Educational toys

Educational toys
The Creativity Institute for Creative Toys

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Big Block Thinking

--> Ten years ago, when we began resourcing toys for our store, I was fascinated to discover the big oversized blocks and foam shapes from Children’s Factory. Now, I grew up playing with blocks, but mostly wooden unit blocks. The biggest size of those was about 6 inches. They were fun for building structures you could use to play with your other toys. You could build a house that would accommodate 5-inch figures or 6-7-inch cars. The larger sizes of these block sets were usually preferred for spanning roofs or just building taller structures., imagine my amazement at finding “blocks” up to four feet long - foam shapes covered in vinyl that could be used to build structures that wouldn’t just accommodate a 5-inch figure, but a child. This was our introduction to Children’s Factory and soft play. Sets of shapes in a scale so large a child can sit surrounded by them, even build a playhouse. When these foam blocks are put together in the right configuration, they create a climber with pretend play opportunities that put the child in the action. They can play house, explore caves, climb mountains and undertake other imaginative pursuits.

Soft Tunnel Climber
Plus, these blocks and foam shapes can be assembled as climbers with the potential for the same gross motor climbing fun of a playground construction, but they’re inside, and they’re soft. There are ramps to ascend, tunnels to navigate, and soft perches for sitting and looking out around the room. Take Children’s Factory’s Soft Tunnel Climber, for example. There’s a tunnel in the middle, a ramp up on one side and two steps up on the other. Early crawlies can explore the perimeter, play in the tunnel and eventually climb to the top, via their choice of steps or ramps. On the
Children's Factory Tunnel Labyrinth
big extreme, there’s the Children’s Factory Tunnel Labyrinth. Four tunnels make it like a quadruple Soft Tunnel Climber. These are great for accommodating bigger groups of kids.

Cozy Woodland Hideout
Since we’ve been carrying the Children’s Factory line, we’ve seen them add new climber models, as well as new color schemes. While the early soft play pieces from Children’s Factory were bright primary colors with a few pastel variations, one of the recent changes in the Children’s Factory line has been the introduction of soft, earth-tone colors in their Cozy Woodland Collection. Most of their climbers and foam shapes are now available in either color pallet.

Now, the creative and imaginative potential of little unit blocks is still as great as it ever was. Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Geary credit unit blocks with helping to give them a first step in their architectural careers. Blocks, whether huge or small scale, can inspire young minds. But the scale of these larger foam shapes changes the nature of block play, and with it the pretend play and creative opportunities.

Chief Imagination Officer

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