Who else grew up playing with Czech wooden picture cubes?
I confess, my wooden picture cubes were the best. I mean, the best of the best.
As a child I remember playing with these wooden blocks almost every day. I never used them just as the puzzle that they were. I used them to build castles and towers, villages and fences, to corral in animals, block invaders and everything in between.
These blocks were, in short my most favorite toy ever.
I know they seem simple, and more than likely, today’s children would probably grow bored with them rather quickly, but that is a shame because such block should be considered standard equipment for all little ones.
So how long have people been playing with such blocks and where did they originate?
Apparently they come from Mesopotamia. Modern excavations have revealed that such blocks or cubes are more than 3,000 years old. Popular in ancient Greece, children were to play with them to learn the basics of mathematics and geometry.
Roman boys then used them to assist with learning the basics of military strategy. Such blocks were used to construct camp plans, battle scenes and military units.
You can find some wonderful sets on eBay.
In 1798, Maria and R.L. Edgeworth’s Practical Education called them”rational toys”. They said that blocks were intended to teach children about gravity and physics, as well as spatial relationships that allow them to see how many different parts become a whole.
These days, the most popular place for wooden blocks such as these is in Japan and China. The Asian people still see the immense value in simple toys.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the philosopher, writer, and composer of the 18th century recommended that all children use such blocks to assist in their learning. Such a toy may have even influenced the Enlightenment in France and across Europe!
I’ll tell you one thing…
I was totally feeling enlightened when I got a set that came in a wooden box and had more cubes than ever before!
The greatest heyday of these toys was during the 19th and 20th century when the surfaces of such wooden blocks were actually covered with pictures.
Toy makers got the idea to cut prints into pieces and glue them onto sets of wooden blocks. Every side of each block in the set was then faced with a section of a different picture.
This meant that each way the blocks were turned, they created a new picture – six pictures in all.
Pure. Playtime. Magic.
I remember mixing my block sets together and then trying to figure out which goes to which. I think I had over 10 sets at one time. Believe it or not, I still have three of them.
Children gain many benefits from playing with blocks.
- Toy blocks build strength in a child’s fingers and hands, and improve eye-hand coordination.
- They help educate children in different shapes.
- Block play encourages children to make friends and cooperate, and is often one of the first experiences a child has playing with others.
- Blocks are a benefit for the children because they encourage interaction and imagination.
- Creativity can be a combined action that is important for social play.
Children can potentially develop their vocabularies as they learn to describe sizes, shapes, and positions.
- Math skills are developed through the process of grouping, adding, and subtracting, particularly with standardized blocks, such as unit blocks.
- Experiences with gravity, balance, and geometry learned from toy blocks also provide intellectual stimulation.
- Children receive creative stimulation by making their own designs with blocks.
Many a great artist has been inspired by such blocks and they still make and sell them all over the Czech Republic. If you are in the USA, you may want to check Amazon or eBay (I’ve put the keywords into the link for you). I am actively searching there to replace some of the ones I grew up with and no longer have.
If you have children, get a set.
Heck, get a set even if you don’t have children.
I’ve found several great ones on eBay, so check them out!
For example, these by Czech illustrator Marie Kvechova-Fischerova…
Click here to purchase and see more images.
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