Barclay Wood Toys and Blocks
If you buy only one toy in your child’s lifetime, it should be a set of unit blocks like these. For over 200 years, this educational toy has taught children the rudiments of math, geometry and engineering and is instantly recognized and employed by children across a wide range of ages. It is the original STEM toy. Giving a child a set of unit blocks is like pressing their “ON” button. When teachers recommend wooden blocks as a math toy, they mean big blocks: school size, hard maple blocks – the real deal. They may seem a bit dated and mundane to you, but you've been seduced by electronic bells and whistles - this is the right toy.
Blocks last forever. There’s no cord, no screen, no charger, no battery, no sound and the creativity comes from the child, not from the toy. These are genuine old fashioned building block sets, the basis of every title using the term "The building blocks of . . " (learning, chemistry, proteins, nursing)” all the this-and-that, a toy so ubiquitous that it has become a metaphor for modularity. Ours are large, school size unit building blocks. We make them here, with loving care, in Indiana.
They say that Joseph was a carpenter. If so, he surely knew what every other carpenter knows: kids love to play with cut-offs and other fall. A wooden blocks set will keep kids occupied for years. This page is for people who would like to read a little about wooden building blocks and don't know a lot about them. We want to tell you more about our unit blocks sets and what you might look for when buying. If you prefer, you can skip it. Just surf our web site to find what you need.
Barclay Blocks has been on the web since 1999 and sold over ten million wooden blocks. We manufacture and sell classic, standard, school size wooden unit blocks for children made of premium, Midwestern, American Hard Maple in over 50 different hardwood block sets. This is a small factory and we make all of our blocks here in the USA of American Hard Maple - no Rubberwood, no borates-insecticide, no container fumigants, no indentured labor. Our hardwood blocks are completely free of noxious chemicals and are tested by an independent laboratory to conform to the rigorous CPSIA and CPSC rules in regard to chemical and mechanical safety. But more than that, we believe we make a finest blocks on the market anywhere. We don't use fancy packaging, we don't waste money on a lot of ads or amazon fees, we don't plaster you with follow up ads. We just make the best blocks money can buy and stand behind them 100%.
Sizes - All of our blocks are the same scale (size). But our wooden block sets vary from very small blocks sets to very large block sets. Don’t be confused by the difference between the size of the blocks and the size of the sets. All of our blocks are the same Standard Size Unit Blocks made to the metric for schools.
“A” Sets and “B” sets - Many of our sets come in two versions: “A” and “B”. “A” sets are more detailed and have more pieces; “B” sets are chunkier, have more big blocks and fewer blocks overall. All of the pages have a table where you can compare them. “A” and “B” sets are the same size (weight/volume).
Premium Color and Firsts and Seconds Color – Kiln Dried Maple comes with grey spots and streaks from natural enzymes and insects from time far past. Maple blocks without spots or dark streaks are “Firsts.” Maple blocks with Spots and streaks are “Seconds.” The only difference is the color of the blocks. These streaks are not cracks and make no difference in hardeness or durability.
Booster Sets - We have a wide range of Booster Sets that you can add to augment a children's blocks set that seems too small.
Individual Blocks - We sell over 110 shapes in Open Stock, individual blocks available in any quantity. This includes all of the standard pieces, but also oodles of shapes that are not found in the sets. Buyers should investigate the Individual Wood Blocks pages to see the range of possibilities.
Simon Schama also mentions Henry Cole, the inventor of the Christmas Card, as an early promoter of building blocks made of ceramic. Americans credit Caroline Pratt, who encouraged the development of kindergarten in the early part of the 20th century. Ms. Pratt's wooden blocks set the standard for those in current use in Kindergartens and Preschools all over the US. There is also a loose connection to Fredrick Froebel, a mid 19th century German educator who developed simple sets of wooden blocks for research purposes.
Personally, I'm confident that the evolution of Unit Blocks is much more prosaic, the true inventor a nameless Zimmerman. And I harken back to Joseph and children who love to play with cut-offs and other fall. There is little doubt that children have been playing with these hunks of wood since time immemorial. (In years past parents told us their children were stacking up and making houses out of VHS cases - blocks as ephemera!)
The "unit" concept continued to evolve into such famous offshoots as Erector Sets, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Legos, and K'NEX. These are the survivors among hundreds of other innovative, though less successful unit construction toys that have passed from the scene. This scaling idea is ubiquitous: addition and multiplication objectified, and the term "building blocks" has become a cliché for the modular concept in general . . . there are "building blocks" for computer programs, mental health, school programs, lesson plans, nutrition, . . . whenever someone wishes to impart the idea of an organizational structure, the "building blocks" concept is invoked. Here they are. The Real Deal. Wooden Blocks!
The best wooden blocks are hard and stout and made to the customary scale for school size blocks from a heavy, fine-grained hardwood. But the term hardwood isn't very informative - it refers to the tree being an angiosperm. Many hardwoods are soft (like Aspen or Balsa) and many softwoods (gymnosperms - like Fir and Pine) are quite hard. It isn't a question of blocks being made of hardwood, but of a hard hardwood. The premium choice is the American Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) which has been used for years for floors, basketball courts, bowling alleys, and countertops. Hard Maple Blocks are made of a premium hardwood and this kind of quality comes at a price. Other "hardwoods" are much cheaper. The term hardwood by itself is meaningless and does not mean that the wood is "hard." It means that the leaves fall off in the winter!
An additional virtue of Rock Maple is that the blocks are fine grained. For example, Oak and Walnut are very hard hardwoods, but they tend to have large pores which result in very rough blocks. The Soft Maples (Red Maple, Silver Maple, Big leaf Maple. Western Maple) have a similar color and texture to Hard Maple, but these woods are materially lighter and softer than Hard maple. Wood blocks take a terrible pounding over a lifetime and there is no substitute for quality. Hard Maple is the best. Hard Maple blocks get the job done and they last. That's why Rock Maple has been the woodworker's choice for Wooden Blocks for 100 years.
The best storage for wooden blocks is a small bookcase. Simple bookshelves from Wal-Mart and elsewhere are excellent for storage and your building blocks won't become mixed with other toys. Even the smallest bookcase will store a lot of wood blocks as they stack together tightly. Rolling plastic carts from Wal-Mart and elsewhere will also serve, but there are important lessons to be learned in putting the blocks away by shape, it is far easier to use the blocks when they don't all have to be dumped out on the floor, and a simple bookcase is the right solution. We hope you enjoy our wooden blocks and spend some time exploring this and other pages.