Before he became the father of theoretical physicist and owner of incredible hair, Albert Einstein was a young boy whose favorite toy was Anker-Steinbaukasten (anchor stone) blocks. A rudimentary construction toy, the multi-colored bricks can be used to build whatever a child playing with them can imagine and many believe they helped Einstein’s early understanding of complex 3D structures. Now, thanks to the newly formed The Real Play Coalition, schematics for the blocks are available to anyone who has a thing for early building tools — and access to a 3D printer.
Comprised of consumer goods companies Unilever, the Ikea Group, the LEGO Foundation, and National Geographic, the Real Play Coalition was formed to put an emphasis back on play rather than strict book learning. During their presentation at the World Economic Forum, as well as unveiling the block set, LEGO foundation CEO John Goodwin, said that early childhood “education systems are too focused on standardized testing and knowledge retention.” Instead, Goodwin suggested that as a culture we should be “developing creativity, problem-solving and emotional intelligence which are fostered when children learn through play.”
The Real Play Coalition has scanned a set of the anchor stone blocks so anyone can print their own Einstein set, which dovetails with their secondary initiative of making play more accessible to more socio-economic backgrounds. 3D printing has become much more affordable over the past few years and using the technology many people can create toys for their children that might otherwise be too expensive. Will people be into Einstein’s early blocks? We’ll have to wait and see. But it’s an interesting first shot from a coalition that’s trying to shape the future of play.