I spent quite a bit of time researching which blocks to get. I know, shocker. We finally decided on a starter set called the Barclay Blocks Premium Maple Baby Wooden Unit Block Kit A (on the Barclay site known as “BAB07/BABKIT-Version AA”), which consists of 43 pieces in 19 shapes. We purchased ours from KidBean.com, an eco-friendly website, for just under $77. Yes, that’s about $1.77 per block and that seems outrageous, but here’s the thing: AMORTIZATION.
By no means do I assume that higher price equals higher quality, but in the case of wood blocks, its just true. And I don’t mind paying a lot for something that will last a long time. Quality blocks have always been expensive, but if you calculate the amount of play for the dollar, they are actually quite inexpensive. Kids will develop some interest in blocks around a year – holding the shapes, feeling the texture, figuring out what a triangle tastes like. As the months and years pass, they’ll stack them, identify them, and later build elaborate structures from their imaginations. We’re talking easily 8 years of entertainment, if not more. And that comes out to less than a buck a month.
A week before the kids’ party, I was telling my dad that we had ordered these blocks as a first birthday present. He offered to write a check for the blocks, which we gladly accepted. Saved him a trip, and it purchased a quality toy we wanted for the kids. Ka. Ching.
Also, not all wood is wood, and if it says “hardwood”, they might be lying. Some manufacturers of wood blocks aren’t selling wood blocks at all. It’s pressed particleboard. And that’s why they sell so cheap. If you’re looking for blocks to serve a short-term purpose and you don’t mind having to toss them out and buy new ones later, then by all means get the cheap stuff. For example, we bought a pressed “wood” dresser from Ikea awhile back for less than $100. I don’t expect it to last forever, but IT IS SERVING ITS SHORT-TERM PURPOSE. Blocks, though? We want to be able to watch our grandkids play with them.
Some manufacturers tout that their blocks are “hardwood”, when in fact they are not. Don’t be fooled. There are lots of different kinds of wood but Barclay blocks are made from high quality wood and our premium blocks have been made from hand picked American Rock Maple.
Some manufactuers produce so many other products they just can’t be bothered with quality WORKMANSHIP. They might lack uniformity in the cuts, or use softer woods vulnerable to blemishes and splintering. Barclay blocks are not coated with anything, have rounded corners, and they are hand-sanded on the ends and edges. Barclay’s has an unconditionally guarantee and they are so sure as to workmanship and materials that they will replace cracked or broken blocks for free.
We keep our blocks stored in a cotton gauze drawstring produce bag nestled in a toddler-level bookshelf in the living room. I chose these bags because they are thin (offering transparency to the kids to see what is in the bag), durable (can be machine washed), and multi-functional (we can use them for their intended purpose at any time).
At 12-13 months, we enjoy watching the kids stack two to three blocks. But mostly, they enjoy knocking down the things we build. I like toys that inspire imagination from within, instead of some prescribed way of doing things. Blocks will allow them to play freely, and will assure them smaller bruises as they take to throwing things at one another.
You can find reviews of our other favorite products at the bottom of this post over yonder.