Too much screen time! That phrase is uttered so often in our modern lives and yet we as families cannot seem to break our addiction. Creative play seems to be slipping into the past as our children learn to build on Minecraft and other such computer games. At times, the art of actual building blocks seem to be going by the wayside. But, tucked away on Market Street between King Street and Meeting Street is a spot for families to enjoy, to reconnect and learn the value of hands on play.
Strolling by you can’t help but be captivated by some of the amazing structures on display in the window. Lions, railroads, even a giant Eiffel Tower, all constructed with small wooden planks. The only store in the United States is right in the heart of Downtown Charleston and is a must for families, children and anyone young at heart.
The story of these curious little planks begins in 1987. Born in the Netherlands, Tom van der Bruggen studied Art History and always dreamed of building a castle. One day in the south of France, he fell in love with an old ruined farm and he decided to turn the farm into the castle of his dreams, with little towers, fountains and a carriage entrance. Just the sort of castle children dream of in fairy tales.
While making the scale drawings for it, he played around with wooden blocks to see what the structure would look like. He soon discovered that the blocks were not at all well adapted for building certain elements like floors, roofs and lintels.
Unsatisfied with the possibilities of these blocks, he invented identical planks based on the ratio between bricks and stones and beams and planks. This invention now opened a whole new way of building. With these identical planks the builder can construct with the precision of artwork and the stability of stones.
Tom van der Bruggen named his planks KAPLA; an abbreviation of “Kabouter Plankjes” which means gnome planks in Dutch. Now, anyone can build the castle of their dreams, or wild animals, towers, buildings, whole cities and anything else you can dream up.
In the middle of the store is a giant space made exclusively for play. Parents and children will delight in the endless number of creations that they can work together to create. Recently, I had the joy of playing with my own little girls, 8 and 13, on the rug in the middle of the store-and was delighted to find that not only do these blocks encourage play and creativity, they encourage logical thinking, concentration, perseverance, patience and, most valuable of all, unplugged family time. Even my teenager was happy and engaged and asked when we could go back as we left the store. Every parent of teens knows that just doesn’t happen every day!
Visit Tom’s Toys KAPLA! The store is located in Downtown Charleston at 125 Market Street. For more information, call 843-720-8943 or visit www.kaplaus.com.