Chip of the Old Block
Building blocks with a history.
The iconic ABC blocks that we commonly recall from our youth are one of the modern tools associated with our first attempts at reading and discerning language. First conceived in 1869, the archetypal set of 27 one-inch wooden alphabet blocks remain much as they were then – with brightly coloured alphabets, numerals, animals and intricately carved filigree spread across the six sides of each carefully crafted cube. Inspired by blocks that were carved by craftsmen as a hobby during the colder months of the year, the first mass-produced alphabet blocks were produced by The Embossing Company of Albany, New York in 1879 and were made until 1955 when the company closed.
In 1983, William Bultman started re-creating learning toys and tools that would help develop math, language and motor skills among preschoolers and kindergarten aged children. Recalling the blocks from his youth, Bultman re-released the iconic handcrafted building sets and uses only regionally sourced basswood and non-toxic inks at their production facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When learning to read, write, sort, and just have fun, nothing beats simplicity. This set of 28 blocks is crafted from sustainable Michigan basswood, then embossed and printed with a colorful range of non-toxic inks. Each block tells a story, and since there are several sides to any story, you’ll find a variety of animals, numbers, math symbols, and four full alphabets. $59
Enjoy the antics of the blocks that march four-by-four (hurrah, hurrah) with printed trails of ants connecting on all six sides. Never ending anthills of fun. Each set includes ant hills, a queen with her eggs and a spider (every good story needs a bad guy). $39.
For the chemist, hipster geek or scholar in your bunch, these irresistible set of 20 blocks picturing the entire periodic table of elements is a sure win. Each block contains six element images with their atomic number, symbol, and name. Elemental beauty, and elemental fun. $59