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Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review: Courtesy of The School Shop

I love shopping at The School Shop for educational toys, books, and supplies for my kiddos. After my husband recently struck up a conversation about STEM toys with Christy Komnick, one of the owners, she offered me the opportunity to review GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine. Much to my delight, Christy additionally offered me the chance to review more educational toys carried by The School Shop. My daughter and I most recently received a Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center to review.

Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 1

About Build & Imagine

“What we play with matters. Toys help to shape our view of the world and develop important skills.” Build & Imagine founder Laurie Peterson believes that toys can make a difference in narrowing the “gender gap in innovation” between boys and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Building toys have historically catered to boys, meaning that girls have been missing out on toys that develop important spatial and design skills that are prerequisites to succeed in STEM. I am always looking for new toys for my kids that focus on STEM skills, and I really appreciate building toys that cater to little girls because so many similar toys currently available are marketed to little boys.

Build & Imagine offers a line of magnetic construction sets featuring adventurous leading female characters and rich illustrated details that inspire both girls and boys to build and imagine. The guiding principle that the company uses in its design is that construction should inspire storytelling. Build & Imagine StoryWall playsets contain illustrated scenes that children can build, decorate, and use as a backdrop for imaginative play. The StoryWalls develop early engineering skills including spatial reasoning, experimentation, creativity, and design. I can definitely get behind an educational toy that teaches an array of such important skills.

Laurie Peterson is an award-winning toy designer with almost a decade of experience designing and marketing toys. She earned an MBA from Haas school of Business at UC Berkeley with an emphasis in entrepreneurship in 2011. She founded Build & Imagine after noticing that toys in the “girls” section of the toy store failed to reflect the kind of play experiences she loved as a child (building, problem solving, designing, and experimenting). She aims to create construction toys that her daughter will love. Her products have won top awards including “Most Educational Toy of the Year,” “Most Innovative Toy of the Year,” and “Best Toy of the Year” from the TIA award show.

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Price

Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center currently retails for $49.99. The magnetic building set comes with fifteen dual-sided illustrated building panels, more than thirty magnetic accessories, and one doll. The StoryWall playset features a dolphin pool, sea lion pool, operating room, laboratory, fish kitchen, ship control center, underwater observatory, otter rehab tank, rescue gear, jet ski, outfits, feeding supplies, and many marine animals. Although priced a bit more than other building sets with a comparable number of pieces, the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center offers some unique features not available in other similar toys. The magnetic pieces allow even the youngest children to construct and reconstruct different scenes quickly. Unlike with many other building toys, my three-and-a-half-year-old preschooler is able to play with the toy fully without any help. Additionally, unlike a traditional bulky dollhouse, Build & Imagine StoryWalls stack flat, making the playsets easy to transport and store. My daughter can easily put the toy away herself as well, which I love as a mother. I thus consider the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center fairly priced for the uniqueness and value of the toy.

Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 2 Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 3

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Performance

My daughter loves playing with her Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center. She asks to play with her new “magnet toy” multiple times a day. Her adoration of the toy is high praise indeed. As a three-year-old, her attention span can be quite short at times. Sometimes she will play with a new toy once or twice and then lose interest. But not with the Marine Rescue Center. Since receiving it, she has played with her new building toy multiple times a day almost every day. And she will actually sit still at the table for up to half an hour playing. Even if I had nothing else positive to say (which I do), I would have to say that the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center is child-approved!

In terms of safety, Build & Imagine StoryWall panels consist of wood and magnets with a plastic frame to keep the magnets encased. To make the toy as safe as possible, the company use ferrite block magnets rather than small neodymium magnets. Ferrite magnets are much weaker than neodymium magnets, meaning that strong ferrite magnets are very large and harder for children to swallow. The smaller, weaker ferrite magnets that Build & Imagine uses are therefore safer for younger children. As a mother of two children who constantly put things in their mouths, I very much appreciate the materials that Build & Imagine use to provide the safest magnetic toy possible. I thus rate the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center extremely highly in terms of safety.

Pieces of Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 1

Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 2 Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 3

Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 4 Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center Review 5

In addition to the safer magnets in the StoryWall panels, Build & Imagine uses durable materials in all parts of the Marine Rescue Center. The accompanying doll consists of wood with a plastic base that easily stands up in any scene. The magnetic accessories are printed on 30 millimeter flexible magnet sheets. My daughter definitely puts the durability to the test. She is constantly dropping the pieces and is sometimes a little rough with her toys. So far, the only damage that she has done to the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center is when she tried to peel the paper picture off one of the magnetic accessories. I was able to glue the paper back down, and the damage is in no way the fault of Build & Imagine. I thus rate this toy extremely highly in terms of durability.

I love the simplicity of the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center building set. The StoryWall panels are large enough for my three-and-a-half-year-old preschooler to use by herself. With toys with smaller pieces, she sometimes asks me for help when building her creations. But Build & Imagine is easy enough for her to play with alone. She loves building all sorts of towers and buildings with the simple square and triangle pieces. The magnetic accessories are equally easy for her to use. She loves dressing up the doll and sticking the accessories on her creations.

Although simple in design, the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center offers plenty of room for creative play. I love all the colorful and detailed backgrounds printed on the StoryWall panels. Right now my daughter just likes to build structures with the squares and triangles. As she gets older, she can continue creating imaginative stories to go along with her creations. The company recommends the toy for children between the ages of 4 and 8, and I agree with the age range (and would argue that three-year-olds will also enjoy playing with the toy with supervision). Younger children will have fun building with the manageable panels while older children can add in more storytelling.

Final Verdict

My preschooler daughter absolutely loves her Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center. Although Build & Imagine recommends the toy for children between the ages of 4 and 8, my daughter at three-and-a-half already spends hours building and rebuilding scenes with the magnetic playset. I love that the STEM toy aids in the development of early engineering skills like spatial reasoning, problem solving, and creativity as well as language skills. I also appreciate that the company uses ferrite block magnets, rather than small neodymium magnets, to ensure the highest level of safety. The highest praise that I can offer for the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center is that my daughter asks, and sometimes begs, to play with the building set all the time. If you are looking for a STEM toy that combines engineering with storytelling, look no further than Build & Imagine!

The School Shop

The School Shop carries a full line of classroom decoratives, teacher materials, supplies, and resources as well as educational toys, games, puzzles, and crafts. For more information, visit The School Shop website or follow The School Shop on Facebook.

Image Credits

Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 1 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 2 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 3 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Pieces of Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center © 2015 Heather Johnson
Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 1 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 2 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 3 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 4 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Playing with the Build & Imagine Marine Rescue Center 5 © 2015 Heather Johnson

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Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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