We all had blocks, didn’t we? Well, if we did, we can count ourselves lucky. My Grandmother once told me that when she was a kid in Montana, they played with chicken bones. Really? Were there no sticks? But I digress…

The first reference to alphabet blocks goes all the way back to 1693 when philosopher John Locke suggested providing children with “dice and playthings, with letters on them to teach children the alphabet by playing.” Locke’s suggestion must have fallen on deaf ears, because it took well over a century before Friedrich Fröbel (the father of kindergarten) began creating the blocks and giving them out as gifts. In 1820, alphabet blocks were being made in New York, but it wasn’t until 1858 that the S.L. Hill Company of Brooklyn started large-scale manufacturing. By the 1880s, The Embossing Company of Albany patented a system of “ornamenting wood” by painting a surface prior to embossing, and then painting again in order to create a two-color design. By the turn of the century, alphabet blocks were a well established staple in the preschools of America and have remained so ever since.

Any why not? They’re a great toy and learning tool. Let’s break down the pros and cons.

Pros

  • It gives the kids something to stack. Those little hands need to practice coordination, and it’s safer to use these harmless blocks than bricks.
  • It teaches basic engineering.  I specifically remember learning that the running pattern was much more structurally sound than the stack pattern.
  • Blocks stimulate creativity. They start off as nothing but can become anything.  The only limitation is that of imagination.
  • Blocks can be a social toy. When used properly, they encourage cooperation. When not, well…
  • They’re cheap (most of the time).

Cons

  • It’s no fun to step on them in your bare feet.

But all blocks look the same, don’t they?  No.  Something about these really grabbed my attention. They look downright kingly, like one could make a wax seal out of one of them.  They are made from sustainable Michigan-grown basswood and printed with non-toxic inks. In fact, Uncle Goose independently tests every gallon of ink before it goes to the production line.

Does Grover Cleavland get one or two blocks? What about "Big Bill" Taft?

But if these classic English alphabet blocks aren’t enough, they offer a variety of other languages, Egyptian hieroglyphics, braille and sign language blocks, nursery rhyme blocks, and even a set of blocks featuring all forty-four American presidents plus the Oath of Office.  I must admit,  I could use that set.

Uncle Goose Blocks