Thursday, December 4, 2008

Construction Toys As Family Activities

When you think of family activities within the home, often the first picture that comes to mind is games. And make no mistake, games are powerful ways to keep families together, and to help children learn important life lessons.

But today I want to talk about another activity that families can do together, no matter the size. And these involve the extensive group of toys known as "construction sets". Let's see - how many can I name? Zoob, Legos, K'Nex, Lincoln Logs, Quadrilla, Frigits, Puzzibits, Wedgits, and Keva Planks. That was without taking a breath. There are many others. It takes me back to sitting on the floor with my dad (who has now been revealed as an ultra-cool dad because he was so often down there with us, playing and inventing new games) and seeing how many ways we could stack the Lincoln Logs.

All of these sets and more offer great opportunities for group play and for adult-child interaction. Children's brains can often go places their fingers cannot, or they may miss a key detail. And that's where you can be an important part of the system. Construction sets are also great ways for siblings of different ages to play together.

With so many types of sets to choose on, there is definitely one for your family or interest. There are two that you may not have heard of. The first is called Quadrilla, and it's almost become a classic in its own time. Quadrilla is a wooden marble run "system". I call it a system because it's infinitely expandable. You start with a set that lets you create a marble run. But these are no simple marble runs! For one thing, they combine wood with spirals, a difficult and fascinating combination. The wood is beautiful to look at and to touch, and the sculptures are amazing. It's science meets art and mechanics. Fabulous. This is an heirloom-quality toy.

The second one is something you either remember from earlier times or never have heard of. But few people seem to know that this fun toy is available now. These are the Girder and Panel building sets by Bridge Street Toys. This toy was originally manufactured by Kenner in the 1950s. Using plastic pieces that are miniature versions of the girders that are used to create skyscrapers. Each set has the pieces to create one particular building, but you can combine them and mix and match as you want. Creating a city or a skyscraper together would be a great family activity that everyone can participate in.

Whatever you choose, I hope that you build many happy family memories this year. Our families always grow and change, and yours will never be the same as it is now. So spend time together this year, and cherish each moment and each stage.

"Turn around and you're two. Turn around and you're four. Turn around and you're a young girl, going out of my door." --Harry Belafonte