I love Lego, I really do. But I’m still hiding most of my childhood collection from my kids because, well, if they get their hands on them then they’ll get them out and lose pieces all over the house, which I will find by stepping on them. They do have a few random assortments of bricks and minifigs that they play with, and they’re responsible for them. I’m saving my old Lego Space Monorail for a special occasion, like when they graduate from high school and move out, and I can set it up in their room.
For her birthday, my daughter was given a couple sets of Space Chips by some friends from her preschool class — the parents actually run a company here in Portland, Oregon, called Monkey Business Sports. (They’ve since moved overseas to be nearer to family as well as the factories where the toys are manufactured.) I’d never heard of them before, but they’re an interesting toy that builds on geometric shapes. And as a bonus: they’re flat, flexible plastic, so they’re friendly to your feet if you step on one in the middle of the night.
There are three basic shapes: a triangle, a square, and a pentagon. Each one has a notched “fin” on each edge, allowing them to slot into each other (with little bumps that lock them in place). They come in a variety of colors, including a set that has black and glow-in-the-dark pieces. With the basic set, you can build what they call the “first five drons,” also known as the Platonic solids. There’s a tetrahedron, hexahedron (also known as a cube), octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron. All of these can be made using a combination of these three shapes. (Or you can go really crazy and build the 540-dron pictured here … but I don’t have that many pieces myself.)
Because they’re pretty flexible plastic, you’re not limited to rigid angles, either — you can bend and twist them to some extent. And, of course, you’re not limited to regular shapes, either, though those happen to be the most pleasing to me. Also, the Space Chips are very lightweight, so if you make a big ball out of them, you can toss it around and not worry about it breaking something (or shattering into lots of tiny bits when it lands).
The Space Chips come in various different sets, from the 24-piece space ship (which you can throw like a Frisbee) to the massive 1260-piece Classroom Set. It looks like Amazon only has the First Five Drons set, but the rest can be found on Monkey Business Sports’ website.
(Unfortunately, it looks like some of the sets are backordered at the moment, so your choices are limited until about 2 months out.) [Update: I’ve just been informed that they’ve just gotten their shipment so all of them are in stock in time for Christmas.]
We’ve been having fun playing with the Space Chips lately. They can be a little less intuitive than Lego at first, but I like the geometric patterns and I can see that there’s a lot of possibilities with them. You can check out more photos, videos, and tutorials at BuildSpaceChips.com.
Wired: Simple, flat shapes become geometric solids. Harder to lose and easier on the feet than Lego.
Tired: Ok, your kids may still complain that they’re not Lego.