My Geo Gym Baby Climbing Blocks
My Geo Gym Baby Climbing Blocks, Part I
In the first post of the Indoor Play Series, I had mentioned the ‘My Geo Gym’ from OneStepAhead.com that offers the four basic climbing shapes at a lower cost. This inflatable indoor climbing gym includes a half moon, tunnel, ramp, and block. I did end up purchasing the Geo Gym, but it didn’t end up working out. There are definitely pros and cons, but essentially it came down to not having enough space and that my kid didn’t seem too into it:
The site description says that gym pieces are “heavy-duty, weighted blocks…[that] cost…70% less than similar foam activity set[s]…[and] require almost no storage space”. Sounds pretty good, but the Geo Gym isn’t really as inexpensive as it sounds. For a price comparison, I’m going to compare it to two different vinyl/foam climber options, ‘Soft Play Forms’ from Constructive Playthings, and ‘Soft Tunnel Climber’ from Children’s Factory–they were selected because they are the least expensive options while still providing as close to the same shapes as possible:
Image Sources: OneStepAhead, CPToy, Children’s Factory
The Geo Gym claims to be 70% less than comparable vinyl/foam climbers, and as you can see from the prices at the time of this post, the Soft Play Forms is well within a competitive price range of the Geo Gym. To truly be comparable though, dimensions need to be considered. Onestepahead.com gives the dimensions of the Geo Gym as:
- Half-moon shape: 28″L x 33″W x 12″H
- Cube: 28″L x 33″W x 12″H
- Triangle slope: 28″L x 33″W x 12″H
- Crawl-thru tunnel: 28″L x 33″W x 26″H
whereas cptoy.com advises the Soft Play Forms is a little smaller at 24″ L. x 16″ W. x 8″ H. down to 1″ H. The site only gives dimensions for the ramp, but essentially with the Geo Gym, it’s $20 less while giving you four more inches in height for everything and also the tunnel instead of the small block and roller.
The Soft Tunnel Climber is a little more comparable since it does include a tunnel, but it provides a small block instead of the half moon, and also includes two mats. The only dimensions I was able to find advise the whole section is 69 x 70 x 17 1/2. Assuming the height of 17 1/2 is for the tunnel, it’s likely the ramp is about 12, but it seems this activity set would be a little smaller overall than the Geo Gym. Based on these prices, the Geo Gym would be about 63% less than the cost of the Soft Tunnel Climber, so not exactly what the site claims, but the purpose of establishing a significant price difference is still valid, at least when comparing these two products.
The price is definitely one of the leading advantages of the Geo Gym, but there are few other things to consider. The Geo Gym will be more compact and more easy to store than the foam sets–each of the four shapes fold in half and when deflated will each have dimensions of about 29 x 5 1/2″ x 12. All four can fit in a box that’s 29 x 8 x 22, which can be easy put under a bed.
However, while being compact when needed, it’s not convenient enough to do on a daily, or semi-daily, basis. It’s important to realize the time to inflate and deflate. While this seems obvious, it takes about 15 min to fully inflate each piece, so it will take at least an hour for all four, and about 10 min each to deflate. So, if you are expecting to quickly and easily set up and break down the Geo Gym on demand and take to a playmate’s houses, it’s not going to be that convenient. It’s certainly not something you want to do every night and again in the morning, so, on a short-term or daily basis, these pieces do not provide any more convenience in storage than the others.
(Or go to start of Part I)
The Geo Gym is advertised as being weighted and this is can be very important. The Geo Gym uses “a flat, foam base for stability” but at a shipping weight of 18lbs, it’s not really weighted. That’s at most 4 1/2 lbs per piece for a child who’s probably at least 20lbs, which isn’t enough to stop the blocks from moving or being pushed around. This could be a positive or negative…depending on what stage your child is at.
If moving and re-arranging larger objects is part of the play for your child, then this is a positive. If your child is younger and merely interacts with the blocks where they are by interpreting them more as permanent objects, then they won’t understand the physical consequences when the blocks potentially move. While this alone wouldn’t be enough to say that the Geo Gym is ‘unsafe’, it does make it more difficult for younger children to climb or more likely that he/she could push it out while climbing and end up falling down.
One option that One Step Ahead provides for this is a connector set which is not included and costs an addition $39.95–in the product image from the first part of this post, the connector set is the yellow tabs on the bottom. Each piece of the Geo Gym has a Velcro strip on two opposing sides allowing it to be folded when deflated and kept closed and secure.
The Velcro hoops can grab onto carpet, but it’s not reliable and would only help with one side. Technically, you can Velcro the pieces together using the strips already on each piece to make them more, but this feature is limited. As you can see from the picture below, the pieces would be very close together and the only way to stick all four to each other would be to line them up straight.
Source of third image: One Step Ahead
The connector set allows the pieces to be arranged with more flexibility:
Image Source: One Step Ahead
I haven’t used the connector set myself, so I can’t say for sure that it solves the problem of keeping the pieces stationary, but I image it to have a significant impact.
Another more permanent option would be to affix the PVC on the edges to the floor by nailing, for example, keeping in mind, of course, the impact to the floor and also being extremely careful to preserving the safety of the product and without poking holes.
The stabilizing foam, from what I was able to see without actually making any modification, is in a separate chamber from the air, so heavier material could temporarily or permanently be put in–keeping in mind, of course, that the product could be compromised, and safety to your child is of the highest priority.
My decision to not keep the Geo Gym wasn’t because there was problem or a flaw that was a definite deal breaker–it was more that the Geo Gym wasn’t everything I wanted it to be or thought it would be. This review isn’t meant to necessarily discourage other parents from purchasing, but rather to give more details to help their decision. I am not reviewing the durability of the product since I haven’t had it for very long, so I can not speak to the reviews on onestepahead.com that cautioned about the product’s tendency to leak or that the seems rip.
The main reason the Geo Gym didn’t work out was because my son didn’t have as much interest in it as I thought he would. This is the reason buying anything for a child is difficult and can be expensive and disappointing, which is why, in addition to this site, I recommend trying out local facilities (read more about Professional Facilities).
His indifference is likely due to his age (12 months), and I could see this product being more enjoyable as he gets older, but then again, it might not. The best piece by far is the ramp, but the other pieces weren’t special enough that they can’t be duplicated by other furniture or other objects (though they wouldn’t look as nice or professional!). The ramp is the more unique object as my house doesn’t have any similar shape that I can think of at this moment, and it is a very encouraging shape to get children interested in climbing and exploring.
I thought the tunnel would be more of a ‘specialty’ item that would have more value than it did.
Space constraints were an underlying issue as to why the Geo Gym fell short of my expectation. I knew the dimensions of the product prior to purchasing, but relied on its ability to be deflated to make it a more versatile option (read more).
The other issue concerning space is that my child’s play room is too small to accommodate all four pieces, as shown in the picture below, and I had expected to be able to utilize the living room/kitchen/hallway more. It is difficult though to use any room that doesn’t have carpet for the reason that the blocks move around. I didn’t have the connector set, but even with it and utilizing the weight of all four pieces to stabilize it, I imagine the pieces would still move around more than I would like for a younger child when used on a wood/linoleum/non-carpeted floor.