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Educational Toys-A Brief History of Building Blocks

Posted by HelenaBlavatsky on

Nowadays, more and more educators, scholars and policy makers believe that games play a vital role in the social and psychological development of children, especially the social and psychological development of children. In the England Game Report, research found that games encourage children's creative thinking and independence; develop problem-solving skills and stress-handling abilities; and help their physical and mental health.

Today we will focus on the story of educational toys-from the rudimentary wooden alphabet blocks in the 16th century to the increasingly complex coding toys now.

What is an educational toy?

First, let us clarify the terminology. What do we mean by educational toys or general learning toys?

Many people will say that any toy can serve one or another educational role. However, we believe that there is a difference between toys with educational value and toys specifically designed for education.

Therefore, when we talk about educational toys and games in this article, we are referring to toys designed to help children of different ages achieve different educational goals and to promote their intellectual, social, emotional and physical development. 

About the origin of educational toys

One of the earliest mentions of educational toys comes from the great enlightenment philosopher John Locke (1632-1704).

In 1693, he published "Some Thoughts on Education", which today is considered the most influential children's book in Britain. In this book, Locke puts forward the revolutionary view that the way children grow up has nothing to do with God (a major anxiety for parents in the Middle Ages and Protestant Reformation), and everything has to do with education. Locke believes that alphabetic building blocks will make early childhood literacy more efficient.

From the 19th century to the 20th century, children’s wooden building blocks were not new, but Locke’s assessment of their educational value was very new. In the centuries that followed, some other European educators developed a systematic approach based on the wooden block principle, using games in educational programs.

Frobel's Gift

In 1811, the British-Irish Irish writer, inventor and politician Edgeworth described wooden blocks as "rational toys" that could teach children knowledge of gravity and physics, as well as spatial relationships.

Then in 1837 Friedrich Frobel (1782-1852), a German educator and inventor of the most famous kindergarten, developed his "Frobel Gift"-a set of wooden game toys , Designed for practical learning.

Frobel hopes that these "gifts", including wooden building blocks, wooden spheres and cylinders, and soft colored yarn balls, will enable children to understand themselves and the world around them.

In the decades that followed, Frobel's gift was considered the best educational tool for toddlers and preschoolers. Frank Lloyd Wright, a famous architect and designer in the 20th century, reflected on their lasting influence on his work in his autobiography. "For several years, I have been sitting at a small table in the kindergarten, playing with cubes, Spheres and triangles-these smooth wooden maple blocks.'Until today.

As an idealist, Frobel asserted that his materials can help children understand that different materials can create different things, and at the same time proves the unity of the universe-opposites can be resolved.

How long is the history of building blocks?

You may know that building blocks are a traditional toy that has existed for a long time, but how long have they existed?

Some believe that these toys must have existed in the caveman era. If someone picked up a few stones or wood and piled them together, would it count as a kind of original building block toy?

However, although we can't speculate when the first person actually piled some rocks together for entertainment, we can actually look back at the history of simple building block toys through the recorded history.

I browsed through many historical documents and searched some of the oldest texts known to mankind, and found reference materials for building block toys.

1693: British philosopher John Locke issued a statement "Dice and toys, with letters on them, teach children the alphabet through play", which will enhance the children's learning experience in reading.
1798: The book "Practical Education" mentions building blocks, calling them "rational toys" and saying that their purpose is to teach children the relationship between gravity, physics and space.
1820: SL Hill of Brooklyn obtained a patent for "decorative wood" - paint on the surface of the building block, embossed, and then add another color to create a multi-colored building block - and started the first Known large-scale toy building block production.
1837: Friedrich Frobel invented the concept of the kindergarten, and at the same time developed a set of educational toys called "Frobel Gifts", these toys are mainly composed of building blocks.
1850: Henry Cole wrote a series of children's books under the pseudonym Felix Somerley, one of which was a story book from "Family Treasure", including a box of terracotta toy blocks and a book called "Architectural Recreation" "The booklet contains the actual blueprint.
20th Century. Throughout the 20th century (to the 21st century), many different types of construction toys were invented and mass-produced. Some toys gained fame around the world and inspired entire subcultures to appear around them.
2003: The National Toy Hall of Fame included ABC blocks in its collection at the Strong Museum and awarded them the title of National Important Toy.
2014: Another building block toy, Click -A -Brick, made its debut before Christmas.

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