Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Playskills Block Set

In 1972 Reader's Digest offered a block set through their magazine. I went hunting for information about it, and was especially keen on finding a 1972 ad with a price. I had very little luck.

So I thought I'd cover it with photos in case someone else comes looking, trying to remember what all the blocks and games looked like.

Other than old sets for sale, all I could locate was the copyright registry and a memory of its designer:

Category of Ropes, Cordage and Fiber Products?!?

300,000 units. 

And these things are virtually indestructible. They show up on eBay regularly, but the times I've tried for them, factoring in usually high shipping, I've never won. 

At least, that is, until last week.

the usual state of my blocks (and room) at age 3, to the right

I was a multi-tasker from early on. Play kitchen (using margarine bowls), drawing on my Magic Slate (foreground left) while hairdressing my doll's mohawk, playing with my little people in their house, pushing dollies in the buggy, reading the newspaper, spelling out things with magnestic letters, and, underneath the desk? One indestructible playskills block.

I loved those blocks. 

I'd put in a bid of $1.99 on eBay  when I was thinking about toys and Christmas and decided to see what the sets were going for. 

I then forgot about it until I received the auto-email congratulating me on my win. (for $1.99)

I guess everyone else was out last minute Christmas shopping.

It arrived today, complete and full of nostalgia for the six different sides that taught me my numbers, colors, alphabets, animals, sequencing, shapes, sizes, etc, etc, etc. It's a really lovely little set.

If you sniff really deeply you can get a whiff of the 40+-year-old fumes of the plastic vinyl play mat that was so enticing to a little kid. It probably caused brain damage, but I loved sniffing that thing.

I'd remembered a bit of what was on the blocks, but seeing them together and building the sequences completely took me back to the faux-brick linoleum floor of our house on Kirkdale, and the thick oval brown braided rug in the center where I'd play, stacking them and sorting them and building houses out of them. 

Each of the six sides was designed to build a simple concept. The sequencing groups had: 

Six set of three:
Dog chases cat, cat climbs tree, lady rescues cat from tree.
Rocket launches, capsule in space, capsule splashes down.
Boy is asleep, boy wakes up, boy gets dressed.
Boy begins breakfast, boy halfway through breakfast, boy finishes breakfast.
Boy puts on coat, boy leaves house, boy gets on bus.
Pumpkin in field, Boy carving pumpkin, jack-o-lantern.

And two sets of four:
Boy gets off bus, boy goes into school, boy hangs up coat, boy sits at desk. 
Cow in field, cow is milked, milk is trucked, milk on table.

The beautifully simple graphics are just wonderful. 

And yes, I spent an hour on the floor playing with my blocks tonight.

If you build out the six sets of three-letter puzzle block animals (pig, dog, ant, cat, cow, hen) and four-letter puzzle block animals (duck and fish), you end up with ordered sizes of 8 different shapes and colors (red squares, yellow hexagons, blue ovals, orange diamonds, magenta rectangles, brown stars, green circles, and black. 

The colors run through all six sides. The pig, on purple, is also the set of purple shapes, purple color sides, etc.



The playmat asks you to think about the things in different relations and group them accordingly, as well as a bingo card section. 

The third sides of the blocks are solid colors, and I'm not sure why, but this is, I remember, my favorite way to leave them in their box, on the rare occasion when I actually picked them up and put them away. 

The spinner wheel corresponds with the colors, although I now find it curious that they've inserted the black and brown into what would be, otherwise, the correct order of a standard color wheel. 

On the fourth side, you would either have a sequence of numbers 0 - 12, with their numeric as well as the corresponding items of a particular fruit: 1 pineapple, 2 bunches of grapes, 3 strawberries, etc. The other 14 blocks are different animal habitats: desert, ocean, mountain, and jungle.

note the car playmat at my knee -- I loved all the squares of colors, but I don't recall actually playing the game a whole lot, thanks to the only child situation.

 On the fifth side was the alphabet, with corresponding item beginning with that letter. I can still remember that my favorite pictures were the dog, the horse, the igloo, the rocket, and the x-ray.

The interior of the box was printed with the alphabet set for matching everything in order when you put them away:

The cardboard box is the roughest part of the set, naturally. Mine is missing the handle and the corners are reinforced with tape.

The instruction booklet for the set, though, was included, which is impressive.
Matching, Sorting, and Classifying

Learning colors

Shapes, Left to Right Progression, and Sequential Thinking

Letters of the alphabet and how letters form words

Numerals . . and Lotto and Bingo (essential?)




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