2 to 4 years old
14 total pieces
Toys, Building Toys
Fine Motor Skills
Do you remember your first toy? Chances are you were two or three years old. It could have been a set of blocks, a race track, or a toy drum set, but I’ll bet you can still recall it clearly. With their sturdy design, bright colors, and easy-to-read numbers, this fun and educational set of garages and cars might very well be that first-remembered toy when your little one is all grown up. Read our full review to find out whether this toy will work well for your youngster. Want to see numerical summary ratings? Skip to the conclusion for our detailed criteria breakdown and final review score.
In the box you’ll find:
- 7 wooden cars, each in a different bright color
- 7 cardboard garages that can nest or stack, one for each car
Right away you’ll notice the nicest trick of these garages: they are cleverly designed to both stack high and nest compactly. The entire set can be stored in a compact form, small enough to hold in my cupped hands.
The hollow interiors of the glossy cardboard garages provide enough room for nesting and even for storing the cars, as shown below:
Are These Stacking Garages Fun and Educational?
Your toddler will almost certainly have fun with these bright, colorful garages. The cars alone will give your little one plenty of chances to vroom around the playroom. Each portion of the set has been designed to aid in skill development of some kind, so let’s explore each skill and how it links back to the set:
- Colors: Much like Skittles, kids in this age group will no doubt taste the rainbow of car flavors as they experiment with putting each wooden car in their mouth. Fortunately, the folks at Melissa & Doug have a strong reputation for non-toxic, safe production materials, and we’d expect these cars to adhere to their high standards. Use this chance to associate each car with the name of its corresponding color, and don’t worry about any potential choking hazards. The cars themselves are pretty large and the wheels are riveted on securely.
- Counting: Kids old enough to talk can also begin learning numbers, so this set comes with cars and garages both assigned the digits 1 through 7. The cars also have the words for the numbers printed on the opposite side, so beginning readers can start to associate the number with the corresponding word. This is a great chance to teach even/odd numbers as well, but addition and subtraction would be easier if you had more cars and, ironically, if the cars weren’t numbered. It would be confusing to show that a group of three cars and four cars adds up to seven cars when the “seven” car is in one of the groups.
- Fine motor skills: Stacking the garages high, to a maximum of about two feet, will require steady hands and precise placement. The stacking and the insertion of the cars into garages both help develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
- Sorting: Here’s your chance to help your toddler learn to sort and group by various categories. You can ask her to put the cars in the same color garages, put the cars in a numbered garage that’s one higher, or sort the garages from largest to smallest. This isn’t the ideal set for sorting since there are so few pieces and not many repeats (only two blue, two red, etc.), but there are still a ton of activities you’ll come up with as your child explores.
Complete Insanity and Time2Play
Like any set that teaches numerical digits, keeping track of all the pieces will be a challenge. Still, we rate this set fairly well, at 3.5 of out 5, on our Complete Insanity score. The maker has made it quite easy to nest all the garages together and “kinda” lets you put the cars in the nest as well, although it feels a little forced to just pile them all in there. A storage case for the cars would have been a great inclusion and could have led to additional opportunities to teach sorting.
Setup time is basically non-existent, and pickup is quick, so overall Time2Play is very efficient and maximized toward actual playing. Depending on your kid’s attention span, play time could be anywhere from 3 minutes to 20, likely hovering around 10 minutes for most kids in this age range. That’s enough time for you to brew a cup of tea and read an article on your favorite learning toy blog!
What Ages of Kids Will Enjoy Stacking Garages?
Our DistribuFun histogram for Stacking Garages lines up well with the manufacturer’s recommendation of “2 to 4 years old.” The large portion of red on the right is quite unusual for one of the toys we feature since our mission is to select things that adults enjoy as well. The difficulty in toys for our youngest learners, though, is that our adult enjoyments and those of toddlers rarely overlap (with the exception of dark chocolate–all ages love that). Understanding this, these stacking garages are really well suited for their target age, and they’re not loud or annoying for adults. You might even find that they make a great gag gift for an “over the hill” party.
Alternatives to Stacking Garages That Teach Similar Skills
There is a variety of sorting and stacking products out there, but the key is to find one that kids will actually play with. These garages have proven popular at my daughter’s Sunday School, and here are a few other choices that teach similarly solid skills.
- Big Nuts & Bolts from Small World Toys. With 32 pieces total shared among only four colors, this bucket of plastic nuts and bolts allows you to have more opportunities for sorting and grouping by color, shape, size, etc. We like them because they introduce an engineering concept and require the fine-motor twisting motion that other toys lack.
- Brilliant Basics Baby’s First Blocks from Fisher Price. This is an absolute classic. It’s been around in a similar form since I was a kid, and even today it’s still the same version that I bought in 2009. It’s my safe “go-to” gift for expecting parents because while everyone will be getting them clothes or tiny baby toys, this gift should be useful just as all the other baby gifts begin to wear out. It looks nice as part of nursery decor until it’s needed.
Value, Durability, and Longevity: Are These Stacking Garages a Good Buy?
At around $20, these stacking garages are an OK value. For durability, they would be last longer if everything was made from wood, but then the cost would be much higher. They should last during one child’s pre-school years, but definitely not beyond the age of four, so longevity is only fair.