Wednesday, November 23, 2005

LEGO from cards

If you've read much in this blog, you know that I often need to work from examples, and sometimes that is a serious therapeutic need. You also may have caught on that I like cards best, with one project per card (or card side).

Yesterday I was out looking at toys (itself often a therapeutic activity) and saw an interesting looking game - LEGO Builder Xtreme - with cards showing small constructions and the pieces needed to construct them.

As I was studying the box, I started thinking maybe I had that game, so I came home and looked. It turned out I had an earlier version - LEGO Creator Game, which is probably close enough for me.

The key elements for me are that set of cards for various small constructions, and a corresponding set of LEGO pieces. The cards are differentiated by five color codes - each color has four cards which divide the pieces differently for four different constructions, so those four can be built simultaneously.

I put the pieces in a resealable bag, cleaned up the perforation fuzz on the cards and used a corner rounder punch to round their corners, and now have another ready-to-go kit for when I need a simple therapeutic activity. The game box, board, and rules went back where I found them - I may want them again for a grandchild or something.

A tentative project is to match the multicolored pieces in two or three single-color sets, since often when I particularly need a therapeutic activity, I am especially vulnerable to sensory overload, and the multiple bright colors might be too much for me. At other times, building the model without the color cues could be interesting or beneficial.

In the meantime, another nice therapy tool.
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Monday, November 21, 2005


I had thought I wouldn't include Lego building here, but two recent occurrences changed my mind.

First was a new set from Lego that features delightful European house styles -- a pleasant shift from the claptrap which has dominated Lego's releases for so long.

Second was Allan Bedford's wonderful new book: The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide

In building with any type of block set one uses a sort of vocabulary of block combinations and recurring modules. Between sessions, I often forget chunks of that vocabulary (just as I often forget English or German) and need some sort of review to get going again. Allan's fine book will serve that purpose for Lego, both now and later.

So I dragged my several containers of blocks down from the attic (apparently missing one), downloaded a 1958 plan from, and built the fire station above.

Unfortunately, I don't have any of the old style small doors or windows called for, and was shy the white plates for the roof, so it ended up a little more divergent than I had hoped. But I still like it.

I think that house set will go on my Christmas list.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wedgit mobile

That is "mobile" as in "suspended sculpture," not as in "Batmobile."

One of the appealing qualities of Wedgits is that they can be played with by simply stacking, or they can be cleverly interlocked to make more complicated forms.

As a challenge, I decided to see if all 15 pieces of a basic set (Wedgits Junior) could be interlocked into a single lump.

For what it is worth, I managed to do it.

You can turn this upside down, sideways, whatever, and stays a single lump.

Good Block Play

[created 11/18/05; modified 5/13/07]

Monday, November 14, 2005


Switching Wedgits images to negative colors is nifty.

Yesterday I managed to not do Wedgits, but I couldn't hold out for long.

Rumor has it that I am perseverating on Wedgits.

Wedgits Wedgits Wedgits.

Perseverate? Me?

At least it is perseverating on good block play.

[created 11/14/05; modified 5/13/07]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Unit Blocks

It has been a while since I did a "Unit Blocks with Anker Plans" exercise, but not because I don't like either the process or the results. Both are quite fun.

This time I don't have a specific Anker plan to match my building. I looked at several and set a few out as candidates, but I ended up just building what seemed right, glancing once or twice at some of the examples for inspiration, but never looking closely.

I like it.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Parquetry Blocks

This is a very old toy category, and although perhaps no longer as well known, Parquetry sets are still made and sold.

I played with sets like the Playskool at left when I was in Kindergarten, over fifty years ago, and their descendents are now made by Learning Resources, with the same (thick) block sizes and same sample patterns (on better paper :).

Sets like the large Czech version at upper right are more commonly called Parquetry Tiles because the polished wooden pieces are quite thin. They have a wonderful feel. Similar sets can be found in Seattle stores today, from Haba in Germany.

The sets are great fun for exploring patterns of color and symmetry, with almost universally satisfactory tactile feedback.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wedgit Colors

The Wedgits folks make a special "Class Pak" with six basic ("Junior") sets of 15 pieces each. All the different size or shape pieces in a set are the same color, and each of the six sets is in a different color.

This is quite a contrast to the regular sets, where no matter which set you get, the sizes are matched to their specific colors (WoW has different versions of the colors, but pretty much the same scheme). That means to build anything, you are largely obliged to mix all the colors in your structure. Which can create sensory overload for the autistic part of my brain.

The Class Pak is intended for classroom use, presumably helping the students sharing a workspace avoid sharing each others Wedgits.

But by using the full Class Pak, a lone builder can have every size or shape of basic Wedgit in each of six colors. Picking a limited palette can be not only easier on the eyes, but also create new aesthetic opportunities.

I usually combine the Class Pak with the regular Wedgits, which means that the count of Wedgits of different sizes varys depending on what colors are being used. Sometimes I use dice with the six colors on the faces to choose which colors to play with (you could use regular dice, and a simple number-to-color chart); duplicated colors in the dice roll means fewer colors in the play mix.

That should be fun. :)
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[created 11/9/05; modified 5/13/07]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dr. Drew's

Today I will be exploring Dr. Drew's Discovery Blocks.

Eventually, I will add images, links and description.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mixing 'em up

I wanted to make a structure using both regular Wedgits and WoW (Wedgits on Wheels) Wedgits.

It was a real struggle, because they don't belong together, and the colors look pretty bad together.

But I wanted to see what it would be like to have more Wedgits to build with, and to see if I couldn't get along without more by just mixing the two types.

Yes, I like building with more.

No, I do not not not like using them together.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ankerstein - Kleinkaliber

I didn't let this morning's digression into Wedgits building divert me from my tentative plan to build something with Small Cailber Anchor Blocks.

This time I did build from a sample plan, but I diverted from it a bit.

Addendum: After writing the addendum to today's Wedgits post, I started wondering how much working within the bounds of a colored sheet of paper, as I did here, helps me elaborate more freely on a sample plan.

[created 11/3/05; modified 5/13/07]

Exploring Wedgits

I wasn't going to come back to Wedgits so soon, but ... (isn't this one of the ways you can tell a really good toy?)

Mostly, as I have said many times, I work from examples. The thing that first caught my eye about Wedgits was their card decks of sample designs.

Yet here I am again, creating my own design. Not only that, but that middle module with the greens suspended within a triplet of blues locked by small octahedrons, is my own invention. Others may have invented it earlier, but as best I know, I had never seen or heard of any such thing.

A loud crash from the living room tells me that Archie has struck, and it is time to create something new.

Addendum: After some Anker play, I returned for more "free play" with Wedgits.

The "Building Board" really seems to make a difference in how much I am willing to build freely. In discussions of early childhood educational block play, one of the suggestions is providing an area rug or building boards to provide a bounded area for creative play. It seems to help children, and here at least, it seems to help me.
Archie Supervised.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Roy Toy

Roy Toy is another of those reborn companies, having had an earlier existence in the "classic toy era," been shut down as tastes changed, to then be brought back years later when it turned out that a market was developing for "classic toys."

Roy Toy "logs" are similar to Lincoln Logs in concept, but have a rectangular 3/4" by 7/16" cross section. It is actually quite an appealing format, and I enjoy my sets.

Unfortunately, I've found some quality variation from set to set, and many of the Roy Toy sets don't seem as comfortable in exploratory play as some other makers' sets. Too many Roy Toy pieces seem specific for the one specific structure depicted on the package, rather than being modularly scaled pieces which can be reused in a variety of functions. It might help if Roy Toy included alternate design suggestions, as many others do.

John Lloyd Wright, inventor of Lincoln Logs, learned well at his father's knee, and the father, Frank Lloyd Wright, learned well from his Froebel building blocks. (See? This all ties together with building blocks :). Playing with a toy such as this, which doesn't apply those lessons as well, is educational in its own way.

The up side of Roy Toy's down side is that I have been able to get several sets "used" (with little or no use) at low to very low prices, to preserve my limited budget. And yes, this "fire station" really is pink, though I can't tell you if that is typical. Apparently it has been discontinued, although it still appears on the web site.

Roy Toy customer service has responded very quickly and courteously to a report of a missing piece, even for a discontinued set.