COMMENTARY: Marble Runs Are on a Roll!

During Toy Fair last month, I saw quite a few marble runs on display, which is not at all surprising. This particular toy has been around since my own childhood and never seemed to go away for any prolonged span of time. Meanwhile, one of the vendors I spoke to said marble runs have actually increased in popularity over the past year, thanks to the growth of the construction toy category. He also said that many customers opt for larger sets—or else buy multiple small ones of the same brand—and that the ability to combine sets to build ever-larger runs makes for exceptional toy value in their eyes.

Personally, I think marble runs are a thing of beauty: You drop in your fateful spheroid and watch as it winds its way toward its ultimate destiny, guided only by physics and skilled engineering. For young builders, they are a terrific means of developing an understanding of cause and effect, not to mention patience–as any seasoned vet can tell you, it can take repeated tries and multiple setbacks before a marble run is put together perfectly. But it’s worth it: A well-built run can have a downright pacifying effect, as watching the marble traveling along can put the mind in a focused, relaxed state.

Despite what they may have in common collectively, marble runs come in a range of different shapes, materials, and styles. Here are a few of my favorite companies currently producing them, but by no means should it be considered a definitive list. The breadth and scope of these toys is certainly worthy of a longer discussion; I’m just here to get the proverbial ball–or marble–rolling:

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Toy Industry Foundation Celebrates “Christmas in July”

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) and the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF) are showcasing a collection of toys and games that teach children about charity and social responsibility during a month-long “Christmas in July” media campaign.  The toys and games shown below were featured in a television segment that aired this week on “6 In the Mix” on WTVJ (NBC) Miami.

  • Hearts for Hearts, from Playmates Toys, features nine dolls from around the world that each have a story to share about female empowerment. Every doll purchased results in a donation to a program that helps girls around the world.
  • Wonder Glow Blocks, from Wonderworld Toys, are environmentally-friendly solid wood blocks that support a year-round program called the Tree Plus Project, a tree planting initiative.
  • Happy Nappers, from Jay at Play, are plush play pillows whose proceeds support the Home Sweet Home Fund benefitting the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation.
  • Harness the Healing Power of Horses, from Breyer, are pink horses. $1 from the sale of each will go to two breast cancer research organizations: Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
  • True Hope Dolls, from MGA Entertainment, consist of three Bratz dolls that support young girls and boys who suffer from hair loss or who are watching loved ones lose their hair from cancer treatments. $1 for every doll sold supports cancer research, treatment, and education at City of Hope.

This post was originally written by Sierra McCleary-Harris and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.