KAPLA blocks: Europe's best kept secret!
I first saw Kapla in a toy store in France when my 4-year-old made a bee-line for them but I resisted because of the price; the 200 piece set cost 44 EUROS (£40). I couldn't bring myself to pay this for a few bits of wood. But after Great-Grandma gifted him some money, my son was determined to buy them.
I've since discovered that here in France, Kapla is LOVED by almost all children. There are Kapla clubs at schools, entertainers host Kapla parties in children's homes and there's even a Kapla Centre in Paris where children can fine-tune their skills on Saturdays and school holidays.
Kapla was invented by a Dutchman in the 1980s. Each piece is identical and has a unique ratio which enables children to build things without the need for any fixings. What's surprising about Kapla is how stable they are (the blocks will fall over of course but not as easily as you might expect).
Also, the wood comes from renewable pine forests in the South-west of France so they also feel nice in your hands (not cheap and nasty).
Let me warn you though, it ends up all over the house and in the strangest of places!
Around Christmas time, my kids decided to decorate the newly erected tree by pretending the wooden pieces were candy canes. Not quite the theme I had in mind! But Kapla is easier to tidy up than Lego because the pieces are bigger so it only takes a few minutes to throw them all into the strong carry box (which is included in the price) which makes tidy time more bearable.
My son has the 200 piece box. He's been using it for nearly 2 years and he hasn't asked for more pieces yet. I suspect when he joins the Kapla club at school soon (aged 6) he'll want more planks so he can build bigger structures.
For now, he's content using them for anything and everything (propping up his Lego train tracks, making marble runs and houses for figurines)
This is the set we bought.
What age to start?
We think children can start using Kapla earlier than the recommended age of 3. They will have fun using their imaginations even though the ability to build and balance comes later.
Kate bought a set for her 2-year-old. She said it was an instant hit but not played with everyday. It's requested often by her son though and is used in an inventive way. It is also popular at her son's Montessori school in the 2-3 year old class.
The advantage of getting Kapla so early is that it will last even longer and be played with in evolving ways. The potential risk is that it could become a familiar toy that loses its interest.
Much like Lego, it's the kind of construction toy that will last all of childhood as capability and skill levels increase. 12-year-olds enjoy it just as much as 3-year-olds!
The Grandparent pleaser
Kapla is timeless, simple and engaging. Grandparents love getting the box out and playing with my children when they come to visit and it's the perfect gift to suggest to them for your children's Christmas or birthday.
I give it our Five Little Stars.
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