Sunday, December 9, 2012

Building Imaginations

Another Holidailies blogger revealed her secretive love of Legos. It got me thinking about my own love affair with all sorts of building toys, that's being rekindled by my oldest daughter reaching the age where she's playing with such toys.

Surprisingly enough, I never had that many Legos. Lots of kids did when I was growing up, but I just had a few. I think my mom had a streak of contrariness that made her want to seek out toys that weren't quite as popular but were, just maybe, better than the ones everyone else was buying (no offense to all the Lego fans out there!). One kid I knew actually had an erector set, but I never got into that. The two construction toys that really engaged my imagination were Bristle Blocks and Construx.

Bristle Blocks, if you're not familiar with them, look like this:

As you can see, they come in different shapes and sizes, but they can lock together in multiple directions through the bristles that extend from all sides. Most of them were "flat," and I don't think all of the shapes existed that you can see in this photo: I think we had relatively flat ones and a few that were actual blocks. One of the big positives of bristle blocks was their versatility. I mean, I know people can do amazing things with Legos, but they always felt like bricks to me as a kid, like the only things I could make out of them were walls. And weird blocky robots. Bristle blocks just felt like they could do more. Also, they hurt in a whole different way when you stepped on them.

Construx, though, were probably my favorites.

This gives you a pretty good idea of what they are. Yeah, I know I just said that Legos seemed like all you could make were buildings and now I'm singing the praises of a toy that's basically a bunch of industrial building girders and panels to fit between them. But really, there were a ton of things you could do with them. Like:

space ships and planes, or

this Voltron-like robot thing. Just a couple point out. See the connection between the "hands" and arms? Those were plastic strips that were the length of the diagonal of two medium girders. And the panels on the shoulder piece--those fit in such a way that they could flip up as entry hatches. It's hard to see them, but I think the hips of the robot are pieces that fit on the medium square of girders as a round swivel piece. In the ship, you can also see that there's both a dedicated plane/spaceship cockpit of the Construx people that came with most sets and also some sort of tubes and hemi-spheres that made great satellite dishes as well as capping the tubes (and glowing in the dark!). Also: see the little blue cubes that have attachment points for the girders? They also had black ones that were hinges and orange ones that were a little bit bigger and allowed the piece attached to them to spin. A later set included connection points that had some kind of funky angle--not the most useful, but it added some versatility, particularly for getting things like X-Wing Fighter style double wings.

My point in all of this is just that as a kid I loved all these building toys, and as a parent I'm pretty enthusiastic about them too. They help challenge and build the imagination. To be perfectly honest, these toys still appeal to me today. I enjoy sitting down with my daughter and "helping" her build a tower out of blocks. Yes: doing it for her is helping by providing a model of what a totally awesome tower looks like.

So what were/are some of your favorite toys?

1 comment:

  1. Dude, I used to long for Construx! I thought they looked like the coolest toys ever.

    We had Lego. Lots and lots of Lego. It saw hours of use during the winter. We'd be parked down in the basement, near the woodburning stove, building ridiculous cars, fanciful houses and brick-based amusement park rides. Lego is the toy that keeps on giving for sure.