7-year old were putting to use in their constructions. And I could also see perseverance, focus and patience.
For instance, after accidentally knocking over some towers, both children started working and moving around more carefully. And when a few alignment issues stopped the marbles from running the full length of the track, the kids had to identify and solve the problem. This also made them more precise in their placement going forward.
It’s worth bearing in mind if you have younger children, that when we first started playing with the HABA marble run my littlest, T-Bird, was quite content playing with the winding track on its own.
It was only after quite a while playing with with this that she went on to annex a few of the special track pieces from the big set to use too. Eventually (partly inspired by her brother’s play) she was ready to get stuck in to the whole set.
For the very young, introducing new toys gradually this way really helps to not overwhelm them.
Building a Collection
You get two cotton storage bags (with cute cartoonish images of the marble run printed on them) as part of the Master Building set. They are perfect for storage and have plenty of room in them for extra bits.
The HABA marble run also makes a great toy set to collect gradually over time. Buying the different elements as add-ons is much less of an ‘upfront’ investment. I’ve found that a new piece can also revitalise interest and keep them playing with the set for longer.
It is also a fantastic way of ensuring people have something to buy for birthdays and Christmas. Something that will last and be played with for years.
The basic track, blocks, and corner pieces are absolutely beautiful, and the smooth wood really pleasing to handle. However the real stars of the show are those ‘special’ blocks.
First up are the three sound making blocks that were a big hit with the kids. There is the bell; what we like to call the ‘click clack track’; and, hands-down favourite, the ringing track.
The bell piece dangles from an archway on an adjustable string. There is complete freedom in this so it did take some time to master. Eventually, though, the kids worked it out. They discovered the best results were when the bell was dangled from high above the track.
Being on a longer piece of string meant the bell was easier for the marble to ‘ring’. This was because it required less force to move and would swing further when hit. For me, this is a great example of them discovering and making use of some practical physics.
The bell is probably the trickiest piece for very young ones to use. You do have to wind the rope quite precisely to get it working. My youngest was happy to leave this to me, though her older brother took over pretty quickly!
The Click Clack Track
The click clack track is not the official name. It can be bought as part of the small Sloped Tracks set listed below, as well as part of the master builder set.
This special piece is simple, but very satisfying to use. As the marbles roll down this track, they hit the angled wedges. They clatter from side to side with a great ‘click clack’ noise (hence our name!).
The click clack track works well with just a few of the standard track pieces. So this one is great for introducing the set to younger children.
This was a very popular piece of track with both kids, though it was pipped to the post as favourite by the ringing track…
The Ringing Track
The ringing track has one red and one blue chime bar that the marbles ping alternately as they make their way down this wavy track. The sound and motion that this track makes is beautiful and everyone – adults and kids alike – loved this piece.
The kids were keen to experiment with different kinds of marble to see if it changed the sound. Unsurprisingly, this was a piece that got used in every single one of their constructions.
The popularity of the ringing track has inspired me to put some of HABA’s other sound-making track pieces at the top of the kids’ christmas lists. There’s nothing like noise-making toys to keep them happy! See below for some great-looking extra pieces I found.
The Whirlwind (official name!) is a bright yellow metal funnel that the marbles spiral slowly around, before they drop out through the hole at the bottom. It is the coolest bit of marble run kit I’ve ever seen. My kids are completely in love with it.
Mind you, they were preconditioned to like it by those charity collection boxes that let you send your pennies spiralling round in much the same way.
We’ve sent a lot of loot round those things, so my kids knew instantly what to do with this. However, there is an art to getting the launch track at just the right angle.
Again, I like that this was challenging for the kids. My oldest was obsessive about lining up the parts to get it right, and he soon mastered the angles.
My youngest, however, did get frustrated trying to get this right. But then we found that you could roll a marble into the funnel by hand far more easily. After that, it was easily her favourite section!
Add-on Set: Winding Track
Alongside the humungous Master Building set, the marvellous people at HABA were also kind enough to send us one of their add-on pieces. The rather lovely ‘Winding Track’.
This pack consists of two large beechwood slabs. These are raised at one end, with a curving grooved track carved deeply into each. There were also six pretty blue earth-like marbles to use with them.
The tracks are really very beautiful objects . The whisper of the marbles zig-zagging down, along with that to-and-fro motion, is almost hypnotic.
The grooves are cut in such a position that they can be joined any way around. Though they obviously work separately as well.
We opened this box before we got out the large set, and my kids were both happy to play with these for some time before asking for the rest.
This makes a great option for starting a collection for younger kids, providing an easy way into the principles of a marble run for them. And it gives us parents a way to get a feel for the quality and functionality of the HABA marble run sets as a whole, without investing a large amount of money upfront.
Many of the smaller add-on or starter sets would be just as good for this, and there are so many different options that there’s bound to be something to appeal to every child.
My son loves the look of the musical elements, while my daughter would love the catapult and trampoline. Personally, I would be happy to get them that sloped track set . There really is something for everyone.
I feel very lucky that we were given the opportunity to review this HABA marble run. It’s so beautifully made and I know my kids will get years of enjoyment out of them.
And the simplicity of this beautifully-made marble run belies its value in what it offers for both entertainment and education.
This is a toy that can engage and challenge children on many levels. It can be played with by individuals or by groups. And it can be as complicated or basic as required, so will grow with them as their abilities develop. Indeed it will aid in that development.
And, honestly, the HABA marble run is so much fun!
If you would like to find out more about the benefits of marble run play, and what we look for when choosing a set of our own (something we’ve done more than once!), take a look at our post on Essential Toys – Marble Runs.
HABA were kind enough to send us these toys for an honest review. All opinions in the article are our own, and unless otherwise stated, all pictures were taken of the actual set we received.
HABA wooden marble run – buying options (UK)
The HABA marble run sets we recieved for this review were the Master Building Set and the Winding Track add-on. Both are available from Amazon and elsewhere, and many of the ‘special’ sections in our big set are available separately as well.
I’ve listed links to Amazon below for reference – these are affiliate links so if you click through and buy, I will receive a small (marble sized!) amount towards the running of this blog, without adding anything to the amount you pay. Thank you so much for your support.
HABA Marble Run – Products Featured in this Review
HABA Marble Run – Starter Sets
There are also a variety of less expensive, alternative, ‘starter sets’ from HABA – each of which has some basic marble run and building blocks, plus a few ‘specials’
HABA Marble Run – Add-on Sections
Many of the special sections and basic blocks for the HABA marble run are available as Add-On buys. The whirlwind dish and the musical sections of the Master Building Set, for example.
There are loads of options available. We love the idea of the trampoline and the catapults, but also the tall structures and the musical sections. Here’s a round up of some of the HABA marble run add-ons on Amazon.
For more information on all of HABA’s fabulous products, check out their website:
HABA Real Woodworking Tools for Kids
Another of our twenty essential toys are real tools. A great option for these are the Terra Kids range, also by HABA, that we tested out recently. Click through to see what we made of them.