Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys

Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys




  • Exhibition
  • Constructing Play
  • Kids + Family
Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys
November 15, 2018 - January 24, 2019
Mon - Fri: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Center / Architecture + Design
1218 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Exhibitions at the Center are always FREE to visit!

"Play is the work of children," according to Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of Kindergarten and designer of some of the first educational building toys. By playing with building toys, generations of children have discovered how the physical world works and learned the skills necessary to design and shape the world around them. This exhibition is an exciting exploration of the development of children's toys over the past 175+ years. Travel back in time to learn how different building toys were invented, designed, and branded to become the toys that still secretly educate children today!

Appropriate for all ages.

Visitors young and old can stretch their imaginations and test their building skills at our Creation Stations. Filled with components of popular building toys, they provide the opportunity to create your own castle, city, or contraption.  Ideal for both individuals or groups.

A series of FREE 90-minute Read + Make (ages 5-8) and 2-hour Design + Build (ages 9-12) Family Workshops are held on select Saturdays during the run of the exhibition. These workshops provide expert introduction to - and hands-on guidance through - the worlds of architecture and design.
Registration is required.
All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Constructing Play is organized into four distinct categories. Each group is arranged chronologically, displaying the evolution of these toys from their origins to the toys children are familar with today. The collection also includes construction-related toys that were designed right here in the greater Philadelphia region.


Various shapes and sizes, stacking toys rely on gravity to hold structures built with them together. Often the first building toys children play with. Examples include alphabet blocks, Froebel Gifts, BrickPlayer, + Architek Blocks.


These simple and repeating shapes, which sometimes vary in color and size, can be assembled into surprisingly complex objects. Examples include American Brick Blocks, Sticklets, Construct-o-Straws, + Bucky Balls.


Bricks, sticks, or flat shapes which clip, hook, or snap together, interlocking toys allow the creation of larger, sturdier structures. Examples include LEGO, American Skyline, Toobeez, + Astrolab.


Using motors and/or moving parts, these toys allow you to build working contraptions. Often used to build models of construction machines and transportation systems. Examples include Erector, K'NEX, Tinker Toy, + Expandagon.


Support provided in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund

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