Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Wooden Block Play

As parents and owners of Turner Toys, we’re big believers that children learn through play.  As schools face more pressure to have kids  “learn to the test,” many are pushing academic pressures down through the grades to even the kindergarten and preschool level.  With more time needed for academics, play is getting pushed out of the classroom.  Some schools (and parents) are quick to think of playing with blocks as just a toddler activity without any connection to learning.

As often happens, old things become new again.  Last year,  The New York Times’  Kyle Spencer wrote about about the renewed interest in blocks in With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics.   Blocks have never gone out of fashion in progressive schools, but now traditional – even academically-rigid – schools are expressing interest in the value of blocks to today’s educational approaches.

Benefits of Block Play

Why blocks?  In addition to being fun, several scientific studies have established links between children’s block play and later success in math, language acquisition, science, spatial skills, and more.  The New York Times’ article specifically mentions two academic studies:

Citiblocs A 2001 study demonstrated how more sophisticated preschool block play could result in higher math grades and test scores.

A 2007 study  showed the connection between block play and better language acquisition skills.

We found a Temple University 2011 study that demonstrated when children play with blocks they strengthen spatial skills and concepts that are critical in math and science but, perhaps more importantly, in everyday life.  How well do pack your suitcase or park your car?  The answer might show how much you played with blocks when you were a kid!

Turner Toys carries lines of wooden building and unit blocks from Haba, Guidecraft & Citiblocs.

Citiblocs has created a list of just some of the benefits of block play: Playing with giant wooden blocks

  • They learn to create buildings and other structures, and to design imaginary things based on their own ideas.
  • They develop social relationships with other children, which can be a valuable opportunity when groups of children are sharing. 
  • Children expand their language abilities as they are able to articulate about size, shape, colors, comparisons and other aspects of building.
  • Children learn and practice math skills by grouping, adding, subtracting, matching and sequencing.
  • Children experience science and physics when experimenting with gravity, weight, balance, and stability.
  • Children are stimulated and develop skills and imagination including cause and effect, problem solving, classification skills, and critical thinking.
  • Children gain a sense of achievement when they construct with blocks, building sets, construction toys, and model kits.
  • They build strength in their fingers and hands, and improve their eye-hand coordination.
Citiblocs creation

Citiblocs creation

The fascination of playing with blocks doesn’t seem to end at any particular age (though it seems to take a hiatus as kids get older.)  My wife is a violin teacher and we’ve put out some bags of Citiblocs to amuse students who are waiting for their lessons.  Not only do we see the kids’ creations, we’ve noticed that their parents are really into them!  She’ll frequently hear the clatter of the blocks during lessons and the students will want to see what their parents did.

What are your experiences with block play?  Are you a teacher using a block center? Any further ideas on how kids benefit from playing with blocks?  Let us know so we can share your ideas!

Turner Toys is proud to carry almost 100 toys that are made in the USA.   Why do we carry American-made toys when we could probably buy less expensive products?  Many of the American companies that we work with have been crafting their toys for generations and share our values and love for “the toys we grew up with.”   We feel confident in the safety and quality of American-made toys.   Most importantly – these are great toys!



Some of our American-made products

These include Slinky– still made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania with the original equipment Richard James created.  The Slinky has changed little in over 50 years. A crimp was added to the ends of the wire to ensure safe play.  Though it was developed to be a toy, other applications for the Slinky have been discovered. The Slinky has been used as an antenna by soldiers in Vietnam, as a therapy tool and for coordination development. The possibilities are endless.

Roy Toy Log Cabin Toy Set

Roy Toy Log Cabin Frontier set

Roy Toy log cabin toys are made in Maine, the “Pine Tree State”.  Roy Toy was established in the mid 1930’s by one of the earliest pioneers in the wooden toy industry, Roy K. Dennison.  Roy would often say, “There’s no greater feeling for a parent than helping their child explore their own imagination”.  After Roy died in 1960’s, the business was shuttered.  Roy’s grandson, Bruce Dennison, decided to revive the Roy Toy business in 1992.  He has honored his grandfather’s vision by producing the precisely made realistic  square logs that fit together perfectly.  All the parts are cut from fresh Maine Pinewood, colored with non-toxic dyes. You know that Roy Toys is the real thing when you open the box and smell the wonderfully fragrant pine! Bonus – Roy Toy log cabin sets have no plastic parts!

Uncle Goose Classic Alphabet Blocks

Uncle Goose Classic Alphabet Blocks

Turner Toys carries heirloom-quality alphabet block sets from Uncle Goose in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  They offer an array of classic alphabet blocks and  foreign language blocks (Chinese, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Korean and Hebrew.  Pete Bultman runs the family business that his father started in Michigan in 1983.  Uncle Goose blocks use quality materials to recreate nostalgic toys that mix playing and learning in a graphic, tactile way.

G70 Folding Wing Catapult Balsa Glider 12 inch wingspan.

Balsa wood Folding Wing Catapult Glider

We also have a collection of Guillows balsa wood airplanes – from the basic balsa gliders you had as a child to  complex balsa model airplane kits of famous military and civilian aircraft. The Guillows model airplane company was founded in 1926 by Paul K. Guillow, a World War I U. S. Navy Aviator. His experience as a Navy pilot created his passion for  aviation which led him to create a line of small balsa wood construction kits of famous World War I combat aircraft.

In upcoming blogs, we’ll highlight other American-made toys.  Turner Toys is s a resource on Buy Direct USA‘s website and our products are featured in their 2012 Made in the USA Gift Guide.  Turner Toys is also listed on Americans Working site.

Is buying American-made products important to you?  Tell us why.

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