A Short History of Building Blocks

Many children love playing with building toys, from babies learning to stack objects on top of one another to older children creating elaborate models and structures with finely detailed blocks and bricks. Here, we will take a look at how the classic wooden building blocks came about, and how they have changed over the years.

Early Building Block Toys

The first building blocks came into existence in around the 16th or 17th century. They most often featured letters of the alphabet, as it was thought that this would be a fun and interesting way for children to learn about letters. The idea of blocks with letters came from the existence of dice, which had already been around for thousands of years.

Alphabet Blocks in the 19th Century

It was during the 19th century that stacking alphabet blocks became really popular. Samuel Hill’s alphabet blocks were patented in the mid-1800s. This set of 20 blocks featured letters painted on each of the six sides of the cube, meaning the set could be used to spell a great range of words. Before this, each cube only featured one letter on one side, whilst the others would be blank or have pictures on.

Also during the 19th century, wooden letter bricks were being found in more and more schools. It was hoped that the toy would help young children learn the shapes of different letters, as a first step in learning to read.

Building Bricks Today

There are thousands of different types of building blocks today, although the classic alphabet bricks remain very popular with parents and children alike. In fact, the toy is one which hasn’t changed much since it was first seen hundreds of years ago. The classic, simple design and educational value are reasons why the toy remains so popular, and will probably continue to be well-loved by future generations.

Building toys are really great for helping babies and toddlers develop in a number of different ways, too. As well as being used to learn letter names, they can also help with color recognition, counting skills as well as motor skills when used for stacking. And this is why they have passed the test of time, and are still played with 500 years since they were first introduced.

Author Bio

Emily DickEmily Dick has recently graduated with an Honors Degree from the Open University in the field of social science. She is currently developing new parenting website whooopsadaisy.com, where she enjoys writing about a range of topics such as parenting tips and advice, and reviewing the latest baby and toddler products and gear.

Emily is currently raising her two-year-old daughter, Daisy, as well as her two pet cats. When she is not working on her website, Emily enjoys taking Daisy out and about to local attractions such as the duck pond or to the park.


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