Friday, January 20, 2012

Tegu Blocks: Let Your Child Tell His Own Story

Tegu blocks are great for storytelling

WHAT: Tegu Block Sets
DOES: Magnetic wooden blocks snap on easily, hard to lose, create anything in seconds, easily represents living things as well as objects, can help for easier storytelling
INVEST: $32- $140
TOOLS: Express Yourself, Foment Love of Language, More Make-Believe Please, People are People, Social Scene Helper, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy

Read about Tegu's Design Contest: click HERE  ends 1/31/12

After establishing why pretend play was so important, I realized that I can sometimes really screw up that process with my kid.  I complain that my kid is not flexible enough but certainly I am not modeling anything good when I direct the play and limit the possibilities.

Even with these gorgeous Tegu blocks, I can ruin playtime.  I want Number 2 to make lots of crazy things but then often he may just line them up and make trains - lots and lots of trains and train stations too.  Nothing is wrong with making trains and while we have accomplished constructing something and making them represent something, we are stuck in this mode.  He won't leave his beloved world of trains.

The Tegu blocks are great in this respect.  They snap together easily, they can morph into just about any shape or representation of something just as fast as your hands can move the blocks around.  You can build anything with them, birds, people, robots, windmills, cars, but for Number 2, it's always and forever trains, trains, trains!

This is a very cute music video. The sound of the blocks clicking is very pleasing.

Have You Been Here?

Him: "Stand clear of the closing doors please. The next stop is Grand Central 42nd Street. Transfers available for the 4, 5, 6, and Shuttle to Times Square."

Me: "Hey, how about we make a car?"

Him: "The next stop is Fifth Avenue. Stand clear of the closing doors please. Ding-Dong!"

My son has become an expert at ignoring me when my parenting is in need of improvement.

I should ignore things too.  I should follow his lead.

Actually, that is exactly what I was told to do by Dr. Heather Goldman, child psychologist and Psychology Consultant for the Quad Manhattan, a preschool and afterschool center for twice-exceptional children in New York City.

wood makes things come to life more easily than plastic

Follow Your Child's Lead 

Dr. Goldman of course meant something very different.   That is, not to ignore someone but rather, following a child's lead means to join your child, not have your child join you.

"You could put blocks in front of your child and your child may or may not gravitate toward them," Dr. Goldman said.

Surely, we have all been here.  We buy things that just shout out "I am the coolest toy" or "I support brain development!" or "No child can resist me"

Except your child does resist it or plays with it for five minutes and walks away.  All you feel is frustration because you know there is something really good about that toy and I don't mean Tegu blocks specifically.  I am referring to all the great toys out there.  

When this happens, Dr. Goldman advises parents to recruit those familiar toys that you know that your child already likes.   For example, if your child likes marbles then try to use them with whatever toy you want them to be playing with.   My son likes Tegu blocks very much so we don't have to be using marbles on them (cool idea tho') but my issue is more that he seems to have just one play theme.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

"If your child just wants to build build build," Dr. Goldman uses as an example, "then maybe you want to bring in superheroes or puppets and try to join your child because forcing is not going to be productive."

So as our Tegu train arrives at the station, I get an idea and decide to just stay with his theme but maybe just mix it up a little.  I make a Tegu mommy and a Tegu kid and I have the mom face the kid and say, "I wonder if there is a train that can take us to the museum?"

Number 2, who had been content with no people in sight, swoops up the mom onto his train and then klunks the child right on top of the mom.  This scene is not unlike real life. My child is always leaning on me, making me pick him up, sitting on me....  This could very well be the story of him and his anxious mother, taking a ride somewhere. 

Child is sitting on top on Mom even though there is plenty of space on the train!  This happens to me in real life! 

"If a parent is respecting where their child is going and not always imposing their ideas," Dr. Goldman advised, "they are in tune with the way the child is playing.  The child is more comfortable about his himself and feels good about himself."  I suppose then he may also be able to leave his comfort zone just as my child had with the Tegu mom and Tegu kid.

That's all I want for him anyway, it's okay if he doesn't make a masterful creation.  I just want to hear him share what's on his mind.

Easy Building Helps Fluid Storytelling

The beauty of these blocks becomes quite apparent when you are at a crossroads like the way I was.  It can be a little tense so that is when you want things to be really really easy.  With Tegu blocks, while you must fidget a little with the north and south poles of the magnets, but the whole process of building is rather quick and easy. It can range from simple to elaborate.  It's all up to your child.

He can make whatever he wants rather quickly and if for some reason, let's say, your Tegu mommy became disconnected while she boarded the train, your kid (real one, not the Tegu) can put her. or anything else for that matter, back together in seconds.  Play is uninterrupted and you really want those new experiences to have fluidity.

Where is the train taking this mom and this kid? You will have to ask him because it is his story to tell and I have to learn to shut my mouth when it is time to shut my mouth.

But I can't shut my mouth....

Or else how can I do toy reviews?  One very important thing to mention is that this company really cares about where the wood comes from.   They plant tons of trees and help impoverished children in the Honduras (where the trees come from) go to school.  Their priorities are well defined and that is easy to digest for children.  While this portion may not be pretend play, it's certainly fulfills my objective to help my kids get a better "understanding of the world" as described in a previous post about Tegu blocks.

Describing where these toys come from as my child is playing with them allows for a perfect opportunity for me to teach him about what are the bigger concerns out there.  In fact, while I haven't tried this out myself, Tegu's site does explain that for each purchase on the Tegu site, the company will direct a portion of the proceeds to either plant 12 new trees or fund one day of school for a child.  You and maybe even WITH your child, can make the choice together after the company sends you an email after your purchase.  Use the video above to further teach your children what excellent corporate social responsibility looks like.

We bought for The Discovery Set our kids.  Number 1 was quick to learn all the factoids printed on the box.  Putting all 26 blocks back into this very sturdy box is also a fun puzzle.

Read my review on the Tegu Mobility Line: click HERE

*all photos except for the one with old blue carpet as background are all provided courtesy of Tegu.  Videos have been included with the permission of Tegu.

Disclaimer: Tegu was kind enough to send me a few sample blocks and a Maddy Micro, (the orange car with four wheels).  I was so excited about them, I totally caved and bought the Tegu Discovery Set (Mahogany) before Tegu's product submission arrived.  Soon I discovered that with my two boys, you can not share wheels (like they both can't drive a single car) and so I caved again and bought a Riley Roadster.  


  1. Great article. Kudos to Tegu !

  2. Great review. My son would eat these up (s would his sibling following suit.) I so love imaginative, building toys made of real materials (not manufactured plastic).