These are a few of our favourite things -By Vicki Harding from Flying Penguin Toys.

dDI85noNVL4j4yKWmUkP7rJCl3_1ZR9v-VNzH360EG0 Working in a toy shop for six days a week, year in year out, I like to think I can spot a toy that our customers will love. I’m not talking about bargains, but about beautiful toys. Quality and expansively educational. While our toys are educational, they don’t only teach what you will learn in a classroom. They demonstrate design and function, form and creation.

Each year we select ten outstanding toys to showcase. You can see a summary here, but today I am going to tell you why we have selected one of the wooden toys featured in this year’s Top Ten; Facemaker blocks.

Facemaker blocks are beautiful to hold, smell and see. They even sound good when they are stacked together. Created by UK artists David Goodman and Zoe Miller, these blocks are the toys that designers choose when they shop at Flying Penguin, and often they keep them for themselves. I know one customer who stores her Facemaker blocks in her wardrobe and only brings them out for special play sessions, encouraging the sense of wonder in her children that the blocks inspire in her.

Each of the six sides of the Facemaker blocks is painted with a solid pattern in black, red or white. By choosing one side and sitting it next to another block, you can begin to make patterns that will eventually form a face. The shapes painted on each block have been carefully chosen so that an amazing array of faces can be created. Perhaps you will chose to make a smug pirate, a surprised elf or a smiling girl with black hair. The possibilities are endless and will engage a creative 7 year old for a long time.

There’s a name for toys that don’t have a predetermined outcome, solution or single result – open-ended toys. Open-ended toys encourage creativity, a quality that is sometimes referred to as the highest form of intelligence. A creative person is the sort of person who will find a unique solution to the problems that life presents, entertaining and inspiring others along the way. While play is how children learn, playing with open-ended toys will always encourage creativity, and also do something to offset the culture of instant gratification that computers and electronic games foster.

Facemaker blocks are made of rubberwood – a wood widely regarded as sustainable because it makes use of the wood from rubber trees when they no longer produce rubber. The 25 blocks in the set are hand printed.

Come in and have a play with the Miller Goodman blocks we have open on the shelf, or if you are too far away from Newtown, play this video which shows the endless possibilities that Miller Goodman blocks can inspire.

Vicki Harding,

Flying Penguin Toys

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