KidsOutAndAbout.com Reviews Obstacle House from Brains and Brawn
by Anne Siller
A couple of weeks ago, a large package arrived at our house, dropped on our porch by the UPS man. Our neighbors across the street are inveterate internet shoppers, so there is always a box or two on their porch. So at first, my kids (aged 2, 4, and 5) thought it was a mistake. But no, this one had our name on it. Let the anticipation begin! Is it a dog? No! Is it (ugh) clothes? No! Is it our cousin Emmett?
…Hmmmm, no. It’s a toy! It’s a toy for all of you! REALLY! So of course, they started tearing at the box like a bunch of wild monkeys and when they finally managed to chew through all the cardboard, they came to the loot. A giant blue bag, packed with about 40 or so brightly colored foam squares. Some had pictures on them, some arrows. What could all of this mean? We sat around and looked at the directions together. And that’s when things started to Get Buggy!
We were the lucky recipients of the Obstacle House, specifically, the Get Buggy version. It is a collection of flat, foam squares, all connectable and interchangeable, which come together to form an obstacle course. Some of the squares have hand prints, some foot prints, some arrows or pictures.
We were given three separate courses: The Spider Scramble, The Lady Bug Shuffle and the Butterfly Balance, as well as a timer. Each set comes with a set of directions specific to it, which provides a picture of what the squares look like fully assembled (Thank you! Big thank you!) as well as a list of which muscle groups kids will use when they participate in the course. Each set can be used separately, or all can be combined to make one long obstacle course. The stopwatch timer they included adds the element of competition; let the games begin!
What's The Obstacle House All About?
The Obstacle House comes from a company called Brains and Brawn, created by three sisters who wanted to create games that would get preschoolers up and moving, while keeping them challenged and engaged. Obstacle House's target audience is preschool-aged children, age 3+, who are in the midst of developing coordination and agility. They also market it to parents and teachers whose kids may need a nudge off the couch and away from the TV, as well as those whose kids who may require physical or occupational therapy.
In addition to Getting Buggy, there are several other sets to choose from: Furry Friends, Splish Splash, and Wild Life. Each set comes with a set of moves that gets kids hopping, leaping, and crawling.
Why I Like This Toy
Obstacle House looks deceptively simple when it comes out of the box. Even at the tender ages of 5, 4 and 2, my kids have had some sophisticated toys come their way. In or out of the box, Obstacle House is a bunch of foam squares. No bells, no whistles, no remote control. It is what you make it. And that’s why I like it.
Using Obstacle House
I am delighted to say that the Obstacle House is lightweight and portable, and adapts to any space. That adaptability is one of its advantages, as my own house can be sort of an "obstacle house" at times. I very much appreciated the suggestions for use that came in the box. We followed them and had fun. But often the quality that gives a toy longevity is adaptability and durability. This toy came outside with us, and we combined it with other elements to make a giant obstacle course. It came back inside, and one rainy day, it became part of a treasure hunt, a living map that had to be followed to find the prize. Sometimes, I line the squares up to make a path from the kids room to the bathroom, in hopes of luring them in to brush their teeth! It’s a way to make a mundane task a little more fun, which in turn makes it a lot more likely to get accomplished! Now, in our house, being a couch potatoey really isn’t our problem: My kids sleep for about 10 hours a day and the rest of the time they act a lot like Mowgli. If there were vines in my house, they would all swing from them. So in that way, we differ a bit from the target audience for this toy. For us, Obstacle House provides enough structure to calm things down and reign in the chaos. In our house, we call it the “witching hour”: the time of the day when everyone is tired, hungry and a bit wild and I am trying to get the Chicken Divan on the table. In this situation, TV doesn’t cut it. But with a little set up from me, Obstacle House keeps my kids entertained in a kinetic way, and engaged enough that hand-to-hand combat seems less interesting. What more could I want?
Who Should Buy This Toy
Even knowing very little about the worlds of physical and occupational therapy, it is easy to see that this toy would have many useful applications in those settings. In a classroom setting as well, I could see how this toy would could be used in a variety of ways to keep the kids moving,in one direction, much like it is used in my own house. The bright colors would compliment any classroom décor.
I would say the one drawback is the price. The set I have, Getting Buggy, retails for about $100, more if you include shipping. These days, unless its heating oil or a grocery run, we pause before we spend $100 on anything. And now that spring has arrived, $100 on a toy, even a good toy, seems like a lot when nature is calling.
But this is a good toy. So I am going to issue a Granny Alert. Do you know what a Granny Alert is? Let me explain. You know all those times that Grandma and Grandpa (or Auntie, or Uncle) want to get the kids a gift? Suggest this! This is a good gift! Much better than, oh, the plastic swords, or the bass drum that they got you last year. It’s a good gift for you and for your kids. The Brains and Brawn web site offers gift certificates as well, so you can ask for one of those and build a set, piece by piece.
Here is a video that shows how the Obstacle House is used:
© 2012, KidsOutAndAbout.com Anne Siller, mother of four and ardent Smiths fan, is editor of KidsOutAndAbout.com's Hudson Valley site.