Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys

Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys




  • Exhibition
  • Constructing Play
Constructing Play: Classic + Modern Building Toys
November 25, 2016 - January 26, 2017 | Open 6 Days a Week
Center for Architecture and Design
1218 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Exhibitions are always FREE to visit!

Constructing Play is a vibrant exhibition chronicling the development of children's building toys over the past 150 years. These toys have been instrumental in fostering creativity in generations of children and continue to teach important educational lessons. Travel back in time to see how different styles of building toys have developed and advanced with technology to become the toys we know today! Appropriate for all ages.

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 60-minute Read + Make (ages 5-8) and 90-minute Design + Build (ages 9-12) Family Workshops are held every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 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. 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.


Often complex - with motors and moving parts - these toys are based on real life building and construction techniques. They are often used to construct machines and models of real-life infrastructure, such as bridges and factories. Examples on display include Erector, K'Nex, Tinker Toys, and Astrolab.


Comprised of parts that connect or snap together, interlocking toys create endless possibilities for creative play. They are often used to build scale models of houses, cities, or imaginary worlds. Examples on display include LEGO®, American Skyline, and Lille Huset.


Consisting of simple, repeating shapes that may vary in color and scale, these deceptively simple toys can be assembled to form highly complex objects. They are often used to fabricate geometric forms and tall towers. Examples on display include Lincoln Logs, Construct-o-Straws, Sticklets, and Bloxes.


Instrumental in helping young children develop cognitive, spatial, and language skills, stacking toys consist of blocks of varying sizes and shapes which can be set one on top of one another using gravity. They are often used to make forts, pyramids, and building facades. Examples on display include alphabet blocks, Froebel Gifts, BrickPlayer, and Arckitek Blocks.


Support provided in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund

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