The Best Marble Run Toy (Gift Guide) – 2020 Edition
Not all toys require batteries or Internet access in order to be fun. A marble run is about as old-fashioned as toys get, but its timeless fun never goes out of style. Building structures out of tubes and ramps, and then watching the marble race through them, is endlessly fascinating and educational for kids. They’ll learn about engineering, basic physics and other STEM ideas while also being engaged creativity.
While all marble runs use the same basic principles, they can differ wildly from brand to brand. Before you buy a marble run set, check out our reviews on the best marble runs available today. Plus, we’ve also created a complete buyer’s guide to help you find the perfect marble run set for your child in 2020:
- Meland 122-Piece Marble Run Set
- Think Fun Gravity Maze Marble Run
- Marble Genius Marble Run Super Set
- Marble Galaxy Marble Run Toy Set
- Magic Journey Giant Marble Run
- Gravitrax Marble Run
- Discovery Toys Marbleworks Ultra Grand Prix
- MindWare Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Starter Set: Cool Colors
- Quercetti Skyrail Marble Run Roller Coaster
- Learning Resources Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a Marble Run toy?
- What Benefits Does a Marble Run Have?
- How Do I Find the Best Marble Runs?
- Are Marble Runs Safe?
- Final Thoughts
Meland 122-Piece Marble Run Set
A large, versatile marble kit with a huge variety of pieces. Designed for boys and girls ages four and older.
- Versatile set with 122 pieces
- Pieces made from durable ABS plastic
- Encourages imaginative play
- Manufacturer can be difficult to reach
- Packaging contains multiple spelling errors, making quality questionable
The Meland Marble run set is a 122-piece set which contains straight slides, gradient slides, centrifugal funnels, U-turn slides, windmills and much more. All pieces are made from non-toxic transparent ABS plastic which is durable, break-resistant and smooth to the touch. Precision crafting means the pieces stay together securely after assembly, but can still be taken apart on purpose by a child.
Set includes an assembly manual but kids are also encouraged to design their own creations. Helps teach logical thinking while improving hand-eye coordination and spatial imagination. Includes 16 marbles and 90 action pieces. Recommended for kids ages four and older.
Think Fun Gravity Maze Marble Run
More than a traditional marble run, this gravity maze includes 60 different logic puzzles of varying skill levels.
- Full marble run set with extras
- 60 logic games
- Detailed instructions
- Multiple award winner
- Despite images on packaging, towers do not light up
Think Fun has created a marble run set with some intriguing extras. The toy has 60 different logic games involving the set’s grid, nine towers, one target piece and three marble. Games range from beginner to expert and are clearly detailed in the included instruction manual. Designed for kids ages eight and up.
This set helps develop spatial reasoning and problem solving. The Gravity Maze Marble Run set is a Parents Choice Gold Award winner as well as a recipient of the Toy of the Year Award from the Toy Industry Association.
Marble Genius Marble Run Super Set
A high-quality, well-made marble run with 85 full pieces which includes wide, stable bases and nine instructional guides.
- 100-piece marble run
- Cool see-thru pieces
- Wide bases for building tall structures
- App-based instructions regularly updated
- Included instructions minimal compared to app-based ones
This Super Set from Marble Genius has everything needed to build large, imaginative runs. Includes 85 pieces – 19 of which are transparent – with eight bases, three of which are extra-wide. Also includes 15 glass marbles, although all standard marbles will also work.
Nine step-by-step building guides are available through the free Marble Genius Instruction App, which is regularly updated with new content including building challenges. Of course, the pieces can also be used to build freehand structures.
Marble Galaxy Marble Run Toy Set
A solidly constructed marble run with 70 building blocks made from durable, colorful ABS plastic.
- 70 translucent pieces made from ABS plastic
- 20 marbles
- 12-page user guide with four different structures
- Includes gift box which doubles as storage
- Some smaller pieces don’t fit precisely
A set is only as strong as the individual pieces, and this Marble Galaxy set is made from premium ABS plastic to ensure secure assembly and long-lasting durability. Include 70 building blocks which can be assembled in four different ways. Also includes an impressive 20 different glass marbles.
A 12-page user guide shows how to build four different structures, each a different difficulty level between Easy and Hardest. When not in use, the run packs away inside the included gift box.
Magic Journey Giant Marble Run
A massive 230-piece marble maze building set with four challenge levels and 30 marbles.
- Giant set with 230 total pieces
- Bright colored tracks and translucent tubes
- Four difficulty levels
- Includes Bonus Minion Marble travel set
- Many pieces to keep track of
- Doesn’t include storage or carrying case
Looking to create giant, elaborate marble runs? Magic Journey has got you covered. Their Giant Marble Run lives up to the name with 230 total pieces including 176 colored track pieces, 24 translucent tubes and 30 brightly colored marbles.
Includes instructions for four different runs of varying difficulties. Also includes a Bonus Minion Marble game which contains 10 tracks and four plastic marbles – perfect for travel.
Gravitrax Marble Run
A sleek and sci-fi track system which uses kinetics, gravity and magnetism to create completely original marble runs.
- Action-packed, physics-based marble run
- Teaches kids a variety of STEM subjects
- Includes 100 pieces and 18 construction elements
- Innovative award-winning toy for 2018
- Base plates are made from heavy cardboard, not plastic
- Marble cannon a bit too powerful for young kids
Simple to learn but with endless hours of fun, the Gravitrax is a track system which combines curves, junctions, freefalls and more to zoom the marble around in a stunning display of physics. Includes over 100 pieces and 18 different construction elements. Adjust curves, angles and more – there’s even a cannon!
This toy shows kids physics principles in action. Teaches a variety of STEM concepts including kinetic energy, gravity, magnetism and more. This innovative marble run made a big splash at the 2018 New York Toy Fair and was also featured on Live with Kelly and Ryan.
Discovery Toys Marbleworks Ultra Grand Prix
Race up to six marbles through multiple actions and ramps while learning about gravity, physics, and more with this expanded marble race set.
- Race structured marble run
- Teaches even very young kids several STEM subjects
- Break your track into two paths or a variety of shapes and sizes
- Dr. Toys 100 Best Classic Toys and 100 Best Toys winner
- Teachers’ Picks Best of 2018 scholastic toy award winner
- Marbles can get stuck in the crank arm if more than one enters at a time
- Might be a bit boring for older kids
This multi-award winning marble run is the nostalgic fun you’d expect from a marble toy. The Ultra Grand Prix is an expansion on Discovery Toys’ original Grand Prix design, and it includes just under 100 pieces in the set. Kids can watch marbles run through eight different actions as they race down the ramp.
This toy is suitable for children as young as five. It uses gravity alone to propel the marbles down the tracks, and kids can decide how they’d like the track or tracks set up.
This set is also compatible with all of the other Marbleworks sets, which means you can add to your child’s collection as their interest builds.
MindWare Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Starter Set: Cool Colors
With an ultra-modern aesthetic and multiple expansion pack options, this marble run helps to unleash your child’s creativity while also building STEM skills.
- 50 pieces including 36 cubes and 14 marbles
- Uses gravity to send marbles through interlocking cubes that take almost any shape you can imagine
- Teaches critical thinking and STEM skills
- No base plate to keep cubes steady on carpets, grass, or other uneven surfaces
- Cubes don’t stay together well when on uneven surfaces or built in an asymmetrical pattern
Q-BA-Maze is simple to use but gives kids plenty of opportunities to use critical thinking skills as they build endless varieties of tracks. The cubes are easy to see through and simple to build with for kids of all ages.
Although this marble run is relatively small, the expansion packs and additional kits you can combine with it can make it a great option for kids who may want to expand their collection regularly. The set is also inexpensive compared to other marble runs.
Quercetti Skyrail Marble Run Roller Coaster
An exciting roller coaster-style marble run sends marbles down over 40-feet of track in this unique marble run.
- Includes 250 total pieces
- Teaches concepts of basics mechanics and physics
- Roller coaster is customizable
- Can expand using other Quercetti marble run sets
- Bases are thin and don’t hold the weight of higher towers
- Could be frustrating for younger builders since it takes mechanical skill to keep marbles rolling throughout the 40’ track
Learning Resources Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run
A bulky, kid friendly design that can attach to a whiteboard, refrigerator, or other magnetic surface for hours of marble dropping fun.
- Great addition to a classroom
- Teaches creativity, critical thinking, and STEM skills
- Includes 14 magnetic foam track pieces
- Comes with activity cards to help guide learning and play
- Foam construction is not as sturdy as other plastic or silicon options
- Need a magnetic surface to mount the track
A simple marble run that can help young kids get interested in physics, mechanics, and engineering, Tumble Trax is a fun alternative to stand-alone marble runs. This is an especially great run for a classroom setting since you can use a whiteboard as your magnet space for the track.
This is a small set compared to most of the others we’ve reviewed, but it’s a great jumping off point for kids who are too young for the larger or more complicated runs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Marble Run toy?
A marble run toy is a toy consisting of a variety of chutes, ladders, wheels and other accessories. By connecting all the pieces, the child can make unique, towering and sprawling structures. Then a marble is let loose into the run from top to bottom, usually to collect in a dish.
Marble runs can be made from either plastic or wood. Although wood marble runs have a classic style, plastic is usually more durable with a more precise fit. You want pieces made from ABS plastic, which is a commercial-grade plastic known for resistance to scratches and other damage.
What Benefits Does a Marble Run Have?
Regular play with a marble run helps both mental and physical development in kids:
Building a marble run helps develop planning and design skills because the child has to make a plan – at least mentally — before putting pieces together. The actual building process helps kids learn angle recognition, basic principles of physics and spatial reasoning. Overall, playing with a marble run helps boost STEM thinking.
Marble runs also help kids learn patience and perseverance. Building towers takes time. Kids learn how many small improvements over time helps to master a skill. Most sets organize their instructions for builds into four different difficulty levels. By starting with the easy instructions and working up to the harder designs, kids discover the importance of learning the basics first.
Of course, the included instructions are just a starting point. Marble run kits are also great for creative play. Kids can also play together to build sets and race marbles.
Assembling a marble run requires intricate movements of the fingers in order to attach track pieces to one another, which helps develop fine motor control. Additionally, building a run also helps increase hand-eye coordination.
Eyesight and hearing develop throughout childhood, which is why toddlers and even older kids are attracted to bright colors, motion and noises. Marble runs check a lot of those boxes with colorful tubes and fast-moving marbles which make a fun rolling noise. Tracking the marble while it rolls through the run also helps train young eyes to move and focus properly.
How Do I Find the Best Marble Runs?
While the number of pieces is important, it doesn’t tell the whole story. You want to make sure the pieces are high quality. The bases should be wide enough to support tall structures, and the pieces should be precisely molded to allow for secure connections.
Buy a Set Which Can Grow with Your Child
Generally, you’ll want to buy an expandable set. This is a set which can be added to by buying other sets from the same brand (or even more of the set you already have). That way you can buy a smaller set first and see how your child likes it. If they’re a fan of marble runs, you can expand their set easily later on.
Avoid Complicated Sets when Buying for Younger Kids
Standard pieces include tubes, slides and tunnels. Most medium to large sets will also include a variety of other more unusual pieces like funnels, U-turn slides, elevators, loops and more. You can even find marble runs which incorporate magnets. In most cases, tubes will be translucent so you can watch the marble pass through.
When shopping for a marble run, sets with a huge variety of pieces are best for elementary-aged kids who are already familiar with basic marble runs. Younger kids will likely be confused and frustrated by sets with funnels, elevators, etc.
Make Sure the Rolling Surface is Smooth
A marble run is only fun if the marble rolls through it smoothly. ABS plastic pieces and sanded wood should ensure a consistently smooth rolling surface. However, you will want to keep both types out of direct sunlight, which can warm and warp the pieces. Also avoid exposing wood pieces to water.
While our reviews will point you in the right direction, determining how the marble run actually performs can be difficult. Try searching YouTube for videos of the brand of run you’re interested in. Videos from real customers can provide an accurate look at how well the run works.
A marble run with over 100 pieces, many of them small, some of which roll, can be difficult to store. Some runs include a travel or storage case, but not all. Plastic storage bins or canvas bags can be an effective solution.
Are Marble Runs Safe?
Marble runs aren’t particularly unsafe, but they do have some common risks which are associated with practically any toy. You want to make sure your child is old enough not to accidentally choke on any of the pieces.
While some marble kits are suitable for kids as young as three, most kits are recommended for children eight and older. Marbles can be easy for a young one to stick in his or her mouth, where they can obstruct the windpipe. So, you’ll want to be cautious and closely supervise while any younger children play with a marble run.
Marble runs have another potential hazard – and this one’s rather unique. Because they have so many pieces, including marbles, they pose a risk of causing someone to trip and fall. Aside from just the kids playing with the run, everyone in the household can potentially slip on a piece. Older adults, such as grandparents, are especially at risk. Be sure to teach kids to pick up every piece when they’re finished playing.
Marble runs have been around since the days of your grandparents and likely even earlier. But this classic toy is just as fun today as it was generations ago. In fact, they’ve actually improved quite a bit.
Marble runs today are made from ABS plastic pieces which lets the pieces fit together securely while also ensuring a smooth roll of the marble every time. Plus, older kids can build advanced runs with a variety of funnels, windmills and other unique pieces.
Marble runs help kids develop STEM knowledge, critical thinking abilities and creative problem-solving skills. If you’re looking for a fun toy which runs on brain power instead of electrical power, choose a marble run for your child today.