Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Zibits Power Lab Generates "New and Improved" Creativity

Very simple and very sturdy! Look at the Z-Line!  How cool is that?!

WHAT: Zibits Power Lab by Senario
DOES:  build and play and play and play..  great building set and even greater pretend play set- imaginations will roll!
INVEST: $29.99
TOOLS: Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, More Make-Believe Please, Social Scene Helper, My Body Needs to Move, Express Yourself,  Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner* NEW

Those of you who know me know that I am in love with Zibits.  I don't know if it is because they are super cute or if it is because they are one of the best make-believe toys that we have ever owned.  I suppose it's a mixture of both.

As I had written about Zibits in the past, I explained that they were great "dolls for boys" and they still are but even the greatest toys will get a little "old."  If I wanted to bring back the magic, it was clear that there needed to be a change to revive their interest.  Should I just buy more Zibits or should I get a playset?  Hmmmm...

The kids love the "garbage shoot."  You can use clear packing tape on the paper cubes and paper box to make it stronger.

My Resistance to Playsets

I thought I could resist buying a Zibits playset until the Gauntlet came out (saw it at the Toy Fair in February).  I believed my kids were going to be so creative forever and ever and they would create and construct their own scenarios and wouldn't need a playset!  In the back of my mind, I thought that playsets might give them too many boundaries.  You can call it playset snobbery.

And I know I sound like a hippocryte when I say that I would buy the Gauntlet, which is also a "playset" but if you see the video, you'll know what I mean.  The Gauntlet to me, is sort of a physical game but in a video game style way of playing. I think it looks like it's going to be a really fun hand-eye coordination toy.   However, I think I was told that the Gauntlet would come out in August and I didn't want to wait that long.

While I still believe that Zibits are so amazing for their open-ended imaginative play aspect, I thought my guys needed a playset to bring them back to the Zibits. Don't be misled. This is not to get them to play with their old toys again.  I don't use this tactic for all old toys.

This was to get them to play with their Zibits again and rev up their imagination with this fun-looking Power Lab.  The end goal was to get them off of the playset so they could build their amazing scenarios and pathways and play more made-up games like "Zibit Hide and Seek" or "Zibit Chase."  

To be sure, I do believe some toys have a limited shelf life and that is totally okay in my book. I also support parents putting stickers on toys stating the date last used to show kids that sometimes - it's time to say goodbye!  Toy clutter depreciates the value of all the toys stuck in the clutter.

But our Zibits have to stay.  There is something really great about them.   A playset would do something....  I just knew it.

You get one very cool looking Zibit named Flux- exclusive to the Power Lab set. 

Actually, I Know Nothing

Did my plan work?  YOU BET!!!!!  But it didn't go according to MY plan, but our results were actually better!  And whatever "playset snobbery" I had is pretty much gone.  (At least for Zibits)

I really was hoping that Numbers 1 and 2 would construct more game scenarios and mazes after fooling around with the playset for a while but the real creativity or bigger creativity happened with the playset itself!

I am starting to see that playsets can bring out a lot of creativity too.  It's just a different kind of creativity.  I had no idea how many stories my two boys could tell!   I realized that because the playset structure is very functional (lots of moving parts) and easy to build, it gave the kids an opportunity to become more elaborate with the make-believe aspect.  If you remove the challenge of building your scene, there is a lot of energy that can be directed towards playing with your constructed scene creatively.

His name is Dex. He has taken a beating but he's still ticking.  They all are!  We have several and amazingly have not lost a single one!

Alison Berkley, one of Toys are Tools' favorite expert educators and co-owner of Emerge and See Education Center who also viewed the playset with me loved the Power Lab as much as we did.    Alison felt the Power Lab was awesome for pretend play purposes.  "You don't just want them saying, 'Oh, this robot and I can go from point A to point B'," Alison said.  "You really want them to hash through their ideas and really delve into that fantasy playworld."

I love the way the arms move.  All the robots have different arms and "hands."  Flux can hold onto things.

Balancing Pretend Play Needs with Building Needs

It's worth repeating, in case you haven't heard.  And I'm repeating this to myself as I'm writing this because I also need to be reminded to get down on the floor and just play with my child.  You think this toy reviewer is sitting here playing with toys all day long, don't you?  While I admit that occasionally I find myself "doing research" (without kids present), if you are like other parents who think finding the time to play with the kids is HARD- I'm with you!   And do you think finding the energy to play is even HARDER?  Then, I'm double with you!

But it's worth it (sorry...) -especially with pretend play.  "Because pretend play is a way that we sort of hash through ideas and scenarios that we might not encounter in real life," Alison reminded me.  "By making them pretend play, you make it easier for a child to talk about [things]."  Gosh, I wonder if I will ever do pretend play when my child has a crappy day at school and I can't get him to talk to me.  I've never tried that.  I wonder if it would work... hmmm....

Alison also made it clear to me that pretend play is mostly cool because it's fun.

"It doesn't always need to be so heavy and we're not always processing those deep emotions that we have," Alison said.  "Sometimes it's just about being creative and fun and exploring parts of your personality and humor,"  she said.  "If you do have a little bit of a builder, they can create these elaborate physical structures that the characters can play in."   Number 1 was proud after he built the entire playset by himself.  He said the Z-line was tricky but obviously it must have not been that tricky because he did it all.

Usually it is easy to drop "garbage" and not fall in but....

but sometimes this happens and it is just so funny!

Building Toys with Strong Pretend Play Saves Money?

The Power Lab set is really different in that there are so many little features thus it's very hard to describe how fun they really really are.  What else can I tell you? It is really really fun!  There is a "garbage shoot" as my kids call it.  It's fun to try to throw "out the garbage" but not fall off!  The Z-line is really cool and we love the elevator too.  No, it is not motorized but that is part of the fun.  You bring the elevator up and down and can let it rest on different floors.  And they have a "Lightning Ball" so that you can play a soccer-like game too.  All of these are so cute but because Power Lab's special attributes are so functional, pretend play is more natural and I think, more satisfying.

This was a night-time game of Zibit Hide-and-Seek!  Very fun.  I thought they would go back to this kind of play after the Power Lab and while they do, I find them to be just as creative with their Power Lab.

What's this with the saving of the money?

Okay, here is my theory:   All toys have limitations and with building toys, sometimes you just need more.  Needing more is the limitation.  You need more to be more creative. And that isn't a terrible thing.  For certain, the Power Lab is great as a building set alone (because you still build it anyway you want and the bells and whistles are very satisfying).  However, because the pretend play aspect is so strong, you are basically working with satisfied kids each time they bring it out ergo they don't cry for MORE MORE MORE!!!

I'm not saying that your kid won't ask you for more Zibit tracks!  I have certainly heard such requests from Number 1 Son!  But if you are afraid that it will be hard to say no then what I can tell you is that I've said, "no" and it's been easy to say it.   However, the truth is that to me, Zibit play is so awesome, buying more tracks is more like an investment rather than an expense.  With more tracks, you can kind of build a "Zibit world."  It's very cool.

You can change the structure around. This can be done quickly so that your Zibits can come out to play!

Make Friends in a Remote (Control) Sort of Way

When we go on playdates, one of the best things we bring are Zibits.  Everybody loves them and if that friend does not have them then a lot of times, they will ask me where to buy them  (No kidding).  I just bought one for an upcoming birthday (also after he showed that he liked it after a playdate). The robots themselves aren't too expensive.  They are so portable too which is probably another reason why we bring them to playdates!

More importantly, the whole remote control aspect is quite interesting.  Basically, like Beyblades or like video games, having Zibits sort of allows for less eye contact and for some kids, if they are shy or meeting someone new, it's so much easier to talk and play together if they are looking at the same thing and not having to stare at each other.

Couple that with all the great play aspects in both the Zibits and the Zibits Power Lab and you will likely find kids who are truly enjoying themselves and wanting to present new ideas to each other.   That's a whole lot of power in a Power Lab for little robots!  We love these little guys!  And we are excited to see that Gauntlet!  Did you see that video?  Doesn't it look ridiculously awesome?

Number 2 is not really big on building but he built this set-up very fast and it looks great to me!

Number 1 Son's Extra Tip:  These are great for making your own little movies.  He used them in a Beth Rosenberg Stop-Motion Animation Class! 

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.  The product was given to Toys are Tools' testers and experts  to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised.   


  1. These are great.  I think I know what my grandson is getting for his birthday.

  2.  Great idea.  Seriously, I'm so happy to bring these to any playdate.  All the boys love it.  The Power Lab has so many tricks and twists and you can get more tracks or that Gauntlet for the holidays.   Gosh, imagine having two Gauntlets... it would be like a side-by-side video game.   Oh, I better stop thinking!   Thanks for sharing!

  3. These are way too cute.