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Archive for the ‘Toys – Building’ Category

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Play-Doh Mop Top Barber Shop

Posted by Big Boo on March 23rd, 2009

play doh mop topWhen I first saw the advert on TV for the Play Doh Mop Top Barber Shop I really, really wanted one.  Trouble is, I was really too old for Play Doh by then, so instead I kept urging my younger sister to ask for one so that I could have a go with it.  I think she would have liked to have had it too, but ultimately we never quite convinced Mum to buy us one, and instead we had to settle for her homemade play dough instead.

The Mop Top Barber Shop was most appealing because of the way it squidged the modelling material through tiny holes in the heads of some round headed plastic figures.  Having filled the initially bald figure with dough you screwed it into the barber shop chair which pushed lots of little wiggly worms of the modelling material out the top of the head to look like hair.  It really was quite amusing to watch.

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Lego Technic / Expert Builder

Posted by Big Boo on January 2nd, 2009

lego expert builder red tractorLego was always one of my favourite toys, but by the time you reach a double digit age the normal Lego Town or Space Lego sets begin to become a little too simplistic to hold your attention – despite the fact that when you reach adulthood you’ll be more than happy to go back to these sets! In an attempt to increase sales in this older age group the Lego company came up with the idea of making some more challenging kits that would hold an older child’s interest.

Initially launched in 1977 the Expert Builder sets consisted of accurate scale models of vehicles such as tractors and bulldozers.  These kits contained both many more pieces and also introduced a number of new building pieces, including larger wheels, cogs, axles, clip in pegs and the long building pieces that had rows of holes in the sides for the pegs and axles to slot through.

I remember the pictured red tractor very well, as it was the first such set we had in my household, bought by my Dad for himself to play with!  This seemed particularly funny to me at the time, as it was the first time I had seen an adult by a toy for themselves.  I was allowed to play with the finished model, but (at least at first) I was not allowed to help in the building of the set.  Of course, I would have only been around five at the time so I don’t blame my Dad at all – I would only have lost the pieces somehow!

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Homemade Play Dough

Posted by Big Boo on July 31st, 2008

Play-DohThere have always been two great modelling toys as far as I’m concerned. There’s Play Dough (or Play-Doh to give it its Homer Simpon-esque commercial name) and Plasticene. Both came in a range of colours, had a unique smell, kind of like marzipan though not quite, and could be twisted, rolled and generally formed into whatever shape you wanted.

Whilst Plasticene tended to allow more intricate modelling, it also had to be rolled around a bit to soften it up before you could do much with it. Play Dough however was malleable from the word go, and so was a much better choice for younger hands to get to grips with. It was also possible to make your own Play Dough, so following a quick call to my Mum here is the recipe she used to make Play Dough for me when I was little. Firstly though, like the warning about getting a grown up to help you with scissors, there’s a warning attached to this recipe which is, fairly obviously I would have thought – DO NOT EAT!


1 cup plain Flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 heaped tablespoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
Food colouring


First, mix a few drops of food colouring into the water. Add all the ingredients into a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until mixture stiffens and can be rolled into a ball. Cool before use, and store in an airtight container between uses.

As you can see it’s pretty simple to make and provides hours of fun, but if your too lazy or find the idea of cooking anything scary then you can always pick up a pack of four colours of the ready made stuff from Seven Again.

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Lego Fabuland

Posted by Big Boo on June 12th, 2008

Lego FabulandLego Fabuland first came out in 1979, and stuck around for most of the 1980’s, finally disappearing in around 1987. The Lego company had enjoyed great success with their Lego Town kits aimed at children aged around 6 and over, and also catered to the baby and toddler market with their larger Duplo bricks (or Big Lego as I used to call them as a child). Children aged from about 3 to 6 may find Duplo too simple, whilst the Lego Town kits may still be too complicated for them to assemble by themselves. Fabuland was the result of trying to bridge this age range gap.

Fabuland was based around the same familiar Lego brick format used for Lego Town and all the other variants of Lego, so it felt more “grown up” than Duplo. In order to make building of the kits simpler the bricks were generally limited to the larger lego pieces, such as the 4×2 stud piece that is around a centimetre high.

These bricks were joined by a variety of larger special purpose pieces that made building a model a simple affair. Examples of such bricks were large wheeled sections for building vehicles, windows with shutters, pieces of fence and so on. This made following the building instructions much simpler, so kids could start to build the models themselves and not get frustrated in the process.

The biggest draw of Fabuland however was the range of characters that came with the kits. These characters were similar in appearance to the standard poseable Lego man we all know and love, but were slightly larger in size, brightly coloured and with heads that were beautifully detailed depictions of animals such as pigs, monkeys, sheep and mice. They could still be attached to the Lego pieces, but were far easier for little hands to play with.

The characters also had a range of accessory items unique to Fabuland, ranging from ready built scooters and wheelbarrows to brooms and shovels, similar to those provided in the Lego Town kits but larger to fit the characters increased size and also generally more detailed. Indeed, some kits consisted of little more than a single character and an accessory or two.

Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Biggest Lego Tower Record Broken

Posted by Big Boo on May 7th, 2008

Biggest Lego TowerNot really 1980’s related this one, other than the fact the building with Lego bricks was one of my favourite things to do when I was growing up. This bank holiday weekend Legoland Windsor were holding an attempt at building the worlds largest lego tower, which it appears they have managed to do, although it is yet to be officially sanctioned.

The previous record was set just last year in Toronto, coming in at 29.3 metres or 96 feet. Legoland Windsor’s attempt hits 30.5 metres, and contains around half a million lego bricks. Visitors to the amusement park had the opportunity to build their own 20cm high section to add to the tower, which was then added to the top by using a crane – obviously the builder didn’t get the chance to add their own section personally. I’m assuming part of the rules are that the bricks can’t be glued together, so that must be some weight of Lego bricks there. I wouldn’t want to be near by if it were to topple over!

The design of the tower is a slowly tapering cross, which is apparently modelled on a Viking longboat mask. This design was obviously chosen since Legoland Windsor have recently opened some new Viking themed attractions, but the main reason for the record attempt was to mark the 50th anniversary of the Lego brick. I wonder how long they plan to keep the tower at the park, because I’d love to see it for myself.

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Space Lego

Posted by Big Boo on December 7th, 2007

Space LegoThe pictured Space Lego set first went on sale in 1979, and holds special memories for me as it was the first Space Lego kit I owned. Space Lego took the recently improved Lego Town sets into a new dimension with new pieces including the angled flat sections used for space craft wings, the laser guns (as I called them) like on the very front of this model, and of course the great little oxygen cylinders on the backs of the little men.  I loved playing with my Space Lego so much that I ensured it was always kept separate from the rest of my Lego.  I stored all the Space Lego kits I bought in an old Quality Street tin, and would build countless space ships out of it every day.

The little spacemen were initially available in white and red, though yellow ones came out after a few years.  Initially there was a little sticker of the Space Lego logo, a planet with a space ship leaving a trail behind it, that you stuck on the chest of the little men, but after a while this started being printed directly on to the body piece itself.  Whilst there were no sides as such, I always pretended that the white spacemen were the good guys and the red ones the evil guys.  That was the beauty of Lego though.  You were free to make and interpret it all however you wished, as the Lego company never forced any particular story or conceptions on to the kits.

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Lego Town

Posted by Big Boo on September 24th, 2007

Lego Fire CarLike most kids, I loved playing with my Lego when I was growing up, but I still remember the excitement I had when my Dad came home from work one day with a little present for me and my sister – one of the new Lego Town kits each! In fact, the kit he brought for me is the one pictured on this post! Ah, the memories!

Prior to the arrival of the Lego Town kits, people in the Lego kits came in two kinds. One was completely static, made of three pieces where formed a very approximate silhouette of a person, angled pieces for legs and body and a yellow blob for a head, possible with an extra little hair or cap piece on top. The other was a 2×2 stud block with a big pivoted head sticking out the top, and two little lugs on the sides to which arm segments could be added.

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