Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fun Freetime: Ollie's Blocks

I recently had a chance to interview the creator of Ollie's Blocks, a creative and fun new toy. It was recently funded on Kickstarter, and looks like a great toy to check out when it becomes available!

What was the inspiration behind Ollies’ Blocks?
About a year ago I was running a startup in Silicon Valley and I was working from home in order to spend as much time as possible with my baby girl, Olivia. You could say that I was living my dream life but something just didn’t click. You could blame it on the head trauma that I sustained in war almost 10 years ago but I think that modern toys played a bigger role. I was sitting to play with my daughter with her flashy, noisy, poorly made plastic toys and I would go out of my mind. I couldn’t sit down to play with my daughter for more than I few minutes before my mind would drift away and my daughter would sense that immediately. I felt like such a bad dad for not being able to be present while I’m playing with my baby girl. And then it hit me. I called my dad and asked him if he still has some blocks from back in the day that he had a wooden toy factory, and if so, I asked him to bring me some when he and my mom came to visit us in CA. He did find some in the attic and in mid-March 2015 my parents came to visit us in CA for my daughter’s birthday. From that moment on everything changed. I was suddenly playing with blocks and building whatever came to mind. They were the exact blocks that I played with as a child and I was suddenly reconnected with my childhood. It wasn’t just me who noticed the difference in my demeanor as my daughter noticed as well and hence our playtime became much more than it was before. Friends noticed the blocks and asked where did I get them. When I told them that my dad made them when I was a kid they told me to ask him to make some more. At first he refused but as more friends asked for blocks, and when I told them that I would rather make toys than build applications he was finally convinced to reopen his toy factory on the one condition that we would do it via crowdfunding.       
What sets Ollies’ Blocks apart from other blocks or building toys?
Ollies Blocks have a different learning and creative approach than other Building Blocks on the market.  Traditional building blocks generally can only form straight lines or a child can build horizontally or vertically. Ollies precision-made interlocking blocks fit perfectly into each other, while the angles and positions can be changed mid-play. This is not possible with other tradition building blocks.  Ollies Wooden Blocks truly offer endless possibilities with nothing to limit their imagination, kids can create anything they want with these building blocks. 
Why are building toys so great for kids?
Building toys promotes and develops critical thinking which is necessary for problem solving and putting it bluntly, without such abilities a child will be left behind, they will rely on tablets and computers to think for them.  Building blocks also helps by developing fine motor skills which are necessary in everything we do. Painters, sculptures, musicians and even surgeons are nothing without fine motor skills.  
How can parents interest kids in building and other creative toys, even if they don't have a natural inclination for creativity?
We all have a natural inclination for creativity yet some lose it in time due to lack of proper tools for expression. Children need tools to express their own creativity and if the tool for expression is simple, there is greater scope of action. Many children have a whole story already in their minds, yet they are stuck trying to figure out the lines of the alphabet, which leads to frustration. With Ollies Blocks, everything that a child builds is great. You cannot fail. And if you cannot fail, there is nothing that you can’t do.

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