Roller coasters are fun. And exciting! Who doesn’t love the excitement of going high up in the air, as well as being thrown about on tight curves?
This guy! That’s who.
But we don’t have to worry about that here: roller coaster toys do not cause adverse physical reactions. Instead, they can help your mind develop, particularly as it relates to STEM knowledge. In fact, you can learn quite a bit by just checking out a patent application filed in 2007.
What is a roller coaster toy?
Let’s return to the patent for a toy engineer’s roller coaster toy definition:
A roller coaster toy includes a set of cars mounted on a track. Each car has at least one pair of movable side wheel assemblies mounted for movement towards and away from opposite sides of a respective car to enable the cars to be easily placed on, or removed from, the track. A drive car has movable drive wheels for affirmatively engaging the track no matter the degree of curvature of the track.
That’s much simpler than mine: a toy that has the capability of entertaining a child for hours.
What are some of the best roller coaster toys for kids?
It’s no surprise that ThinkFun has released a roller coaster toy. This seems right up their alley if you consider their overall line of toys.
ThinkFun is the world’s leader in addictively fun games that stretch and sharpen your mind. From lighting up young minds to creating fun for the whole family, our innovative games make you think while they make you smile.
And they did everything they could to maximize the fun and creative thinking in this toy, a 2018 Toy of the Year Award Finalist.
Roller Coaster Challenge asks players to construct roller coasters based off varying amount of information (depending if the challenge is easy, very hard, or somethwere in between). In doing so, kids will engage in critical thinking. It will also aide in spatial recognition as they must determine what pieces are needed to complete the roller coaster pictured on the card.
Check out what is in the box:
K’Nex Roller Coasters
K’NEX is perhaps the 2nd most well-known building toy. I don’t have any evidence, but I’m assigning LEGO the #1 slot. Five of the more popular roller coaster sets are:
|Set Name||# of Pieces||Cost per Piece||Amazon Link|
If you’re looking for an aspirational roller coaster build, just imagine taking the pieces from these sets (and many more) to build something like this:
My Favorite Roller Coaster Toy for Toddlers
These toys come in all different variations. I particularly appreciate this bead maze / roller coaster for its focus on number and letter recognition.
The Smartivity Roller Coaster is similar to Think Fun’s in that much of the learning comes from building the roller coaster. There’s a big difference, though, in that the Roller Coaster Challenge presents small builds that kids must puzzle out. This kit, though, is a 2-3 hour DIY building marathon (or sprint depending on your child’s attention span). Totaling 138 elements, which does include marbles, this is not going to be a quick build. However, it is straightforward enough that most 8-11 year olds should be able to complete with only light parental supervision.
It’s one thing to watch, but another to build yourself. The hope here is that the hands-on portion helps kids remember the core engineering and physics concepts at work: energy, motion, gravity, etc.
Marbleocity Roller Coasters
Technically, these are more marble runs than roller coasters. But, on the other technical hand, they do have coaster in their name.
No matter, they are still fun, inexpensive STEM toys that can be used to introduce physics. Or, just be used to watch marbles go round and round.
Learnable Skills from Roller Coaster Toys
To get a quick overview, check out this video:
Terms / skills you should know about to discuss with your child:
“relationship between a body and the forces acting upon it, and its motion in response to those forces”
“energy held by an object because of its position relative to other objects, stresses within itself, its electric charge, or other factors”
“energy that it possesses due to its motion”
“the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and material elements sliding against each other”
At its simplest, a marble run is any structure designed to enable a marble to travel from a starting point to a finishing point. The fun (and learning) with these toys is with kids building them from scratch, and determining what types of construction will enable the marble to complete the run. Or complete it the fastest. Slowest. Take the longest. Etc.
Buildable Race Car Tracks
When I was kid, I loved buildable race car tracks. Of course, mine were made out of what some would call trash (e.g., paper towel tubes made great tunnels).