It's a wonder I didn't turn out to be an architect, what with all the various building equipment I played with growing up.
One of my earliest toys was a set of blocks. Plain, old-fashioned wooden squares embossed with letters and pictures. With those blocks I built houses, cities, and especially corrals (I loved putting horses in corrals). There wasn't anything I couldn't build with those colorful cubes.
Soon I was introduced to "Advanced Blocks," which came in a variety of sizes, colors and fancy shapes, like triangles, rectangles, cylinders, half-moons, and even rectangles with half moons. With these new shapes I could add steeples, turrets, and columns to my houses, cities, and corrals.
Then one Christmas I found something called Lincoln Logs under the tree. Believe it or not, these construction-type toys were created by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright in 1916 and were named after Abraham Lincoln. Wright made them to encourage children to build their own log cabins.
In the cylindrical container (a word I learned from playing with blocks) were a bunch of notched, interlocking wooden sticks of various sizes that I used to construct my corrals.
The next Christmas I was given Tinker Toys and was able to create a whole new look for my corrals. Invented in 1941 by a stonemason, the building materials were simple: wooden wheels and dowels of various lengths, with holes drilled in them. Now I could build a geodesic corral for my toy horse!
By the time Erector sets came out, I had put my childish things away. I also missed the whole Lego revolution. But when my own kids came along, I made sure they had buckets full of those little plastic bumpy things to create their own houses, cities and corrals, even if I did step on them in the middle of the night.
Now that I have grandchildren, it's time to rebuild. Luke, the 5-year-old, loves Legos, so for his birthday I took him to Lego KidFest, a traveling event recently held at the San Jose Convention Center. He got to enter a magical land filled with interactive "blocks" and create just about anything he wanted from these tiny colorful construction units.
From the moment he spotted the ginormous Hulk, built solely out of green and black Legos, he was captivated. If I didn't know better, I'd guess the whole convention center was built of Legos. It was certainly possible, judging by the structures the "Master Builders" had created -- everything from a kid-size car to an Egyptian Mummy, from Darth Vader to Harry Potter.
Luke headed for the Chima section -- his favorite type of Legos -- where he got to race a tiny Lego motorcycle and receive a free Chima toy. He carried his gift around for the next few minutes, until he became distracted by another Lego activity a few feet away -- a massive pile of tiny blocks where kids could submerge themselves in creativity.
Blocks have come a long way since those small wooden cubes I used to love. If I'd had Legos back then, I probably would have built my own bed, desk, chair and computer. Oh well.
Maybe I can get Luke to build me a life-size corral in the backyard. We're gonna need a bigger place to keep all these Legos.
Contact Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com