Friday, January 28, 2011

Tegu: Because You Are Never Too Old for Building Blocks

One of the tricky things about middle school is that it is a time when both the child and the parent are trying to figure out what things from childhood the student has outgrown, and what things are still valuable.  One thing that I've mentioned in several posts is the fact that I think "picture books" can still be very valuable for this age.  Another thing that still works, at least for our family, are wooden building blocks.  Especially if you have some high quality wooden blocks, like the Tegu blocks my son was given recently for Christmas and his birthday/

Tegu--pronounced TAY GOO--was taken from Tegucigalpa (tay-goo-see-GAL-pah), the capital city of Honduras.  That is because that while the company is a small business by two brothers living in the United States, everything is done in partnership with the manufacturers in Honduras.  The company is committed to sustainable agriculture, and thus only harvests mature trees in a living forest, plus gives back some money from each sale to planting new trees.  The workers in the manufacturing plant in Honduras are given a living wage, and are taught career skills, rather than simple assembly-line tasks.   The company also has a partnership with a local school to promote the welfare of the children in the community.  Finally, the hardwood blocks are either left natural, or are coated with water-based and non-toxic colors or finishes.

But, of course, all the best intentions in the world don't matter if the company doesn't produce a good product.  However, I would say that Tegu blocks are excellent toys.  Not only are they beautiful and just have a "good feel," but they bring something new to the building block game.  Each Tegu wooden block also has a magnet safely embedded inside.  This allows some constructions that are impossible with traditional blocks.

For example, here is one thing my son (age 12) has built with his Tegu blocks:

Obviously, the slanted brick style can't be sustained with traditional blocks, so that has been fun for my son to experiment with, compared to what he is used to doing with wooden blocks.  I think he also enjoys how pretty the blocks are, whether they are left natural or colored in "Jungle" style (the second set of blocks he received), which plays into his designs.  He also combines them with other wooden block sets he has to create hybrid designs of traditional and Tegu blocks.

The drawback of these blocks is that they are expensive compared to traditional blocks.  However, that is because Tegu is paying the costs of selecting trees within forests instead of clear cutting, paying for reforestation, and paying decent wages for its workers.  That is to say, the price you pay covers the cost to the Earth and to the workers, rather than exploiting either or both.  Personally, I would rather my son had fewer blocks, but ones that were high quality and of a responsible origin, then lots of cheap ones.  Also, with our children growing up in an age where so many of the things that they play with are electronic and/or plastic, I'm willing to pay more for things that can still engage middle schoolers with simple, non-screen-based, natural toys.  And, at least for our family, this fits the bill perfectly.


  1. Say, Mom, Did I tell you I build somthing that resembels a sandcrawler with the Tegu and Kapla blocks?

  2. Oh, is that what that was? You are always so creative with your block models.