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Raising The Next Hadid, Rashid or DaVinci? 6 Educational Designer Toys for Kids

There are many things my generation played with as children that were both educational and formative. Memory games, blocks, colorforms.

Well, now there are amazingly beautiful renditions of these same classic toys and games but they are imbued with mid-century modern or contemporary design, making them not only fun but also collectible for both children and adults.

Here are six good gifts for the prepubescent designer/artist/architect in your life.

1. Alexander Girard Alphabet Blocks:

These functionally playful alphabet blocks bring an unobtrusively quiet distinctiveness to any well-appointed living room while affording hours of educational and aesthetic pleasure for young design sophisticates. Created by House Industries in a collaboration with the estate of reknowned mid-century designer Alexander Girard, the 28 wood blocks feature alphabets based on the forthcoming Alexander Girard font collection and a cleverly-adapted House Industries factory logo puzzle.
On sale now for $75.00
Click here for the deal. Offer expires January 1, 2008.

2. Binth Matching Game:

The first BINTH game is here! Original designs filled with imagination, fantasy and humor. Discover our modern take on this classic matching game. A beautiful sliding box holds 48 sturdy tiles (24 pairs) The tiles and box are made from recycled materials. Tiles are screen printed using our hand mixed water-based inks. The colors used are lemon yellow, licorice black and lavender. All tiles are 3" squares laminated for protection and have rounded corners. Recommended for ages 3 and older.
Sliding Box with 48 tiles ( 24 Pairs)
12" x 3.5" x 2"
Made in the USA from recycled materials.
Buy it here.

3. Maharam Matching Tile Memory Game

Maharam, a pioneer in commercial fabric designs since 1902, offers stunning patterned materials to the trade. For those of us who long for Maharam designs but don't plan to reupholster the apartment, Maharam patterns are now available through the Maharam Memory Game. Like the classic memory game, players turn over two cards at a time and try to match the patterns. Consisting of 72 cards on heavy stock, richly colored and printed in Germany, the game features 36 different patterns, everything from "I Morosi Alla Finestra" by Gio Ponti (1930) to "Optik" by Verner Panton (1969).
$36.00 (and free shipping now)
Buy it here.

4. Classic Colorforms from MOMA

Colorforms was developed in New York in 1951 by two art students experimenting with a new flexible vinyl material. It was one of the first toys to be advertised on television, has been nominated as a "Top Toy of the 20th Century" and been considered for the permanent collection at MoMA. This replica of the original set contains 350 brightly colored pieces in a spiral-bound book as well as a instruction design booklet. For ages 3+.
12-1/2'w X 14"l
Buy it here.

5. Eames House of Cards

The Eames Office actually produced five different sets of the House of Cards: the small house of cards is the original, made in 1952. It actually had two decks, the Picture deck and the Pattern deck. It is the picture deck that we manufacture today in conjunction with MOMA. From that, a medium House of Cards was made that is a set of selections from the Pattern and Picture deck. That, too, is still available. ..The images are of what Eameses called "good stuff", chosen to celebrate "familiar and nostalgic objects from the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms." The six slots on each card enable the player to interlock the cards so as to build structures of myriad shapes and sizes. There was also a Giant House of Cards (1953), a Computer House of Cards (1970) and a Newton House of Cards for the 1974 Nobel Laureates..

Buy any of the 5 different sets here.

6. Oli Blocks
Building blocks have certainly come a long way since I was a kid. Oli blocks makes some of the most fun shaped, colored (transulcent and solid) building blocks for kids of any age.

Oliblocks were created by Daniel R. Oakley, Architect & Toy maker.
The idea for Oliblock came from Daniel Oakley's desire to create a toy that would encourage children to think about building things in a new way. He envisioned a toy that would introduce a way to challenge, teach and stimulate a child's mind, yet be fun and appealing at the same time. The result was the development of Oliblock, an architecturally inspired set of 4 shapes, "building blocks" unusual in their interaction with each other and organic in shape.

Oliblock fit together with an interlocking connection on one end and a magnetic connection on the other. Organically shaped pieces and vibrant colors differentiate Oliblock from its more linear, classic building blocks predecessors. The unique design and architectural sensibilities of Oliblock flow directly from Daniel Oakley's architectural and design background. The serendipitous blend of Oakley's vision of a new breed of building blocks and his distinguished background in architecture resulted in the founding of Oliblock. Oakley's professional association with renowned architect Zaha Hadid has influenced and shaped his design and architectural sensibilities and philosophy.
Buy Oli blocks here.

Want to see more? Go to my list of 60+ modern items for kids here.

Other toy companies that make beautifully designed toys for children and worth checking out are:
Danese Milano
Zolo Toys

Some stores that carry wonderful selection of designer toys for children:
Spunky Sprout
Nova 68
Unica Home
Baby Geared

Also, look at my side bar for my listings for shopping for the hip baby. Lots of stores there too!

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