Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys

Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys



Tyler Lynch
Keith + Linda Mock

Carol Schilling



AIA Bookstore
Paul Avazier, AIA
William Becker, AIA
Andrew Bender
David Bender
Bridge Street Toys
John Claypool, FAIA
Mary Werner DeNadai, AIA
Steven Gatschet, AIA
Don Jones, FAIA
Benjamin Olshin
Jennifer Palmer
Public Workshop
Maxine + Tom Tyree

Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys

Presented Annually in the Winter

Support our Constructing Play exhibition with your donation of any amount

"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 refined to become the toys that still secretly educate children today!

Appropriate for all ages.
Exhibitions at the Center are always FREE to visit!

CURATOR: David Bender
EXHIBITION DESIGN: Jacob and Katherine Shoemaker

Visitors young and old can show off their building skills and create the house or city of their dreams at our Creation Stations. Filled with components of popular building toys, these carts provide opportunities for both individual and group play.

A series of 90-minute Read + Make (ages 5-8) and 2-hour Design + Build (ages 9-12) Family Workshops are held on select Saturdays throughout the year. These workshops provide a hands-on introduction to the worlds of architecture and design and are taught by local architecture and design professionals.
Tickets are required.
All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Constructing Play is organized into four distinct categories of toys. Each group is arranged chronologically, displaying the evolution of these toys from some of the originals of their type, to what children may be more familiar with today. The collection also includes construction-related toys that were recently designed here in Philadelphia.


Often more complex - with motors and moving parts - these toys tend to derive from real life processes and techniques, and are often used to construct buildings and infrastructure. Examples on display include Erector, K'Nex, Tinker Toys, and Astrolab.


Comprised of basic and repetitive components that connect or snap together at their joints, interlocking toys create endless possibilities for creative play. Examples on display include LEGO®, American Skyline, and Lille Huset.


Consisting of simple and repeating shapes that may vary in color and scale, modular toys can be assembled to form a larger object. Examples on display include Sticklets, Construct-o-Straws, American Brick Blocks, and Bloxes.


Instrumental in helping children at early ages to develop cognitive, spatial, and language skills, stacking toys consist of blocks of varying sizes and shapes, and are used by setting one on top of another. Examples on display include alphabet blocks, Froebel Gifts, BrickPlayer, and Arckitek Blocks.