Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review + Giveaway: Roominate: Lighting Up the Building Blocks of Imagination

How do you inspire kids to go beyond the kit?  Answer: Get the right kit.

WHAT: Roominate by Maykah, Inc.
INVENTORS: Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen
DOES: revives old toys with fervor, builds skills in design, planning, tweaking, collaboration
INVEST: Basic $29.99 and Deluxe $49.99
AGES: 6+
TOOLS: Think Like A Scientist/Engineer, Express Yourself, Like An Executive, My Body Needs to Move
GIVEAWAY PRIZE: Get your very own glorious box of Kinetic Sand from my Affiliate at ARK!

VERY few building toys naturally inspire kids to bring other materials into their creations. Don't get me wrong... of course you can try but after you do, you might feel kinda lame.  ie. clothing your LEGO minifigure with his own jacket that you made... it probably would just not feel right.

They will start with what's in the box but it definitely did NOT stop there.

BUT this is the trouble with lots of building kits. Bringing "foreigners" into the setting seems odd.   Don't get me wrong, I love LEGO and all the others but as my tester said to me last week, "Jenn, we can't afford to buy every toy you review. We need ideas."  

Yeah.... I guess I couldn't afford to have these either if I didn't do what I do. But I do have ideas- it's a buy-one-get-a-whole-bunch-free idea. 

The Toy Resuscitator

So if you have ever purchased anything that I have reviewed, I now have the toy that will bring many of them back from hiding.  No kidding. Honestly, I am FORCING myself to write this review because this is a project that we just can't stop.  It's such an open-ended toy that you might as well call it a can't-be-ended toy and that's because it invites all toys be part of their scene and it totally "feels right."

We received the Deluxe set but I honestly haven't used the motor that much.  But we wanted more lights so we experimented and that was great because it sent us to Radio Shack and got us looking at things like Drawdio. Then we made even more rooms and that is where the fun really began.  You can call it engineering, prototyping, designing, interior decorating... we did it all and we used many of our toys and arts supplies to fuel our imaginations.

On the upper right, you'll see a broken Magic Loop fidget that we didn't have the heart to throw away.  This is the beginning of my son's "restaurant."
Here you'll see items from three different toys, Faber Castell's Metallic Kit, Faber Castell's Watercolor Pencil Do Art is responsible for the subway art on the right, and the light covering from Active People GOING was used as a lampshade for the Roominate light.

We bought more felt. Less than $1.  See how they must measure first?  I love that! Good executive functioning!  By the way, Glue Dots keep the creativity flowing.  Get this one- it's awesome- no sharing necessary.
A lot of different materials went into this... see below *

Using Faber Castell's amazing Connector Watercolor Paints made the beautiful wallpaper that I used with an old stamp I bought in San Francisco's Chinatown over ten years ago.  I hadn't used it in years but Roominate has that kind of power to blow dust off even Mom's "toys."
We found even more ways to make this toom work.  Adding a SNAPO man was one.  Adding a little painting was another. (it was a mini-greeting card- no one here painted that)

Sturdy and Sassy

Okay, let's mention the girl-boy thing here.  If you have only sons like I do, do not be turned off.  That would be a mistake. If you have ever wanted your kids to really start experimenting beyond their kits, you have to give them a reason.  Building your own house is a good enough reason...  believe me. Want to show them how better design can equal more dollars?  Let them watch an episode of the Vanilla Ice Project.  He takes houses, renovates them, and then sells them for a profit.  My son flipped after watching an episode. 

Either way, I never thought Roominate was super "girly" (whatever that means) to begin with. The colors of the paper covering can cheaply be replaced if you like since they are very light colored your kids (girl or boy) might be more into muted colors for walls and flooring. My son pointed out that the most important pieces are the orange ones.  They connect walls and floors and other things.  He loves them.

What is important to mention is how incredibly well-made this is.  The connectors to the motor, switch, and power sources are incredibly sturdy.  Color coding makes it easy too.  This makes experimenting with the motor absolutely liberating!   Look at this video!

This Is No Sit-Down Activity

I want to make this clear. This activity is not sedentary at all. Your child will be looking around your house to see what he can put into "his house."  You need to use two hands to make stuff- sometimes you will have to be precise and push things here and there. If he has building toys, you can bet they may try to make an appearance.  His art supplies will definitely be needed here.  Old, broken toys, may find a home here too.  And don't worry if you don't have much, a lot of supplies come in the box too.

My son said that this is how he wanted to use the board to make a wall for two separate rooms.  We used foam boards too. They are not as good as the Roominate boards but let your child show you why you should buy him more pieces. That is how they got me to buy them more Roominate pieces.

Planning by drawing out your design. We used our What's It board and markers! They were perfect for this.  We learned that from Iridescent Learning.
Kinetic Sand-box.  Isn't it the coolest?  Roominate toys go with everything.

Seriously, my son built an OT room. WHAT???? There is even a fine motor center!!! I almost died.  Again, other toys were used.  Look!  ThinkFun's Fifteen Puzzle set on Tegu blocks makes an activity wall!  I hope Roominate will create magnetic walls someday. The tire swing is from SNAPO.

Dare to Think BIG--- Really BIG

Gotta get these lights!

I think this will require more than one deluxe set but basically, I want to show you that building a dream house is very possible. Like I said, these are sturdy.
I think this can be made with the Basic Set.  Remember, it all starts with one room.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yup, Next Project: House-On-Wheels using Thames and Kosmos Remote Control Machines with SNAPO men driving? Maybe!

And there you have it, the Can't-Be-Ended-Ever-Toy... 
Bravo Roominate!  Bravo girls of the world for inspiring me and my two boys to reach new heights!

And NOW.......

USE Rafflecopter to Enter This Amazing Contest to Win Your Own BOX of KINETIC SAND!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

TO BUY ONLINE through Jenn's Amazon Link: (yeah, support Toys Are Tools!)  Click the photo!
deluxe set
basic set

*The light is from a Radio Shack LED taped onto a 3V battery but I found cheaper ones at Amazon- hope they work- coming to me soon!  We used the egg styrofoam shape from the Creativity Can by Creativity for Kids  to make the egg chair that you see at IKEA. The table is part of an IKEA hook. My son found a LEGO piece that would let it spin.  The chair material was from a partially used bag of Crayola Model Magic and some from our Creativity Can.  We also tried to make an Eames chair that I saw at the Quad Manhattan but someone crushed it.  Oh, and the fireplace?  From Michael's, moldable clay that hardens that is supposed to look like wood but looks like stone to me.  That's probably why it was on clearance.

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturers of anything mentioned here for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 



  1. I love that OT room! I want one of those right now! I know this toy is supposed to encourage girls to pursue engineering but wouldn't it be great if girls and boy could build together. Where does Roominate fit? Boys or girls section? hmmmm.

  2. My younger son would probably want several sets to build a model mansion he plans on really building when he grows up. He plans to have a big library, a beer room (for dad), a gym, a tumble room, movie room, a Lego room, etc. and enough space for each of the extended family members.

    I think the colors are fine. My older son loves that color blue and actually has been making Rainbow Loom bracelets almost the same shade blue. It actually doesn't seem like it has enough pink for my daughter who is going through a pink phase.

  3. I see this becoming a minecraft hideaway, it would be a lot easier than the lego minecraft kit!

  4. I think that the current version is fine for boys. My son would play with it as it is. Some boys may think the colors are too "girly", but I think we are moving away from that a little bit and if we had toys for boys and girls in all the colors of the rainbow, it would no longer be an issue.

  5. My child is still a little (3) girl, so just about everything is a house. Sorry to disappoint, lol. Maybe a zoo, sometimes she builds zoos.

  6. I do think it's a bit too pinky/purpley but I can live with that, it's a good enough toy to have general appeal so maybe that can help break down our silly barriers of considering pink a girl color. I'm just personally not a huge fan of pink/purple color schemes.

  7. I have to add that I LOVE your son's OT room. So adorable. Also, I wish they would have donated a Roominate to the giveaway... but sand's nice too ;)

  8. Have to agree with that too! Pinky color is not my thing, but love the games adaptability!

  9. there isn't any pink there. maybe paper. but i guess the gender difference is clear.

  10. The sand is from me! I wanted to attach a giveaway to this just to help the word spread more. I do like the sand with the house!

  11. when I was a little girl. I was in love with pink, purple.... and then i think it was in fashion when I was in sixth grade. omg, pink and purple everything. rhinestones too. embarrassing!

  12. I would love to see a Zoominate!

  13. I asked my three year old nephew the other day, what color Tegu block would you like to have, pink or green? (He has wood version now). He said, pink. Pink can be manly. Men wearing pink can be downright sexy in my book! But they would also need to be tall, dark and handsome too...

  14. maybe we shouldn't get that kit. i was eyeing it. I like the hideaway idea!

  15. What would be in a beer room? Card table? I like that.

  16. I would like a real OT room in my house.

  17. A bird house. (Gianna)

  18. Yes, I would since I have both. (Gianna)