What is a Geometry Toy?

Geometry is a way of classifying our understanding about the universe. It involves ordering, relationships and proportions, and the workability of parts. Certainly many parts of a toy can be geometric, but is its geometric nature a function of style — or how it can be manipulated?

Geometric toys are beautiful to observe, but geometry toys are different. A geometry toy is a function of intention — the purpose of capturing some aspect of geomtery for children (of all ages) to play with. If it is played with as a toy, then it is a toy. If it is also studied as geometry, is it then a geometry toy? Is it the awareness of the player, or of the maker, maybe both? The instructions must make the connections to function — how it works, not just that it works, especially if it is not obvious to the player. The classification has to do with intention. When in doubt read the instructions!

A geometry toy should move and require interaction. It may reveal layers of information not obvious, require some level of observation and thinking. It must embody some level of greater truth, generate surprise, be a beautiful and interesting object, and have levels of interaction. Is the Hula Hoop a geometric toy, a physics toy, and weight-reduction toy, or just a toy? If we consider the movement of the hoop to the movement, angulations of balance that keeps it going then can we sell it as a geo toy. The Rubik’s Cube is one of many puzzles relying on a sequence of movements to find the “right” relationship of parts, just like chess, a problem to solve. As with most things, the Rubik’s Cube does not need numbers to work, or to be a cube, but it does need geometry. Chess needs rules, but does it need geometry?

Over the last 150 years, toys have been educational tools for children, keeping them occupied and educating them to adult living. If a toy can demonstrate some principle of geometry it offer the player a context larger than themselves that is not escaping into imagination, but a look into relationships beyond what we normally value. That is what Friedrich Froebel intended when he designed his Kindergarten Gifts in 1837. Since that time, there have been an ever-increasing number of geometry toys. Some are no longer available, but this site hopes to promote the best of what still is around. We hope you enjoy your visit.

Leave a Reply