PLAYMOBIL pro: What is it and how do you use it?

25 April 2022

PLAYMOBIL is a mainstay on toy shop shelves, usually somewhere near the LEGO section. The distinctive aesthetic of the kits and figurines makes PLAYMOBIL a great choice for creative, imaginative kids who want to build their own world to play in.

And now, following the sweeping success of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY, PLAYMOBIL has created their own modelling kit for use in professional contexts.

In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about PLAYMOBIL pro:

What is PLAYMOBIL pro?

PLAYMOBIL introduce their pro range as “an innovative modelling kit for professionals which encourages problem-solving and creative thinking in the workplace.” 

The kits contain a range of neutral, expressionless PLAYMOBIL figurines with accessories that allow participants to apply their own meaning. This customisation lets people attach roles (external or internal) to characters, and invites deeper engagement.

In a brochure, PLAYMOBIL explains how pro can be seen as a continuation of the educational and even therapeutic contexts where the toy has been used historically. For example:

  • Researchers Kaduson and Schaefer noted how a surgeon used a medical PLAYMOBIL set to explain to a child the surgical procedure they were scheduled to receive
  • Many play therapists use PLAYMOBIL with their patients to enable illustration of, and to create distance from, difficult memories

The strength and versatility of human figurines and their accompanying accessories are harnessed by PLAYMOBIL pro to complement a wide range of training activities and learning outcomes, with the broad mission of helping people learn to solve complex problems by playing.

What’s in a PLAYMOBIL pro kit?

At the time of writing, there are two PLAYMOBIL pro kits, both built on the same fundamental set of components: stationery, characters, costumes and accessories.

Let’s take a look at each of these:

Stationery

In this section, you’ll find pens, Post-it notes, labels, tape, and various other items to let you customise the figurines and accessories.

The stationery section is where the PLAYMOBIL pro kit really shines. Instead of being bound by the limitations of a kit, you’re free to make your mark and align the material with your needs.

You’ll also find special wipes to quickly and easily remove ink from the plastic, letting you use and reuse the components over and over.

Characters

Here you’ll find the most distinctive PLAYMOBIL pieces: the 7.5cm figurines. Instead of their usual colourful selves though, the ones in the pro kits are intentionally neutral: just plain, white plastic ready for customisation.

With a variety of figurines available (human, animal and even machine), your training sessions are limited only by your imagination. All manner of scenarios can be created with ease.

Costumes

If drawing and writing don’t give you enough power to customise your figurines, a selection of PLAYMOBIL costumes are also available. Here you’ll find hats, outfits and accessories that let you create an endless range of characters.

Will you go for the obvious – a crown on the CEO, perhaps – or something more cryptic? Thanks to the vast and varied selection, the choice is yours.

Props

An office table won’t be the right backdrop for all scenarios, so each kit includes a selection of props to really bring your characters and scenes to life.

A handful of props we noticed when looking through the list of items included goalposts, laptops, post-boxes, desks, easels, surfboards, and even crossbows. (We’re not sure how often they’re relevant in a professional setting, but it’s good to have the option..!)

There are some really useful functional props in here, too: baseplates to keep figurines standing, suction cups to stick flags or similar upright if you don’t want a figurine to be holding it, etc.

Which PLAYMOBIL pro kits are available?

There are two PLAYMOBIL pro kits to choose from, each designed to cater to specific group sizes. Let’s take a look at each:

PLAYMOBIL pro Starter

The Starter kit contains more than 120 pieces and is designed for small groups, of up to 5 people. This kit is useful if you’re beginning to explore interactive workshops and aren’t prepared to commit to a more expensive purchase just yet.

There are enough components to get a feel for PLAYMOBIL pro, and there’s space to expand if you want to broaden your offering.

The Starter kit is great if you’re working in an environment that’s resistant to new ideas: it’s an affordable way to test the waters for something new.

This kit retails at €119 including VAT.

Here’s what you’ll find in the PLAYMOBIL pro Starter kit:

PLAYMOBIL Pro

The Pro kit contains more than four times as many pieces as the Starter kit, with a total of over 480. The kit is suited for groups of up to 12 people, much better for facilitators and organisations who are committed to using PLAYMOBIL in more contexts.

The Pro kit is great if you’re looking to open up training sessions and workshops with a methodology designed to increase engagement.

This kit retails at €499 including VAT.

Here’s what you’ll find in the PLAYMOBIL pro kit:

Who is PLAYMOBIL pro for?

PLAYMOBIL pro is for any facilitator who wants to tap into the power of play as a way to expand engagement and deliver more lasting learning outcomes.

If you run workshops and would like your participants to express themselves in a visual, creative way, PLAYMOBIL pro is a methodology that allows for this.

It works best in the creation of a metaphorical space to complement workshops and leads to gamification: a powerful process that complements serious learning outcomes with fun, playful elements. 

While PLAYMOBIL pro is fairly new, it’s already being used in more than 25 countries.

How does PLAYMOBIL pro work?

While there are recommended activities (click here to jump ahead to these), broadly speaking, PLAYMOBIL pro is open to interpretation with meaning overlaid by the facilitators and participants more than the kit itself. 

As a broad overview of how the kits work:

  • Facilitators and participants use the stationery to write down their thoughts as a team and can refer back to them during discussions. 
  • Activities begin by writing a plan, writing about obstacles, how responsibilities will be shared, and other pertinent points. 
  • Participants then create characters, using accessories and props to dress them up, and using the marker to draw directly on the figurines, or onto signs and other props to indicate roles. 
  • Participants then play through the virtual representation of the problem. 
  • After this step, the facilitator invites reflection upon the activity, including referring back to the notes created at the beginning. 
  • Findings and learnings can be recorded, and the strong visual element means that PLAYMOBIL pro lends itself well to photography. The images can then be shared and referred back to later, beyond the session itself.

As described above, the recommended process for PLAYMOBIL pro isn’t too far removed from the Learning Arena that sits at the heart of every MTa Learning activity:

This sequence of activity > learning > implementation > learning > implementation is rooted in psychological theory, and underpins effective experiential learning.

PLAYMOBIL pro facilitation

You can become a certified PLAYMOBIL pro facilitator, although at the time of writing certification is only offered via third parties.

The benefits of facilitation are as follows:

  • Learn how to gain a deeper understanding of users by developing empathy and user mapping skills. 
  • Learn how to generate new ideas or expand upon ideas provided by participants to make themselves more useful.
  • Learn how to improve communication, collaboration and team dynamics, with the view to creating lasting change in these skills.
  • Learn how to make and facilitate better decisions, within the context of the PLAYMOBIL pro scenarios and beyond in the workplace.

Learning outcomes and other uses for PLAYMOBIL pro

Theoretically PLAYMOBIL pro can lead to endless learning outcomes, with limits only created by the imagination of the facilitators and participants.

Here are a handful of learning outcomes and other uses the kits are advertised as being useful for:

Design thinking

With such a strong visual element, PLAYMOBIL pro is a valuable tool to visualise the stages involved in the design process. The tactile element lets participants involve themselves physically, inviting deeper engagement than may be possible otherwise.

The kits are useful from the brainstorming and prototyping stages, right through to later parts of the process:

Project management

By making hypothetical situations tangible with figurines and accessories, PLAYMOBIL pro kits allow participants to work through them, identifying pain points, barriers, and routes through.

Working through project management activities will allow participants to identify what’s holding them back and, facilitated properly, how to reflect upon learnings and improve results on subsequent attempts (hypothetical and within the office).

Personal development

It’s often the case that barriers to forward movement are located within ourselves, rather than in the environment around us. Reaching this conclusion through words alone can be tricky, but working through activities that encourage you to look inwards at things that may be holding you back is a reliable way to achieve more significant results.

PLAYMOBIL pro is designed to externalise concepts, an important factor in personal development as it allows internal thoughts and processes to be shared, explored, untangled, and refined.

Example PLAYMOBIL pro activities

As we’ve said, PLAYMOBIL pro can be used in an almost endless range of activities. With this in mind, however, PLAYMOBIL does give some example activities to demonstrate the utility of the kits.

Here are two example activities, both intended as ice-breakers:

  • Introductions
    Each person in a group uses the figurines and accessories to create a model that they feel represents themselves. Go round the group and invite each person to introduce themselves through their model, potentially explaining the reasoning for choosing to represent the chosen aspects of themselves.
  • Charades
    Invite an individual participant to create a common professional or leisure activity, and have the other participants guess what it is. The creator isn’t allowed to speak at all. This activity is useful because it eases people into the rhythm of working through externalised, visual representations. 

PLAYMOBIL pro vs. alternatives 

While PLAYMOBIL pro is built on the brand’s distinctive aesthetic, it’s not hard to see similarities with other professional training materials. In this section, we’ll briefly compare PLAYMOBIL pro with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY (its closest conceptual competitor) and MTa Learning.

Playmobil Pro vs. Lego Serious Play

LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is far more established than PLAYMOBIL pro, having been around for nearly three decades. This heritage means an expansive community has built up around LSP, giving facilitators a much wider range of activities to dip into.

This said though, PLAYMOBIL pro looks to be just as powerful in what it sets out to do. If you’re looking for an innovative modelling kit to facilitate learning outcomes in a professional context and you want a lot of freedom in creating your own scenarios and activities, PLAYMOBIL pro is a good bet.

Playmobil Pro vs. MTa Learning

While both function in an experiential learning context, the key distinction between PLAYMOBIL pro and MTa Learning is that each of our activities is carefully designed to facilitate a specific set of learning outcomes.

Where PLAYMOBIL pro puts the responsibility for creating activities and scenarios in your hands, MTa Learning offers an extensive range of activities with a proven track record. Facilitators who use our kits and training materials find that this lets them hit the ground running, rather than having to invest time and energy in creating their own.

PLAYMOBIL pro is subject to similar limitations as LSP, too. Both methodologies carry the risk of being used for activities that don’t lead to lasting learning outcomes if used incorrectly, or by inexperienced facilitators. We’ve written more about these limitations here.

Pros and cons of PLAYMOBIL pro

If you’re looking for a quick summary of the benefits and drawbacks of PLAYMOBIL pro, read on: 

Pros ✅

The distinctly recognisable aesthetic creates familiarity: a great way of encouraging engagement early in activities.

The kits are designed to be versatile, and the wide range of pieces and accessories allows for an almost endless range of characters and scenarios to be cereated.

You can draw on the pieces to further customise them, and the ink wipes right off to allow for reuse.

There are two pricing options available, one of which is better suited to individuals or organisations looking to test the waters. 

Cons ❌

There PLAYMOBIL pro Starter Kit can’t be sold in the US or Canada due to “legal requirements” (no further information is given on the product page as to what this means), so if you’re in those regions you’re out of luck.

There is no guide or official training available at the time of writing. Some resources are available, but it’s harder to use out of the box than Lego Serious Play

There are only two products available, so if your needs aren’t met by these kits you’re a little bit stuck.

Summary

PLAYMOBIL pro is an intriguing and exciting methodology that benefits from being rooted in something familiar. It relies more heavily on the skill of the facilitator to generate learning outcomes, because the kits themselves aren’t designed to facilitate specific activities. And with the absence of official activities or training guides, this is potentially quite a limiting factor.

We’re interested to watch the evolution of PLAYMOBIL pro: will the official range and third party ecosystem expand? Or will they lose momentum over time? Depending on the answer to this question, the PLAYMOBIL pro methodology could either become a mainstay in professional training contexts, or could fade into obscurity.

While we’re waiting to see how things settle, we recommend opting for training materials with a proven track record designed to facilitate an expansive set of learning outcomes. Take a look at the MTa range or contact us and let us help you find something that aligns with your needs.