If you recall ever playing with any of those great solid wood toys or furniture in school or daycare, there’s a good chance it was a Guidecraft product. I remember those solid wood kitchens I used to play in and wonder if they were Guidecraft products.
Guidecraft, known for their high-quality, finely-crafted educational toys and furniture, is celebrating their 46th year and I was thrilled to be able to review one of their fantastic products, the modular science center.
The science center arrived on my doorstep carefully packaged and padded with Styrofoam — a plus when you’re investing a little chunk of change in what you expect to be a quality, long-lasting product — inviting the immediate curiosity of human and feline alike.
I was going to attempt to assemble the science center myself, but — lucky for him — Brian arrived home just as I was unpacking all the parts. The assembly directions were not included, but are available in a PDF file on the Guidecraft site for each product, so I quickly pulled them up. Everything seemed simple enough — Parts A went together to form one tier, Parts B formed another tier, and so on.
The only problem was, none of the parts were actually labeled with those handy little sticky letters — and they all looked very much alike since they nest together. They may look alike, but because each module serves a different purpose, the parts were not interchangeable. There are four modules — and we had to start over three different times. Brian was not impressed with the assembly instructions.
However, it really didn’t take long, overall, to assemble the center, and the assembly was the only complaint we had. The science center has been a big hit at our house — particularly with Megan, age 9 (well, almost), and Gus, the cat. First, I’ll tell you how it’s supposed to work, then, I’ll tell you how it’s worked at our house.
The top module is a “plant and grow” section. It comes with a heavy-duty acrylic box to which you can add soil and growing things of your choice (not included). I’m thinking I might like to try my hand at growing fresh herbs at some point.
The next module is a “touch and feel” station. One side is a clear acrylic panel that slides open so that you can place “mystery objects” (not included) inside. The other side has a small, round, covered opening so that kids can reach inside and try to guess the mystery objects through the sense of touch. I’ll be excited to use this with our “five senses” science unit in a couple of weeks.
The third module is open on the sides with a gigantic acrylic magnifier on the top, so you can place objects underneath — an unsuspecting cat, for example — and see it in close-up detail.
The final module is a habitat unit. It features sliding acrylic panels on two sides, with a sturdy wooden box on the other two sides, top and bottom, allowing students to observe whatever creatures they might want to study for a day or so before returning them to the great, wide world. (Tip: Not things that might crawl out that hole during the night while you’re sleeping. No, we didn’t do that, but I’m just sayin’.)
Each unit stacks on top of the others, and all four rest on a sturdy wooden base set on four casters, for easy mobility.
Now, I thought the whole thing sounded like an incredibly fun addition to any science center, but, so far, it’s been used for very little science-related activity…and that’s okay with me, because I like open-ended play things.
Megan thinks that the modular science center is the greatest rolling doll cart she’s ever owned! The acrylic planter makes a fantastic doll bed and the habitat and mystery object units make great storage spots for blankets, bottles, and clothes.
My favorite thing so far — and it’s sort of kind of science-related — has been hiding the cats toys in the mystery opening unit and seeing how long it takes him to find them and be able to get them out. (For the record, we time this in seconds, not minutes — he really figures it out quickly.)
I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it. I received no other compensation for this review. The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions. Your experience may vary.