Are Skoolzy Straw Structures a good STEM toy?

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August 7, 2017

The Skoolzy Straw Structures Kit Reviewed

Today's review is of one of the best-performing STEM toys out therre -- the (get ready for this name....) Skoolzy Straw Structures Interlocking Building Connecting Engineering Construction Kit .

Our review is for all the parents out there who are on the fence about another engineering toy in their home -- especially one with a lot of pieces that are going to scatter, get lost, and drive you nuts. But one that your kids are going to love, to build big, proper structures for themselves. Forts! Houses! Tunnels! Teepees! Bridges!

Overall we recommend the Skoolzy Straw Structures Kit for parents of 4 year olds and up. Younger than that, and you the grown-up will be doing most of the building, and the kid will just be enjoying your handiwork. It is a great engineering and design toy, to get creative, to try different strategies, and to feel a real payoff for the hard work in creating structures out of straws.

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Our Experience with the Skoolzy Straw Structures Kit

The Skoolzy Straw construction kit, offers a huge set of straws and connectors that kids can use to build large, flexible structures. It's billed explicitly as a STEM, engineering-friendly toy. It comes with 100 Straws, 100 Connectors, 1 Skoolzy Tote Bag, and 1 Downloadable Activity Guide. It's enough (but maybe not as abundant as your kids might want) to create lots of interesting structures.

Our kids loved the freedom to make the straws into whatever they liked. It's a very open-ended toy, which cuts both ways. If the kids have a goal, or they are all focused on experimenting, then they get into a flow with the toy and really start experimenting and building. But there's not a 'goal' built into the toy, which means sometimes the kids can get easily distracted or tune out.

They don't always have the concentration to follow through on building an entire structure, unless a parent is there encouraging, or unless there is a story and purpose to go along with the building.

Our verdict?

The toy pieces are easy enough for 4 year olds and up to put together. Little toddlers like it, but they can't figure out snapping pieces lessons -- they lack the fine motor skills required to really play and experiment with the pieces.. Watching older kids play with it, though, it seems much more effective.

This toy allows younger kids to benefit from sorting, patterning, and sequencing the colors to learn computational thinking concepts and practices.

Older kids will learn more about design and computational thinking, as they try to figure out how best to create the structure they have in their brain -- or how to experiment to see what's possible.

The Rundown

Overall score: 7/10

Pros

  • This will increase fine motor skills for most kids. Connecting and disconnecting the straws will get them working their hand-eye coordination, but it's not burdensome.
  • For kids older than 4 year olds, they will likely be able to understand the engineering part behind it, and get the STEM mindsets of experimentation, categorizing, and iteration
  • It is easy to take the pieces apart and snap them back together.
  • Even for younger than 5, the little ones love to play with it. The toys can be adapted and played with in different ways.
  • As a parent, it's fun to play with straws with our kids. This is definitely a toy for together-play.
  • Straws are simple enough even for (some) 2 and 3 year olds to put together - they can even build towers and all sorts of things with this kit.
  • Even three-year-olds learn some simple color sorting, counting and other fine motor activities with this product.
  • Building construction does not only entertain and engage kids, but also they improve reasoning, spatial thinking and problem-solving skills as they build.
  • Kids build, create and design neat things while strengthening their hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and exercising their imagination.
  • The quality of the straws and connectors is excellent. The word straw may fill your head with flimsy, disposable plastic -- but these are quality!

Cons

  • The life of the toy is more limited than a lego set. Kids will love to build with the straws, but it does take more focus and friend/adult support to play with them in a concentrated, learning kind of way.
  • This is a 'clutter'-ing toy. If your kids are like our kids, the pieces will get lost, they'll end up everywhere, and your house will become a few degrees crazier.
  • The structure isn't strong enough to hold the weight of a sheet. We really wanted to use the straws to support a covered fort, but it's not possible.
  • For kids 1-5 years old, they might not fully understand how it works. They likely won't get the STEM engineering lessons. But it can still be a fun building toy for them.
  • Sometimes, we've heard from friends, that kids around 3 and 4 years old don't understand the engineering purpose of this toy. They might play with it, but without parental involvement and reinforcement, they're not going to learn deeply from it.
  • Parents should be careful that kids don't bend the straws too sharply and dent them. They're stronger than fast food drinking straws, but they are not impenetrable
  • Kids younger than 3 year olds might have trouble connecting the straws, due to the force needed to push them together and their lack of fine motor abilities.