Toy of the month – February 2016

This month’s toy review is about a reinvented and remastered take on an old classic, the block. Yes the wooden block has been given a completely new, updated and very much needed revamp. It has moved the block beyond just stacking and building and into a whole new world of engineered construction.

This “Toy of the month” is the utterly brilliant Bokah Blocks and these wooden blocks are so ingenious that we were blown away by them in our Kids Gifts and Toys household.

Bokah blocks backpack & packaging

As you may have gathered already from my blog posts, I love what I do and one of the main reasons for this is I love being able to find new toys or products that captivate children to learn. Learning through play is one of the most important parts of development in the early years.

“Play fosters creativity of thought, imagination, strategies for problem solving and the development of divergent thinking ability.”  (Lester & Russell, 2008, p. 34)

Blocks are one of these timeless toys that have been around for generations and can be used from 18 months onward. Blocks are one of the most amazing toys that every household needs as they help develop a variety of skills including spatial awareness, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving and mathematical thinking, creative and social skills such as sharing, cooperation and self-confidence.

I was therefore so intrigued to learn more about Bokah Blocks and just exactly how these wooden blocks would work and find out how different they are from your typical wooden stacking block.

Bokah blocks box and backpack

Designed and made in the USA using premium Pennsylvanian-grown solid basswood, we were given the The Ultimate Backpack Set to test out and review. It is a large building set that incorporates 219 assorted pieces, with 119 Bokah blocks and 100 Bendys as well as a backpack, box, stickers and  instruction manual.

You receive 4 different types of blocks within the kit: 20 Longs (20cm), 33 Halfys (10cm), 39 Smalls (5cm), and 27 Tinys (3.2cm).

First up, we loved the packaging of the backpack, as it means the blocks can be stored away easily. The blocks are also transportable to take to the grandparents house or sleepovers. Blocks have always been on the heavy side which means they are limited and generally stay at home.

The blocks also come in a box and the bendys come in a little drawstring bag. So you have a few options in storing the blocks.

They also come with 2 stickers and information about Lele ( girl) and Leo ( boy), by adding in these characters, they provide the child with a point of reference and they act as guides. If Lele and Leo can build these blocks, so can we!

Bokah blocks inside the box

The most ingenious part of Bokah Blocks is obviously the design. They have reworked a timeless classic and given the block a joint! By connecting 2 Bokah blocks with a bendy, a joint is constructed and this allows not only movement between the blocks but also flexibility in the design.

These blocks are not your typical blocks as you can see from the pictures, they are very light weight which makes them easy for portability. They are wood toys, and as with all things wooden you do need to be careful as they are not indestructible.

Different bokah blocks

Construction blocks are awesome and we have some amazing ones in our household but as a child gets older they no longer want to play with them, as inherently they have so many limitations in their design.

So the designers of Bokah Blocks have gone one step further when they designed their blocks. As they so aptly put it:

We created Bokah Blocks to overcome the constraints of traditional building blocks we had growing up. Bokah Blocks provides freedom to build more dynamically and more creatively. Open-ended play is supported by versatile joints, sparking the imagination in more ways than building toys had managed to do before.

Bokah Blocks is the classic toy we wish we had as kids.”

Bokah blocks in size

So let’s take a good look at Bokah Blocks.

First up we took a look at the construction manual that is provided and looked at the different ways to lock up the bokah and the bendy. I cannot stress how important it is to read these instructions and have a go at trying out the “Squeeze lock”, “Cross lock” and using the cross lock with Longs. It will save you a lot of time in the long run, if you go through these initial steps.

You need to familiarise yourself with how these blocks work as they are like nothing you have ever played with before.

So after reading through and testing out the locks we then we followed the instructions in the manual to build a horse! Here my 3 year old helped me to build it.

Bokah_Blocks_reviewLearning with Bokah BlocksBokah_Blocks_review_1

Next up I decided to try to use my imagination and not follow any instructions and just see where the blocks took me! Some parts of making the house were really easy but when it came to the roof, it took me a little while to work out how to link up 3 of the blocks to make the apex of the roof. I have to say I felt a huge feeling of accomplishment when I finished the house and showing the boys, they were like “wow mama!”Bokah_block_house_rsBokah blocks house

Constructing a rocket ship:

After I had my little play, together the boys and I looked at the inspirational videos on the Bokah Block play section of their website to get some ideas and we thought we would follow a few of the videos to test out all the parts of the Bokah blocks.

We got all the pieces we needed to start with for a rocket ship and with a little back and forth with the video, my 6 year old built it. He needed my assistance only a couple 
of times to help with stretching the bendies to insert a block. Otherwise he swiftly constructed the rocket ship in less than 10 minutes.

Rocket_ blocksConstructing_bokah_rocket_2Constructing_bokah_rocket_3_rsConstructing_bokah_rocket_rsConstructing_bokah_rocket_4_rsBokah_block_rocket

Constructing a rabbit:

Next up we built a rabbit. Now although it takes less pieces, it was rather more tricky to construct, in particular its ears.  It took us a few goes and a few checks in the manual on how we construct the cross lock and squeeze lock. It took more of my help in constructing but once finished, we thought the rabbit was oh so cute.

Constructing_bokah_rabbit_rsDSC_1357 Bokah_rabbit_rs

What I love:

I love that these wooden blocks are gender neutral, so a great toy to pass down through the generations. I love that there are so many possibilities to build and that blocks don’t just fall down once the child has built them. That is great for younger kids up to age 3 but for older kids, these blocks are like a wooden take on Lego, the child can actually take their constructed rocketship and play with it and zoom it around the room. Actually, its even stronger than Lego as with the bendys, the final constructed toy is hard to break.

It has great versatility as we built a rocket ship and then by removing a few pieces, it became more a jet plane.

I adore that my 6 year old son as well as myself, at times found ourselves quite challenged with these blocks. They are unlike any other toy we have played with and it took time to learn how to use them. It also pushed us to think laterally and logically about how we could build something using the bokah and the bendys.

We really had to think outside the normal thoughts of constructing with blocks and think more in 3D. You can create so many different objects with these blocks because of the fabulous joint piece, the bendy!

Playing with Bokah Blocks

I think these wooden blocks have so many amazing uses and I think they have a very broad age range. My 3 year old had fun playing with it and helping me construct the more basic pieces and using our imagination. My 6 year old wanted to explore all the different possible constructs of the blocks and liked looking at the inspiration videos on their website. However, an older child could take it to the next level and really think big, when it comes to Bokah Blocks!

Bokah Blocks are really the next level in construction toys, they are great for a 4 year old but most importantly, these blocks will grow with your child. They can and will want to play with them when they are 8, 10 and 12 years of age. These blocks help a child to think outside the square, to push the boundaries of what they know and ultimately it provides them with a challenge.

I love that the designers have used wood for these blocks, in keeping with the timeless classic but using such innovation and engineered genius that these Bokah Blocks are the future.

Playing_with_bokah_rocket_rs

You know it’s a great toy when your son tells you “Thank you so much for getting these blocks mama, they are awesome!”. Believe me, in our household he sees and tests out a lot of toys and so that statement is a big one.

Toy of the Month :   Bokah Blocks

Helps to teach kids:  spatial awareness, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, mathematical thinking, creative and social skills such as sharing, cooperation and self-confidence.

Great for:  kids who love to construct, love engineering, love building, or love to use their hands to create and for kids that need a challenge. These would be awesome in preschools as well as  the first years of school.

RRP: US $149.00

Ages: 4+

Bokah Blocks are designed and made in the USA using 100% solid basswood grown in Pennsylvania and shipped to Southern California for milling. They have an unstained finish which allows the natural wood grain pattern to show through and makes each block unique. They are non toxic, eco friendly with no glues or fillers.

Love Bokah BlocksBokah block creations rs

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