Tag Archives: open ended

Coloraturo Wins Dr. Toy Awards!

Very excited and honored to announce that Learning Materials Workshop has just received Dr. Toy’s100 Best Products-2011” and “10 Best Creative Products-2011” Awards for our brand new building toy, Coloraturo!

This prestigious award is presented by Dr. Toy, Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, who for many years has been one of the nation’s and world’s leading experts on play, toys, and children’s products. With 30 years of direct experience, Dr. Auerbach includes educationally oriented, developmental and skill building products from the best large and small companies in her four annual award programs. Many parents, teachers and toy buyers use Dr. Toy’s guidance in making selections.

“I was very pleased to hear Learning Materials Workshop was selected once again for this selective Dr. Toy award.  It is always a great honor to be recognized by an organization that highly values creativity and play in children. Thank you to Dr. Toy for choosing Learning Materials Workshop for these awards.” – Karen Hewitt President/Designer Learning Materials Workshop

Karen Hewitt’s new toy Coloraturo, based on the Italian word “coloratura,” refers to elaborate melodic variations in vocal music like “runs, trills, wide leaps, and similar virtuoso-like material.” The multi-hued forms of Coloraturo inspire virtuoso constructions…in a visual form. The building/design toy elaborates and embellishes on building forms that vary in hue, value, and intensity. This smart toy functions both as a designer art piece and a high quality children’s building toy that provides endless experiences with color in both two and three dimensions. Builders of all ages will enjoy all the possibilities of this open-ended toy, creating geometric patterns, multi-hued skyscrapers, imaginative dwellings for people to live in, or even abstract pieces of art. The color, form, and sheer beauty of Coloraturo will attract children as well as architects, designers, and playful adults.

Place your order for award-winning Coloraturo today!

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Introducing Coloraturo, Tavolino, and Villetta!

Learning Materials Workshop is very excited to introduce 3 new products to our lineup: Coloraturo, Tavolino, and Villetta. All will be available to ship beginning of September- so place your order today!


Coloraturo, a new block set created by award winning toy designer Karen Hewitt, will delight and captivate the imagination of children and artists of all ages. This smart toy functions both as a designer art piece and a high quality children’s building toy providing endless experiences with color in both two and three dimensions. The color, form and sheer beauty of Coloraturo will attract young children as well as architects, designers and playful adults. ORDER TODAY


Tavolino is the ultimate building experience. Create with a rich assortment of 90 of our most popular building blocks, bobbins, and tubes. Set out this elegant wood framed table of award winning construction toys and begin creating towers of color, geometric displays and spinning machines. Children, parents and grandparents will delight in learning through play as they stack, bend and build together. Tavolino makes a great centerpiece for a playroom or a treasured gift from a grandparent. ORDER TODAY


Inquisitive hands will transform Villetta into a village of colorful cottages, a tower of balancing prisms, or an abstract sculptural masterpiece. This artful open-ended building toy expands the possibilities of building ideas never before imagined. The color, form and sheer beauty of Villetta will attract young children as well as artists, designers and playful adults.  ORDER TODAY

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“Learning Materials Workshop Encourages Art of Play”

“Learning comes through play. . . It’s a natural activity for children.  Children learn through trial and error and exploration.” Karen Hewitt

Karen was recently quoted in an article written about Learning Materials Workshop by Luke Baynes.  This article, featured in Vermont Maturity Magazine highlights the role of Learning Materials Workshop open-ended block sets in “encouraging the art of play”.  FULL ARTICLE

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A New Creation Every Day

We are excited to announce that our “A New Toy Everyday” project will now be moving to its very own blog space!  We have made this decision in hopes to streamline our main Learning Materials Workshop Blog and clear up some space. We have also decided that although the original Tinkertoy advertisement and inspiration for this project was titled “A New Toy Everyday”, a new title may be more appropriate.  We feel that the word “creation” really encompasses all possibilities of building with our open-ended toys.

To access the new blog, you will simply have to click on the “A New Creation Everyday” tab on the top of the screen.  We hope you will enjoy; and we always encourage builders of all ages to send in pictures of their very own creations using our featured block sets to be displayed in our calendar.

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Blocks on the Move with Music

We’ve added music!


After watching our stop motion block videos on our web site dance around in silence for several months, adding music seemed like the next step. The loose wood and acrylic parts made their own sounds as they stacked, glided or seamlessly marched along. They also suggested musical melodies. Mark van Gulden, musician and composer and the father of Hannah van Gulden, (our Social Media Marketing Specialist) immediately came to mind.

Mark collaborated with another local Vermont musician, Eric Bessette, (owner of Shadow and Light Design in Monkton, VT). They viewed the videos created for us by Michael Deedy, played with the block sets for several weeks and then began composing and recording a series of short musical creations for each video. Some of the compositions incorporated the sounds of the blocks in motion and others used vibraphone, piano, guitar, bass, drums, and a ukulele.

I am curious about how children relate to music as they build with blocks. Would music influence their constructions? What kind of music could they make to accompany their block buildings? What instruments would they choose? What if the blocks are made of hard maple… or soft pine…or plastic…or foam…or cardboard?  What sounds do blocks make when they move across the floor? …when they fall down?…when they knock against each other?

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Art & Play: Block Sculpture Exhibit in Woodstock, VT

We would like to invite everyone to a really interesting exhibit that Learning Materials Workshop will be holding at ArtisTree Community Arts Center & Gallery in Woodstock, VT beginning next Saturday, May 21st between 10am-12pm!  This is a free events, and open to all ages.  We hope to see you there!


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Building With Loose Parts

I have always been interested in the way that various building toy manufacturers (both historical and contemporary) have presented their blocks or “loose parts” in a box. Some sets, accompanied by extensive manuals or drawings, show how to construct specific buildings or models while other sets are more open-ended, letting the blocks speak for themselves.  The blocks may be the same – the approach and rationale is different.

Alex  Gilliam, a National Building Museum Fellow, talks about this in an article in Metropolis Magazine.  (I have also been following his fascinating blog on his research in the National Building Museum’s extensive collection of over two thousand building toys.)

“One of my favorites is Dr. Richter’s Anchor Stones and the instructions that come with them. This is a rare example of a building toy manufacturer using storytelling and supportive drawings to create a compelling, immersive experience that is akin to a video game.” (Full article at bottom of page).

I often wonder about the rationale for putting specific images on the packaging or explanation sheets. I have struggled with this question when I originally designed the packaging for our toys twenty years ago and I am still stymied. How do you communicate to the adult buyer that they and their child can let loose and create anything they want with these pieces of wood. I thought the answer was obvious so our first packaging had an image of the block set in its box. I thought that was enough. The second version had six pictures of the blocks in various configurations – and some people said “oh, is that all you can do with them?”   Our latest solution, mentioned in my previous blog, is the Quick Flicks.  At least this seemed more in tuned with the nature of the building process – not fixed, always changing, always another possibility.

I realize that the interest in constructing from images or diagrams of buildings is also a factor of age. Older children enjoy the challenge of translating a specific and often complex two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional form.  The reverse is also interesting, even for four year olds. How can I make a drawing of my building? How can I remember my building after it falls down?


More on Alex Gillum’s “Construction Toys Make Better Boys”:
Alex Gillium Blog:
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