When we got a couple review packs of Paper Trax in the mail they immediately brought back memories of the paper-towel tube marble runs that I used to create in the basement when I was a kid. These were massive constructions of sliced up cardboard boxes and masking tape stuck to the cabinets, counter tops, furniture and walls, much to my Dad’s chagrin.
Paper Trax looks to streamline this sort of building by offering colorful, themed tracks that will stick to walls anywhere – all with the promise of easy clean-up. Of course, as the name implies, they’re not just something for a marble to run down – they’re sized to accommodate Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars. Made of stiff paper, the roadways are designed to stick on the wall using 3M Command Strips. They’re a uniform length, about 14 inches or so, and need to be assembled. There’s also curves available. Assembly is easy enough for kids to do independently – basic fold-on-the-lines and insert-tab-into-slot stuff.
So, with hopes that the creativity and fun I had could be experienced by my kids, I took the Paper Trax home to share with my son and daughter, ages 9 and 7.
The first thing we realized is that there weren’t a lot of options in our house for build big runs of roadway on the walls. The hallway wasn’t a good choice simply because I had just painted it this past summer and I was concerned about pulling the paint. My daughter’s room has wainscoting on the bottom half of the wall so that wouldn’t work (perhaps with a little work I could have bent a Paper Trax roadway around the chair rail). So we identified a corner in my son’s room that would work. I turned over the straight tracks, the curves, and the pre-assembled dino-themed tracks to the kids and left them to work.
Well, that was a mistake, because they definitely needed a lesson on how the included 3M Command Strips work before I set them loose with building. Take the time to use the extra included strips to demonstrate proper technique for removing them from the wall. A yank will definitely take off paint, while the slow pull on the strip (as the instructions show) takes them off perfectly every time. So after a quick how-to and a little advice on how to move forward with building, they really got into it and there was no further damage done.
This is definitely a two-kid activity, as there isn’t a lot of re-positioning of tracks that can happen. So the process of expanding the Rube Goldberg-esque roadways was for one kid to hold a track in an intended position and the other kid to drop a car down from the start position. After a series of trial-and-error positioning to make sure the car would land wheels-up reliably, Kid 1 would mark the track position with their fingers while Kid 2 readied the 3M Command Strips and stuck the track up on the wall. Once this procedure was figured out, construction moved quickly.
Overall, Paper Trax are fun and perform as they are designed to perform. My kids were certainly entertained for a full afternoon and it was neat to see them working together on a project like this – often building projects are solitary, where this was definitely a team effort. Paper Trax are however fairly pricey at about $2 a foot (a 10-pack of straight track is available for $24.99). That’s a lot for sturdy paper and command strips, even if they are more colorful and tougher than the paper-and-masking tape marble runs I used to build. That said, for the price you’re getting something that is definitely more attractive and less of a mess. They’re also less frustrating to figure out than trying to construct something from scratch. Plus, they’re re-useable; with included extra Command Strips, the Paper Trax course my kids built will likely come down and go back up in a new configuration soon. With how sturdy Paper Trax are, I expect we’ll have to order more Command Strips before we need to replace the Paper Trax themselves.