Unschooling Resources: Toys

Building Sets

A good way to see just what sorts of building sets are are available: Constructiontoys.com

Building large is easy with these plastic construction sets from the 1980s. Great for younger kids because the pieces are simple to fit together, and the results are highly satisfying. Check for Construx on eBay and at garage sales.

A magnetic construction toy based on simple principles of geometry.

A colorful building set that uses plastic rods and connectors. Recommended for slightly older children, as the pieces are sometimes difficult to snap together (there is a junior set for younger children). Build small models, or dive in and go for a giant ferris wheel or roller coaster! There are also "educational" sets, including levers and pulleys, inclined planes, cranks and gears, the solar system, bridges, etc.

"Kapla gently blends science and art, expanding both critical and creative thinking while children play.... Unlike traditional cubes, KAPLA is long and thin. It is perfectly balanced between 2 ideas: building and sculpting. This single [wooden] module can create an unlimited number of structures such as bridges, walls, domes, houses, roofs, bugs and animals."

Of course. A good way to get started with Lego is to buy a bunch used. You'll usually end up with both plain blocks of different sizes and lots of interesting decorative pieces (computer terminals, flowers, doors, wheels, etc).

As the name implies, magnetic tiles. From the website: "A valuable manipulative for spatial problem-solving tasks, logical thinking and math reasoning, these unique tiles attract on all sides and combinations, leading from two-dimensional to advanced 3-D thinking patterns and providing stimulus and right-side brain training through creative play!" (Post #928)

Pattern and Parquetry Blocks
Make beautiful creations or copy others' patterns. Pattern blocks are art! (...and math, of course.) (Post #929)

Toobers and Zots
Foam tubes (some with wire inside), spheres and cool-looking flat pieces in wild colors. Bend them, shape them and put them together however you want! Make bugs, aliens, monsters, animals, and wacky people. Heck, make anything you like!

Tree Blocks

"Wooden blocks that look like the branches they came from." Beautiful.

Wooden Unit Blocks
You can find these almost anywhere. Think of the large, wooden blocks seen in schools and daycares. A quality set will last through the years and can spark a kid's imagination like almost nothing else.

Young Architects
"Experience the pride of building ready-to-display stone replicas of world famous architectural masterpieces, brick by brick! Mix the special mortar in the mini-sized wheelbarrow, then follow the step-by-step instructions for building each structure with real kiln-fired bricks!" Includes the Coliseum, a Mayan temple, the Great Wall of China, the Empire State Building, the Alamo, and more.

Another fun building set for the younger crowd. These colorful plastic pieces snap together and move around nicely.
This system consists of struts and connectors that can make zillions of different geometric constructions. Very cool, especially for older builders.
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