Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Giveaway: Oblo Puzzle Sphere: The New Exercise Ball

photo courtesy: Great Circle Works

WHAT: Oblo Puzzle Sphere by Great Circle Works
DOES: Uses the power of good design to make you work; exercise multiple skills while you put this puzzle back together
INVEST: $20-$25
TOOLS: My Body Needs to Move (work both hands and all those fingers!), Think Like a Scientist/Engineer (for early visual/spatial skill practice)

Have you ever seen an ad for a toy and just fall absolutely in love?   Whoever made this video commercial below is an advertising genius.   The music is sweeter than candy and those visuals..... if you even tried to hold back a smile, you would surely fail.

I HAD TO HAVE IT!!!!  And in just a few days, it was at my doorstep.  I was so excited.  Number 1 Son saw it and grabbed it instantly.    I watched him take it apart.   He didn't treat it like other puzzles by trying to solve it right away.  Instead, he slowly took it apart and then put it together as much as possible outside of the green sphere.  I think he did it just to get to know it a little better because you could see the admiration in his eyes.

It was not surprising to hear that this puzzle, invented by industrial designer Marko Pavlovic has won its share of international design accolades.   The design kept my child smiling while he was trying to solve the puzzle.   But then I saw something I hadn't seen in a while.  Number 1 Son solved the whole darn thing in less than 20 minutes!

Hey, wait a minute!  Isn't this supposed to be a challenge?   I know my son has decent visual-spatial skills but what is going on here?   Soon, I walked over to Number 2 whose visual-spatial skills are not as strong as his brother's but he too loves beautiful things.  I watched him try to solve it and he completely foiled.
I was really confused.

I can't help but think of oranges when I look at them but they are heavier than an orange and VERY sturdy.  photo: Great Circle Works

Well, with many beautiful things, you sometimes miss what is really inside. Finally, it dawned on me that while it is a challenge for the mind for some, especially the young ones, the most excellent thing about this toy is that it's an exercise ball. After you learn to solve it by yourself, whether it takes you two months or 20 minutes, you can use this toy to give your children a workout that will flex some important skills.

Dr. Karen Hopkins, Clinical Associate Professor of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at the NYU School of Medicine had some time to play around with this ball with her med school residents and she told me some awesome things about my new find.  About the Oblo, Dr. Hopkins said, "it requires thinking and it requires a connection between your visual processing skills and your fine motor skills."

English breakdown please?

This toy is so beautiful.  If you were a toy, you would probably be jealous and try to make sure that your boyfriend never catches a glimpse of her.  photo: Great Circle Works

"Visual processing skills are required to learn how to read, it's required to learn how patterns work, it's required to distinguish letters from each other and numbers from each other," said Dr. Hopkins. 

What about those fine motor skills, a term that is thrown around very often?  For me, I'm only thinking about pencils but Dr. Hopkins explained graphomotor (writing) skills and fine motor skills are not one in the same and for fine motor skill activities she described some basic but very important functions to a young child, "This is how you dress yourself.  This is how you feed yourself."  She also listed other activities  for children that required fine motor skills, "playing with toys and puzzles, legos, dressing a doll, and undressing a doll."  Wow, I forgot fine motor skills are required for the business of play too.

Thus the Oblo is working on visual processing skills AND fine motor skills.  Furthermore, it is working on the connection between these two skills.  If you do the math, you'll see that I'm talking about three skills here.  That is one great exercise ball!

photo: Great Circle Works

Design Does Motivate!

For Number 2, I'm not sure if he is having trouble with one, two, or all three skills named above or if his struggle is even age-appropriate.   However, one thing I do know is that to move beyond frustration, you need to be motivated and I believe good design can motivate a child.  Dr. Hopkins agreed, "It can, absolutely, it can."

So maybe for some kids whose fine motor skills just need a little bit of catch-up work, this could be a good exercise ball?   "If they were slightly delayed," advised Dr. Hopkins, "they could get help, and learn how to do it so in that regard, it would be good."

I really agree with her because I have been providing that bit of extra assistance to Number 2 and I can see his confidence growing each time he completes the puzzle.  I let him put in one piece to solve, and then two, and then four, and so on... until he pretty much does the whole thing while I'm there to support him.   There is no candy at the end of this exercise.  The reward is to see your beautiful Oblo ball, whole again. 

Solved It Already? Oh Yeah, How About This? 

And let's not forget Number 1 who impressed me with his quick moves and solving it way faster than some adults I know.  However, I didn't let him off the hook that easy.  If he's good then why not challenge him a little more?  Okay Buddy, let's time you!

He looked really puzzled but he loves being timed!  The first time he solved the Oblo with a stopwatch, he finished it in four minutes.  The second time, he finished in 97 seconds.  What a great way to demonstrate that practice makes perfect!   The Oblo design is simple, so once you find your best way to solve it, you are a pro and then you can go on those speed rounds.  You can make it a little harder for yourself by connecting pieces while they are inside the ball too.  That would take a little finger strength and smaller hands have the advantage here.  This ball while heavy (I love the weight) can fit in one hand easily.

Thus, the Oblo has successfully passed our household testers of varying skills and interests.  As an exercise ball cleverly disguised as a supermodel/covergirl of toys, we've managed to make beauty motivate the brain to challenge itself.


Now it is time to win your own Oblo!!!!   I like to leave ours in the living room.  Guests come over and play with it all the time, even the grown-ups!    Enter below.   The winning Oblo can only be sent to Canada and the continental U.S.   Ends 4/5/12   12:01 AM

a Rafflecopter giveaway 
Click on the photo to get your own Oblo today:

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer or retailer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post.  Dr. Hopkins and I were both provided with one Oblo each for our review. Reviews are never promised.   The video was embedded with the permission of Oblo.


  1. I am reminded of those chocolate section candies with orange inside.

    I LIKE it, I want one. Very cool and looks like it could turn a bad mood around (kid and mom)

  2. It is pretty! I can see a race between me and my daughter to see who puts it together faster.

    I really want one now!

  3. I like how the the pieces rotate, exercising 3D visualization skills!

  4. Oh yes! Love the colors and the crispness of the plastic as it snaps together. I only had the metal puzzle chains to play with as a kid. WOuld have LOVED this!!

  5. As with your chidlren, I think one of mine would amster it quicly and the other would take awhile, but both would enjoy the challenge, the fun adn then the repetitive play and social skills. Plus, I love 3d puzzles!

  6. The rainbow colors are so inviting. Definitely want one for me and the kids!

  7. My almost 4-year-old son loves puzzles and I think this would be great for him. I'm interested to see if he would be able to solve it...or how long it would take for him to figure it out.

  8. I love puzzles of all kinds and would love to test my brain and hands on this one. I love the comment "This toy is so beautiful. If you were a toy, you would probably be jealous..."

  9. This looks so cool! #1 Kid always needs her hands busy- this looks great!

  10. My ADHD almost 8 year old (he was supposed to be a baby forever!) loves puzzles and always beats us when he masters one. This would be so awesome for him!

  11. I love this toy My son is fascinated with puzzles, this would be awesome for him.

  12. It IS a very beautiful thing!
    This is just the kind of whatzit that my daughter (11) seems to have a real knack for (I'm secretly jealous because I will spend hours on such puzzles and finally have to walk away frustrated, Lol ...)

  13. Laurie Walker-StupakMarch 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    This looks like it would be a lot of fun!

  14. My 5 year old son with ADHD and SPD would LOVE this!!! He loves anything he can manipulate with his hands, like legos and Transformers. And I bet he could figure it out pretty quick too...

  15. My 9 year old son loves working with puzzles. This looks really cool.

  16. What an awesome puzzle! I love 3D puzzles like this, even though I can never do them. I bet Liam would love this too.

  17. I love puzzles in general. This is a different version from any I have seen. I have the Tetris cube but nothing round. This one is great.