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5 ways to promote problem-solving skills + Oribel VertiPlay STEM Marble Run (Review + Video)

5 ways to promote problem-solving skills +  Oribel VertiPlay STEM Marble Run (Review + Video)

Problem-solving skills can be developed from young. It is an essential skill to have if you want to prepare your children for jobs of the future. In this post, I will be sharing 5 ways to promote problem-solving with your children.

In addition, we had the chance to try out Oribel VertiPlay STEM Marble Run. I will be sharing my honest review, and how it helped to hone problem-solving skills in my son while he played.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I was given the toy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own, and not influenced by any companies.

our little playnest marble run STEM problem-solving

“The world economic forum states that 65% of our children will end up in careers that don’t exist yet.”

And the only way to prepare our children?

Teach them skills that they can be applied to any jobs in the future! 

The important skills they need include critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, digital literacy, etc.

I am told that my son has a logical thinking brain, and often draws conclusions based on reasoning. I can totally understand why because his mother (yours truly) is a science teacher 🙂

Very naturally, I always teach my children to problem-solve:

“Give me the solution, not the problem.” I often tell them.

WHY IS PROBLEM-SOLVING SO IMPORTANT?

During my teacher training days, we learn about Bloom’s Taxonomy – a classification system used to define and promote higher forms of thinking in education. 

Bloom's Taxonomy children problem-solving
Image credit: tips.uark.edu

The higher forms of human cognition are the top 3 levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – analyze, evaluate and create – which is mostly what the process of problem-solving requires. 

WHAT CAN I DO TO PROMOTE PROBLEM-SOLVING IN MY CHILDREN?

1. Ask your children for ideas

When your children encounter a problem, don’t be too eager to intervene. Spoilt toy? Get them to try to fix it! Siblings fighting over a piece of crayon? Get them to find a win-win solution.

2. Ask open-ended questions 

problem-solving ask open-ended questions our little playnest

With the right questioning techniques, you can encourage meaningful and rich conversations with your children. Ask open-ended questions like “What if you do this instead…?” “How are you planning to do…?” The right questions guide your children to analyze the situation and come up with creative solutions.

3. Verbalize your thought processes (especially to younger children)

“I see that the blocks keep falling off. I might have to change the size of the blocks. Or I can try to increase the base of the tower.” When you share your thought process, you are role modeling your thinking for your children.

4. Engage your children in STEM activities at home. 

If time allows, create opportunities to play with simple STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities. There are plenty of ideas on the web! Here are some low prep STEM activities I have done with the kids, you can get some inspiration here.

our little playnest stem activity sight words problem-solving

5. Engage them with STEM toys

There are many STEM toys in the market and they serve the purpose of encouraging your children to problem-solve. Purchase age-appropriate toys so that children do not feel disheartened when they are not able to solve the problem.

Oribel VertiPlay STEM Marble Run (Review)

We were given the opportunity to try out Oribel’s VertiPlay STEM Marble Run. My son has always been a fan of Marble Run, hence he was naturally very excited. Watch the video below!

WHAT ARE MARBLE RUNS?

Marble Runs usually comprise of tracks that can be connected easily with simple support structures. 

Children are given the full liberty to connect the tracks in any way, and eventually to get the “marble” to run from a starting to the ending point.

our little playnest marble run STEM oribel VertiPlay play learn fun children problem-solving

Does Oribel VertiPlay STEM Marble Run fit my criteria of a great learning toy?

I will analyze the toy based on the following criteria: openendedness, accessibility, replayability, fun, quality of the product.

Openendedness: 

Oribel’s VertiPlay STEM Marble Run comes with Silicone Mat Boards that can stick on the walls and be repositioned in many ways. This means that children are encouraged to use their creativity and can create any design they like.

This Marble Run set is extendable and comes with modules; there is no limitation to the way it can be played! It comes with balls, straight tracks, pin-wheel tracks, curvy tracks, see-saws, end caps, and connectors.

These tracks can also be tilted at various angles, your child can build a really really long marble run!

Accessibility:

The marble run set doesn’t require much adult supervision or guidance as it is quite straightforward to play. Through trial and error, my son managed to create a marble run route without my intervention. 

There is a simple guide on how to connect the parts, how to remove the mats, as well as some ideas on how to position the mats for more challenges.

Replayability:

The Silicone Mat boards can be removed from the walls without causing any damage, which allows for different modes of play. 

(We tried it and true enough, when we peel the top corner downwards slowly, there is no wall damage!)

Because the parts are easily hooked onto the mat boards, they can be played over and over again with varying levels of difficulty and complexity.

Kids of multiple ages can play at the same time as they work together to problem-solve. 

our little playnest marble run toy STEM oribel VertiPlay problem-solving

Fun:

While this criteria might be difficult to quantify, I know that it is fun for my kids when they kept returning to play at the wall. 

I recommend this for children age 5 and above who have better muscle control so they can adjust the tracks at any angle they like. 

My girl is 3 years old, and she only wants to play after the marble run is built by her brother.

Quality of the product:

The tracks and connectors are colorful, and not flimsy. The Silicone mats are thick and hence are not easily torn. The tracks can stay on the hooks firmly (the Silicone Mat provides lots of friction!), which is important for a good marble run toy.

What is great about Oribel VertiPlay STEM Marble Run

1. Clutter-free floor

Because the toy is played on the wall, the toy can be left there for a long time. The floor is hence cleared of clutter, and there is space for us to do other activities!

2. Learn science and engineering through problem-solving and creative exploration

Being an open-ended toy, there is more than one way to play. With no right or wrong methods, the children then feel safe to explore building the marble run in any way they like. Through trial and error, they learn problem-solving skills and creativity. Even with 2 Silicone mats, the kids were able to build a marble run that is challenging and fun.

I noticed my son was talking to himself as he problem-solves. He experienced countless failures before a successful attempt – and I pointed this out to him: Many times in life, you have to fail before you can succeed. I am so glad he persevered!

Many factors come into play for a successful marble run, like the angle of the tracks, the force at which the ball is released, how gravity works… there is so much hands-on learning in the play process. This experiential learning is way more meaningful and effective than reading a textbook about gravity!

3. Wrist extension development

our little playnest marble run STEM oribel VertiPlay wrist extension activities problem-solving

I always try to encourage my kids to work on vertical surfaces so it stretches their wrist, builds their muscle tone and improves their fine motor skills. Compared to marble runs on horizontal surfaces, this VertiPlay STEM Marble Run toy definitely helps with their wrist extension.

4. Doesn’t require adult supervision all the time

We all hope that our children will eventually be able to play independently. Once the Silicone Mats are pasted on the wall, my kids can help themselves freely to adjust the tracks and rebuild a new run. There is no need for any adult to be there all the time to help them assemble the tracks!

What can be improved

1. The mats can be repositioned only about 5-10 times.

My kids have torn them down a couple of times, so I will have to keep track of the number of times left for repositioning. Perhaps with better technology, so that the mats can be torn down numerous times!

2. Require good dexterity

Children who are younger than 5 years old might find it challenging to place the tracks to the hooks securely as it requires good fine motor skills. Some parental guidance is required if your child is below 5 years old. That said, I do realize that this toy is good training for the kids to improve their dexterity – my 3-year-old was slowly able to figure out how the connectors work, and put up the hooks on her own after much practice!

Make learning fun!

This VertiPlay STEM marble run toy is made of high-quality materials and encourages plenty of play and problem-solving opportunities for children. Through experimentation and exploration, children are able to figure out solutions while learning about physics and engineering at the same time!

I personally like that it is durable and can last a long time. Each play experience is different as the tracks can be arranged in multiple combinations of varying complexity! So far, we did not keep the tracks and mats since they don’t take up space on the ground. Having it vertical also promotes wrist extension – the kids are learning plenty of skills without even realizing it.

For my followers: quote “OLP15” for 15% off! More information about Oribel’s STEM marble run here.

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