- Games, Toys, and Hobbies
Great Toy For Toddlers - Fisher-Price Incrediblock Review
I am not a mother who has the patience to have a lot of baby toys in the house. I don't particularly have a ton of room to store them, and I don't like clutter. So when I buy for toys for my one-year-old daughter, I try to make the toys count. They need to earn their keep, so to speak: Ideally, they will hold my baby's interest over a long period of time while simultaneously providing a lot of opportunities to practice her motor skills, cognitive skills, or any of the other skills that children need to learn in their first few years of life.
By these standards, Fisher-Price's Incrediblock, is, well, incredible. My daughter loves it: she has played with this toy for hours everyday since I gave it to her two months ago, and has shown no signs of slowing down or losing interest. Additionally, this toy provides plenty of opportunities for practicing motor skills and it's even helping to teach her some words.
To fully understand how great this toy really is for little kids, one first has to understand exactly all that this toy has to offer. So in this section, I will describe it in great detail.
The Incrediblock is a large, cube-shaped toy. It comes with a collection of smaller blocks, called Peek-a-Blocks, that are the perfect size for toddler's hands. When standing upright, the Incrediblock's five visible faces each feature a fun activity that uses the Peek-a-Blocks.
Perhaps the easiest way to dive into the nitty-gritty is to first describe the smaller Peek-a-Blocks. A Peek-a-Block is a small cube with sides that are usually transparent. Each side of the cube is only a couple of inches long, so toddlers can easily grasp and manipulate it.
Each Peek-a-Block has something interesting inside: examples include an object to look at (like an animal or a musical instrument), mirrors that create a visual display, or balls that make a satisfying rattling sound when shaken. Some Peek-a-Blocks practically become a toy all on their own by including little wheels on the outside that a baby or parent can turn to make something happen inside the block.
There are eight special Peek-a-Blocks, called interactive Peek-a-Blocks for reasons that I'll describe later. They each contain an easily-identifiable animal or object. Animals include a cow, a cat, and a dog, and objects include a boat, a car, a drum, a guitar, and a horn. These were the blocks that originally came in the box with the toy; the other blocks were all sold separately and some even came from companies other than Fisher-Price.
As noted before, the Incrediblock is cube-shaped, and is about 14 inches long on each side. The five visible surfaces have different activities for babies to play with.
Side #1: Stack & Spill.This side of the block has three columns, each of which is just wide enough to accommodate a Peek-a-Block, and high enough to accommodate four Peek-a-Blocks stacked one on top of the other. At the top of each column is a small trigger. When the child drops a Peek-a-Block down a column, it hits the trigger which sets off flashing lights and music. The Peek-a-Block comes to rest at the bottom of the column, or on top of other blocks that are already sitting in the column.
Next to the columns is a small red lever. When this lever is pressed, the bottom of the columns drops out, and all of the blocks that are currently stacked in them come tumbling out.
Side #2: Sort & Store. This side of the block has three holes: two square-shaped holes and a circular hole. The holes are all big enough to allow a Peek-a-Block to pass through them easily. Underneath the holes is a large door that opens downward. Behind the door and the holes is a large open area, which is perfect for storing Peek-a-Blocks when they are not in use. When the child wants to retrieve the blocks for playing, he just needs to pull open the door (which is easy enough for a baby to do) and there they are!
Side #3: Drop & Tumble (AKA: Baby Plinko). If you've watched enough episodes of the game show The Price Is Right, then you're familiar with the game "Plinko" and the Plinko wall. If not, the idea is something like this: there is a wall, and on this wall are some large pegs sticking out in a regular, somewhat honeycomb-like pattern. The player takes a disc and places it somewhere along the top of the Plinko wall, above the top of row of pegs. The player then releases the peg and gravity takes over: the disc is bounced around by the pegs until it falls to the bottom and lands through a particular slot. On The Price Is Right, each bottom slot corresponds with the a particular prize and the player wins whatever prize corresponds with the slot in which his or her disc finally landed.
The Drop & Tumble side of the Incrediblock is reminiscent of the Plinko wall: it features pegs that stick out from the face, and the idea is that your baby will drop a Peek-a-Block from above the top row of pegs and watch as it descends down to the bottom. However, this is cheap Plinko -- the only prize Baby gets is the satisfaction of watching the block as it makes its way to the bottom.
- If you play around with the small buttons in the Peek-a-Block cutaway in the center of the Spin & Learn activity center, you can find four bonus "hidden" sounds. Apparently, there were going to be a few other interactive blocks, but they were never completed. These sounds are "lamb", "bird", "airplane", and "pig".
- The triggers in each of the three Stack & Spill columns play a different type of sound. The right-most column plays a short "sound-effect" type of noise. The left-most column plays a short little ditty, and the center column plays a full-length song.
Side #4: Plug & Play. This side features a safety mirror and two little Peek-a-Block-sized cubbyholes. A child can play with his reflection or put blocks into the cubbyholes and pull them back out.
Top: Spin & Learn. This area features a large disc in the center decorated with images of a cat, a dog, an airplane, a bee, a boat, and other fun things. At the center of this disc is a red dome; in the center of the red dome is a little cutaway area that is shaped to accept a single Peek-a-Block. When a child presses one of the eight interactive Peek-a-Blocks into the cutaway, the Incrediblock responds by saying the name of the object and making an associated sound ("woof" for the dog, "meow" for the cat, and so on). Then the disc starts spinning around while a song plays and lights flash on the dome. When the child presses other, non-interactive Peek-a-Blocks into the cutaway, there are no words spoken, but the disc still spins and the song still plays.
The top of the cube also has a few small, brightly-colored toys for a toddler to flip and spin. There is also a large blue button; when the button is pressed, the Spin and Learn disc will spin while a song plays, just as it would if a non-interactive Peek-a-Block were pressed into the cutaway.
See It In Action
Pros and Cons
Now that I have gone into great detail about what the Incrediblock is, I can now discuss some of the pros and cons of it.
As you might've determined from the description, this toy fits my criteria of needing to provide a lot of value in terms of enjoyment and learning opportunities for my daughter. With five sides of different activities, there is always something for her to do, and it has helped her develop her skills:
- Until she got this toy, I had never before seen her be able to fit a peg in a hole. She already had a shape-sorting toy, but she never seemed to know or care that the shapes were supposed to go in their corresponding holes: instead, she just put them in her mouth. When she first started playing with the Incrediblock, she seemed to struggle a bit to make the Peek-a-Blocks go where she wanted. It didn't take her long, however, to figure out that she'd be rewarded with lights and sounds, and within a week, she was handling the blocks with ease. Soon thereafter, she started putting blocks in the correct holes on her shape-sorting toy, as well.
- She also seems to have been learning from the words and sounds that are spoken when the interactive Peek-a-Blocks are used. She has associated the sound "Woof!" with dogs, because she now repeats the sound whenever I point out our neighbors' pets to her. I can't be entirely sure how much of this association has to do with the Incrediblock, but I know it hasn't hurt.
- At about 14 inches tall, the Incrediblock is a good size for my daughter to pull up on. She also uses it as a crutch as she learns to walk. This quality has made it good for practicing her motor skills.
I also ought to mention the noisiness factor. When I bought the Incrediblock, I was a little bit worried about the idea of having a sound-producing toy in my house. I was worried that I would find it repetitive and dull. However, it isn't too bad as far as noisy kid toys go. There is a relatively wide variety of songs and noises that it can make, so it's not as annoying as I expected. There are also two volume settings (as well as an Off switch) on the bottom, so that's always an option to reduce the sound. However, in my experience, when the lower volume setting is used, it's hard to hear the song playing over the whir of the disc spinning, so I haven't used it much.
Provides lots of practice for motor skills
Lots of small pieces lead to clutter
Teaches a few words and sounds
Drains batteries pretty quickly
Very entertaining for toddlers
Hard to find new and unused
Wide variety of sounds keeps it from getting annoying
Placement of sound triggers could be better
As a mom who doesn't like clutter, one downside of this toy is that it's more fun when you have more Peek-a-Blocks to use with it. I have 27, and that can add up to a lot of clutter, especially since they are small enough for a baby to carry around and deposit in every room of the house. Fortunately, the Incrediblock does have some room to store the blocks, so at least there's a place to put them without taking up any more space. Between the Sort & Store compartment, and the Stack & Spill columns alone, I estimate that there is room to stash away around 40 Peek-a-Blocks.
A second downside is that the Incrediblock runs on three C batteries, and in my experience, the batteries get run down rather quickly. When the batteries start getting weak, the disc in the Spin & Learn activity center gets a bit "sticky". It often needs a little push while the song is playing to get into motion, especially if it hasn't been played with in the past few minutes. The toy will continue to operate in this weakened condition for quite a while, though, so as long as you don't mind providing a few gentle shoves every now and then, you can get by for a while.
A third possible issue is the fact that the toy has been discontinued by Fisher-Price. This makes it a little hard to find it new and in perfect condition. Thankfully, this toy is also very hardy, and you can find them in decent shape on eBay and other auction websites.
And finally, I have one small quibble: The placement of the sound triggers on the Stack & Spill column is not entirely convenient. If you're not careful, you might set one of them off when trying to move the Incrediblock from one location to another, which can be a disaster if it happens right after you've put the baby to sleep in a room only a few feet away! This is pretty minor though, and I would not have mentioned it if it hadn't happened to me once.
Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars
Overall, I give the Fisher-Price Incrediblock 4 stars out of 5 as a baby and toddler toy. One star is mostly taken off due to the slightly disappointing battery life. But the bottom line is this toy has proven to be great fun and provide great learning opportunities. It keeps my daughter well-occupied, and it hasn't given me a single moment of regret.