Last year CitiBlocs rolled out with basic sets of naturally colored wooden slate pieces– no Star Wars themes here or intricate step-by-step instructions– just wonderfully open-ended building supplies to create whatever is on your child’s mind on any particular day. Citiblocs got a lot of credit in our book for delivering a quality product at a much lower price than their more pricey competitors and they were rewarded by shelf space in major stores and a boat load of awards (including ours).
New for this year, they have brought out new colored sets–Cool Colors (blues and greens) and Hot Colors (pinks and yellows).
Each color has two sizes. They have the same open-ended concept but with an infusion of color. Many of the wood toys we’ve reviewed this year have been poorly executed–chipped paint or rough edges have been more the norm—so we were especially happy to find that these new Citibloc sets have a high quality level. The colors are saturated into the wood– rather than painted on- so there isn’t the same chipped-paint issue here.
This type of open set is really best suited for older 4s and up. It takes more fine motor skills and dexterity than regular wooden unit blocks. I love the idea of putting these in a basket in the family room and letting everyone dabble while they’re talking, watching tv and hanging out together. Citiblocs is a great parent/child project–and you’ll find yourself taking a turn even after the kids go to sleep.
For hardcore LEGO builders, the open-endedness of these sets may be frustrating and overwhelming at first. There are suggested builds that come with the sets (but not step-by-step instructions)–that may make them settle in and feel more comfortable.