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Toy blocks (also building bricks, building blocks, or simply blocks) are wooden, plastic, or foam pieces of various shapes (square, cylinder, arch, triangle, etc.) and colors that are used as construction toys. Sometimes toy blocks depict letters of the alphabet.
There are mentions of blocks or "dice" with alphabets inscribed on them used as entertaining educational tools in the works of English writer and inventor Hugh Plat (his 1594 book The Jewel House of Art and Nature) and English philosopher John Locke (his 1693 essay Thoughts Concerning Education). Plat described them as "the child using to play much with them, and being always told what letter chanceth, will soon gain his Alphabet" and Locke noted "Thus Children may be cozen’d into a Knowledge of the Letters; be taught to read, without perceiving it to be anything but a Sport".
University of Pennsylvania professor of Urbanism Witold Rybczynski has found that the earliest mention of building bricks for children appears in Maria and R.L. Edgeworth's Practical Education (1798). Called "rational toys", blocks were intended to teach children about gravity and physics, as well as spatial relationships that allow them to see how many different parts become a whole. In 1837 Friedrich Fröbel invented a preschool educational institution Kindergarten. For that, he designed ten Froebel Gifts based on building blocks principles. During the mid-nineteenth century, Henry Cole (under the pseudonym of Felix Summerly) wrote a series of children’s books. Cole's A book of stories from The Home Treasury included a box of terracotta toy blocks and, in the accompanying pamphlet "Architectural Pastime", actual blueprints.
- Physical benefits: toy blocks build strength in a child's fingers and hands, and improve eye-hand coordination. They also help educate children in different shapes.
- Social benefits: block play encourages children to make friends and cooperate, and is often one of the first experiences a child has playing with others. Blocks are a benefit for the children because they encourage interaction and imagination. Creativity can be a combined action that is important for social play.
- Intellectual benefits: children can potentially develop their vocabularies as they learn to describe sizes, shapes, and positions. Math skills are developed through the process of grouping, adding, and subtracting, particularly with standardized blocks, such as unit blocks. Experiences with gravity, balance, and geometry learned from toy blocks also provide intellectual stimulation.
- Creative benefits: children receive creative stimulation by making their own designs with blocks.
Types and manufacturers
- Anchor Stone Blocks
- Unit block is a popular standardized wooden toy block.
- Kapla and KEVA Planks are wooden block construction toys.
- LEGO is a line of unique plastic building bricks that interlock for virtually endless combinations.
- Lincoln Logs is a toy consisting of notched miniature logs.
- Stickle bricks is a plastic construction toy primarily intended for toddlers.
- Froebel Gifts are a range of educational materials first used in the original Kindergarten.
- Montessori sensorial materials are a range of educational materials including wooden blocks.
- Tinkertoys consists of rods and wheels.
- Rasti is an Argentine toy block.
- Tente is a Spanish toy block.
- Zometool is a USA-made system of advanced building blocks.
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- Alice Morse Earle (editor), Child life in colonial days, New York : The Macmillan Company; London, Macmillan & Co - 1899, pages 182-183
- Karyn Wellhousen, Judith E. Kieff, A Constructivist Approach to Block Play in Early Childhood, Cengage Learning, 2001, page 4
- Witold Rybczynski, Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture, 2006[page needed]
- "New ESO VLT LEGO® Model". Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Witold Rybczynski, Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture, 2006, page183