Build and Imagine, the award-winning playsets, created by Laurie Peterson is an engineering playground for all kids. The sets come in a variety of themes from castles to a marine rescue center. There is also a set where kids can draw and create their own dwelling. The sets consist of magnetic panels or walls that snap together in a variety of ways. Each time a child interacts with the story walls, something new is created and it challenges kids to think outside the confines of static structures or get lost in habitual scripts of play. Laurie Peterson, the founder, and CEO of Build & Imagine (www.buildandimagine.com) has a long-standing and successful history within the toy industry. She created the magnetic playsets for children to expand and experiment with not only construction but also in the telling of a story. The ability to create and narrate an accompanying story is pure fuel for the imagination to take flight and a child’s ability to take perspectives. In essence, children are able to actively make decisions and problem-solve through play as well as practice social skills.
From the Creator of Build & Imagine
When asked about her inspiration for designing the playsets, Laurie responded: “Building toys have been one of the hottest toy categories, and I just wasn’t seeing a lot out there that is really appealing to girls. Those that tried were often doing so by taking their existing sets and turning them pink. I call it “Pink Think”. What I did is combine several things girls have historically loved. Build & Imagine StoryWalls are like dollhouse meets dress-up dolls meets magnetic building blocks. It’s not just building a structure, it’s building a story. By combining our illustrated magnetic panels to form dollhouses (and other themed sets) kids are developing foundational STEM skills like spatial reasoning, problem-solving, and design.” When observing kids playing with the playsets, we have found that they are just as appealing to boys because of their gender-neutral design and offered a variety of play themes. Often the storylines created were shared experiences between both boys and girls. Laurie added in her making of the Build & Imagine sets, her initial vision was to design specifically for girls and found to her delight that boys liked them too! “We’ve heard from the get-go that boys love our sets too! I’ve been in the toy industry for over a decade, and have seen in that time the way companies typically operate when designing for kids. By default, they design for boys, and then occasionally make a conscious business decision to flip a character to female, or to a theme with girls in mind. The thinking generally was, “If we design for boys, girls will play anyways”. Well, we’ve taken that (somewhat depressing) convention and flipped it on its head. We design first and foremost for our underserved girl builders. Then, we take opportunities to welcome boys to play too. In the longer term, I’d like to see toys that are not gender-segregated, so that all children can be exposed to a variety of developmental toys and ultimately widen their possibilities in life.”
The construction walls are solid and hold up to a preschooler’s enthusiastic manipulations and handling. The printed walls are beautifully rendered and detailed, bringing in a host of storylines for novel play by assembling the walls in different configurations. Each set comes with 2 characters with an abundance of corresponding magnetic clothing and accessories to each theme. The magnets can be placed on the story walls giving additional richness and meaning to play. Additional figures and accessories can be purchased separately. We kept the outer covering for the magnetic accessories plus props to use as an outline for additional puzzle play by attaching it to a magnetic board. It also makes for easy cleanup and keeping the tiny magnetic pieces together. For kids that are largely non-verbal, we found that the sets helped to give them a voice and the opportunity to practice basic sounds and ideas. Because there were so many common items from a preschooler’s world, it also was an opportunity to build vocabulary from objects within the preschooler’s natural environment. In therapy, I loved that kids that needed extra practice with visual motor skills and planning benefitted from visual scanning and targeting, varying their ability to grasp the pieces, and bi-lateral manipulation skills.
We had a lot of fun building with the castle set that was sent for review. I would heartily recommend Build & Imagine because of its superior quality and long-lasting play value. These are sets that will grow with kids and can give many opportunities to practice therapeutic goals. Don’t be fooled by knock-offs. These are the real deal – made for kids with solid construction and for home use, it’s the perfect toy to practice rehearsals for real-life situations. Build & Imagine can be bought right now on Amazon amazon.com/buildandimagine or visit the website at www.buildandimagine.com for more information.