Monday, November 26th, 2007
Review: ZipBin Softie Playscapes
This time last year we reviewed the ZipBin by Neat-Oh! International, a revolutionary new type of play mat, or “playscape.” Instead of a rug, it is a box that unzips into a mat. At cleanup time, you zip the sides up and your toys are already put away in the box.
Neat-Oh! hasnâ€™t been standing still. They sent over a couple newer ZipBin Softies for review which my 3-year-old daughter has put through their paces for several months.
The Big Idea is to keep your toys stored with their play mat, and to make them easily transportable between rooms in your home… or for trips to Grandma’s house and such (all ZipBin products have handles). Now that my daughter is in preschool, and well versed in cleaning up, her ZipBins are a no brainer. She never forgets which toys belong with her play mats.
At 2-years-old she easily zipped up the box ZipBins. At 3-years she required a little training in learning the Softie closure which involves straight zippers as well as curved ones.
Like their predecessors, the artwork on the Softie mats is gorgeous with great attention paid to detail. Accordingly, the exterior of the bins also have theme artwork, with the country mat zipping up to resemble a horse stable and the train mat zipping into a roundhouse. Even the bottom panel and bottom folding portions of the Softie contain artwork even though they are rarely glimpsed in day-to-day use.
Locations on the playscapes have been packed in, with the Country Stable scene containing a training paddock, corral, two barns and a pond. The Train Depot has a roundhouse, and track winding around a barn, fire station, hospital, gas station, construction zone, river, a house and roads.
The Softies are noticeably smaller than their boxed counterparts, but easily contained our trains and farm figures with plenty of room to spare.
Like the original ZipBin boxes, the mats have slight height variations when laid flat due to their padded nature and that the corners get folded when the mat is in its closed state. A play mat purist might prefer a standard rolled mat if he insists his kid play on a near-perfect surface. Wooden train tracks might not line up so well, but the Train Depot mat has its own artwork track and, as is, the mats are quite usable and get flatter the longer they are kept open.
Unlike the original ZipBin, the Softies don’t stack (they aren’t boxes). The boxes also have a cardboard interior, while the Softies consist of polyethylene foam inside a polypropylene exterior. Greenpeace lists these two materials as safe alternatives to vinyl (vinyl contains phthalates). They are indeed soft, meaning if you step on a closed Softie, it dents inward like crumpled bag, but then can puff back out into shape.
I also tested four colors on the Softies for lead and they checked out okay.
All in all, ZipBins and Softies are a neat tweak on an old idea. If you would find it useful for your child to play and be supervised in the room you’re in, instead of the room where a play rug is located, give them a look. Likewise, if Grandma’s house is devoid of toys, *cough*, send her a link as a subtle hint because ZipBins and Softies allow toy storage without the mess.
Update: Neat-Oh! informed me (same day) of two great developments. First, the Softies now ship with some basic toys (three wooden train cars and 12 sections of wooden track, or Safari, Ltd collectible horses, jumps, a photographer and a dog). Second, Neat-Oh! publishes its safety test results for each toy, in this case, tests for flammability and mechanical hazards and a chemical analysis by InterTek.
Find ZipBin Softies at Amazon: