Yippeeee! It’s summer vacation! Now that my kids are home from school, they have had more time to play. No matter their age, the traditional wooden building block toys are the ones that sustain play for hours and days. Given their enthusiasm for building drum sets, houses, airplanes, spaceships, etc., I was inspired to write this list of the most popular wooden building block toys in our home that inspire open-ended, creative play.
1. Contina Blocks
Contina blocks are similar to Kapla blocks, in that they are more like planks than standard unit blocks; however, Contina blocks are made from sustainable bamboo. These planks come in eight different natural colored finishes and can be combined to build many structures, given that you get 100 blocks in a set. You can stack them or line them up, and I am not sure if Eco Dad or my children had more fun when we first opened our Contina blocks.
2. Tree Branch Blocks
I’ve always wanted to make my own tree branch blocks, but it is one of those projects I have never gotten around too. When we opened our set, my daughter exclaimed, “Cool toy, Mom”, “Cool blocks”, “Look what I made”, and “How did they make the blocks so smooth?” She observed that the blocks are not all the same size, which makes children use their brains to create organic structures not possible with standard unit blocks. She also asked me what they were made from, and I guessed wrongly birch. They are actually made from “Kiln dried locally sourced Alder. 14 pc. with Harmonic wax finish”, and the bag they come in is made from “locally made natural cotton”. Perhaps this tree branch set will inspire us to make our own to add to the collection.
3. Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks
Every child deserves a good set of Standard Unit Blocks! Blocks are perhaps the quintessential toy for child development. Creative play and imagination abound when playing with natural toy blocks. If you buy your child a toy car, the toy car is always a car. If you give your child blocks, a block can be a car, a train, a telephone, a bed, etc. The only limits are your child’s imagination.
4. Frontier Lincoln Logs
These wooden blocks may be the most limiting of the bunch, but they sure are fun! My kids make some great cabins, barns, fences, garages, etc. out of their Lincoln Logs. Their constructive quality leads to integration with many other toys, which inspires open-ended dramatic doll and truck play in my home. There’s a lot of different shaped building you can build with this classic toy.
5. Tinkertoy Classic Jumbo Set
This is probably the least eco-friendly building toy on the list, as there are a lot of plastic accessories and connectors, but my kids have really been getting into them lately. As a child, I was personally deprived of owning Tinkertoys, as well as a Green Machine, and I remember loving to play with my great aunt’s set, as well as her roulette wheel. You can build amazing things with Tinkertoys. Currently, my house is adorned with a drum set on wheels my kids have been playing with and modifying for days.
One thing these blocks all have in common, beside being made of wood, is they are often scattered all over the house! A good basket is key for storing toys; smaller ones better for sorting them by type. Another great thing about these blocks is they are not limited to play by themselves, but they are combined by my kids to form some amazing structures! These blocks inspire creative, open-ended, cooperative play in my home. I hope you see similar results!
Great. I really enjoy reading this post, Now i got an idea how i can spend my summer with my nephew.
I am so happy to see that you are an avid supporter of unscripted, open-ended play. I would love to hear what your thoughts are on an innovative take on the classic wooden block: wooden blocks enhanced with magnets. (We’d love to be in contention for a spot on your list!) Here at Tegu, we have learned that magnetic wooden blocks allow kids to build more elaborate creations (from race cars to peacocks to abstract sculptures), stimulating further cognitive development and literally defying gravity. Tell us what you think!
Thank you again,
Maria at Tegu
Re: Maria at Tegu- I have just discovered the tegu magnetic blocks- they are amazing! My daughter loved her basic wooden block set for years, she is now nearly 5 and her new tegu set has taken her creating to a new level. She is obsessed with the endless possibilities and im so impressed with what she has been able to create so far. I am really enjoying using them with her and definitely think they warrant a place in any list of best wooden building toys.
Thanks Charlotte! We are so encouraged to hear this.
Renee Pendergrass says
Great item! Thanks for sharing…
Chris Cochella says
Because you are such an advocate of free, open-ended play I want to introduce our BionicBlox product to you. It is made of wood and cool connectors that allow kids to explore their imagination through building, inventing and engineering. They are a US made toy that is having a lot of success in schools and children’s science and discovery museums throughout the country.
Thank for your thoughtful posts on quality toys. Your readers could not go wrong listening to you.