Mandalas are patterned, circular diagrams that have their origin in the sacred art of the Hindu and Buddhist religions. The word "mandala" means "circle" in the Sanskrit language. Despite their spiritual beginnings, mandalas have worked their way into mainstream, modern life due to their meditative appeal. Enter Ravensburger's Mini Mandala Designer, a cheap art toy that sells for about $10. We asked several children to join us for a Mini Mandala Designer review.
These small and cheap stencil kits come neatly packaged with a tracing pen, colored pencils, and drawing paper in a handy plastic case. Mini Mandala Designers allow youngsters to create their own mandala drawings using a rotating stencil wheel. We had our 7-year-old child testers try out the Romantic Mini Mandala Designer. Although these kits are intended for ages 6 and up, Ravensburger also makes Junior Mandala Designer kits (starting at $13/ month, Amazon) for children aged 4 and up.
As we started the Mini Mandala Designer review, the cheap art toy seemed straightforward enough but ultimately presented the steepest learning curve of any of the cheap toys our child testers vetted. Users are supposed to choose a stencil shape and then trace it repeatedly at different intervals around the stencil wheel to create a pattern. But unclear instructions even had the adults at our review session scratching their heads, struggling to grasp the concept. It took the 7-year-olds even longer to catch on, despite assistance from the grown-ups. Once the toy testers figured out how to use the Mini Mandala Designer, however, they enjoyed exercising their artistic talents. One of our child testers said during the review that she liked how the drawing process calmed her down and relaxed her.
It was apparent from our Mini Mandala Designer review that one drawback is the amount of dexterity required to use it. The stencils are small, making them difficult to trace cleanly, and the slightest jolt causes the wheel to turn mid-trace. A review on Amazon reports that it frustrated the child who received it last year as a Christmas present. In a review on One Zillion Books, the blog's author writes of having trouble finding a replacement pen for tracing when the original was misplaced. Despite such challenges, another parent notes in a review on Amazon that the stencil kit captivated her son and daughter.
The Mini Mandala Designer would be a suitable gift for detail-oriented children with an artistic bent, but it may discourage those with limited patience or unsteady hands.