Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unusual Door Blocks Opens the Way for New Play

Additions from other toy sets make these special blocks even more fun*
Giant Window and Door Blocks
Sturdy and aethestically pleasing wooden blocks have windows and doors that open and close
More Make Believe Please, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer

I love toys that have doors.  I don't know why.  I suppose it is because it makes it more "real."  As the years go by and I play with my kids and try to model great ways to play, I have realized that I really stink at pretend play.  I would like to say it has something to do with growing up in a family that was struggling financially when I was very young.  Therefore, we didn't have many toys but I am not so sure that is correct.   All I know is that I like play that looks a little real, even if we are supposed to be pretending.

Doors also make Number 2 smile a lot.  He loves doors and doors usually comes on Legos and plastic dollhouses. I have purchased both for him.  When he was a toddler, he would open and close the door of a Little People dollhouse and it would make some sort of noise.  He loved doing that over and over again and it made me crazy.  Thus, I'd find the switch and turn it off and then he would find it as well and turn it back on and then I would have to take out the batteries but then Number 1 would just find my stash of batteries and a screwdriver and put in fresh ones for his little brother and that was the end of that.

I never win.

Doors in itself are great for play because they are first and foremost: functional.  But I can't give a boy with limited play skills a bunch of doors.  At this stage, he probably wouldn't but I don't want to give him the opportunity to sit there and just do simple open and close playing.  That would likely make me really upset because I want him to play like other kids his age and WITH other kids his age.  Other kids his age do not do that anymore.

Many kids his age like playing with blocks but Number 2 avoids them.   Soon I realized that Number 2 was not playing with blocks at all including Lego blocks, foam blocks, thistle blocks, wooden blocks, etc....     After talking with some experts, I realized that perhaps block play just too "open-ended" for him.

There is no beginning and no end to block play, hence "open-ended."  For some kids like Number 1, that is great but for some, there is just no fun when you don't know how or when you'll know that you're done.  (Seriously not rhyming on purpose here) You might say that is okay but I find that for some of those kids, playing on their own and with other kids is hard.  There can't be a predetermined structure and a project goal to everything we do.

I believe experts also consider block play to be "representational play."  This kind of play is when you build or make or use something and then you decide that something is a symbol for something else.  For example, marble runs and domino structures can be built but they can't really be representational...  Bottomline was that I really wanted Number 2 to play more by himself but he really had a hard time and it was likely due to some reluctance to do both open-ended and representational play.

Blocks represent something here***
During one of my curl-up-with-a-catalog rituals on my couch,  I found something really cool in Discount School Supply.  I had NEVER seen anything like it before ever.  It was kind of a dream toy. Then, I looked at these door and window blocks and realized that they went perfectly with these Asian dolls**  that I had because they were made by the same company.  However, to my dismay, they had only been taking up shelf space and not seeing any play action.  I also found that they would sort of make a match with my wooden block set (not a perfect fit but that is all I had).  My hope was to have the windows and doors generate interest in him playing with the dolls and blocks.  He would have to build the "houses" and would also have doors and windows for the dolls to use.

Did it work? No and Yes.  Stupid me.  For some reason I thought that putting these windows in front of him would make him play with the blocks and build like a maestro.  But he was not very interested.

I had to rethink it and realized that I needed to really tap into Number 2's love for doors and windows even if he disliked blocks.  However, to play with this new toy, it was good to have some other blocks hanging around the doors and windows.  Walls would be good, right?  That's what I told him.  So I sat down and I showed him how I play with them because how I play with them is just one way (there is more than one way). Remember, I am not so into the pretend play thing  too but somehow we, especially he managed to have fun.

Moreover, Number 1, whose gifts include creating mess, parental frustration, and amazing structures out of Legos, came to the table to show us what he thought the window and door blocks could do.  These included a bed, a trap door, and a moving vehicle (don't ask me how). It took a while but eventually, Number 2 said, "Hey, let's make a school," and a school bus quickly made its way into the scene.

And that... that school bus idea.....  that is what I was looking for.  He made an idea and put it forward while playing with someone else.  I think in the world of grown-up work, things like that happen in a somewhat dreaded place we call the Conference Room.

All jokes aside, whether or not your child needs to practice or just plain loves pretend play and building, these door and window blocks are definitely worth a look-see.  I predict they will stay in my toolbox for a very long time.

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer or retailer of this product for the publication of this post

*In the picture are other toys such as Imaginarium Wooden Block Set, Pretend and Play Family, and the astronaut figure from a vintage toy, Robotix r-2000 which I bought for $10 in a thrift store. (That was a good shopping day).  The block with small opening as windows has colors in the back because my son put blocks there.

** Thank you Cre8tive Minds Company for not putting the Asian family in kimonos or some other non-Western garb.  I really can't stand when toy companies do that.

*** Look closely and you'll see that you can not buy these blocks in your neighborhood toy stores.  They are smaller than your average cubes and they have awesome qualities including preparing young fingers to write and helping young minds learn patterning and building.

1 comment:

  1. These look so neat! My children all love blocks- and enjoy mixing and matching sets with their other toys to create all manor of towns, scenes, etc. These would make a great addition.