How many of us remember nostalgically playing with Lego or Duplo blocks as a child? The seemingly-endless designs on offer, the pride in building your first Star Wars model; or simply arranging your blocks into the biggest tower in the whole of creation – a 4ft Babel that you confidently felt dominated the living room even more than the TV. In short, these were good times, and the saddest part about growing up was learning to leave those toys behind – like living the end of Toy Story 3 over and over again, but with added melancholy.
However, it turns out we were wrong. Although it might be a little unseemly to watch an adult playing with great big Duplo blocks in their twenties, the team at Nanoblocks have come up with a cheeky solution. Whereas most toys get bigger as you get older (your first toy car versus your first real one, your first Tamagotchi versus your first real dog and so on), Nanoblocks work on the exact opposite principle: they’ve gotten smaller. With the smallest block measuring a mere 4mm x 2mm, these are strictly for people who won’t swallow the pieces. In other words: adults like you and me.
The basic idea seems to be to nurture your inner child while participating in the fiendishly difficult challenge that is assembly. The packs range from animal-themed ones, to battleships, to iconic monuments of the world – essentially, whatever you’re interested in building, you can find a kit for it. But the real beauty of Nanoblocks comes from the stylistic look of your creations: built out of almost imperceptibly tiny pieces, the level of detail you can achieve is phenomenal, without ever losing sight of their essentially ‘blocky’ nature. Once finished, the little models look like escapees from Minecraft, or possibly a retro 8-bit videogame – something from the days when Sonic was just a glint in some Japanese developer’s eye. In short: they’re like bottled nostalgia; a potent combination of all things childlike and all things retro.
But the appeal of Nanoblocks goes beyond sheer nostalgia value. Put simply: they’re a challenge; a piece of kit you can work into any shape or size – whether you want a comedy little mascot to perch beside your Mac as you work; or something so fiendishly complicated that building it would take longer than solving the most-challenging Sudoku. Nanoblocks have everything from micro pianos to recreations of the Space Shuttle launch site in Florida; from the MIR Space Station (with tiny Earth below it), to a reindeer doing a poo. And those are just the official kits: once the most-creative of Minecraft fans gets hold of these, there’s no telling what strange contraptions they’ll come up with!
In essence, then, Nanoblocks are a means of establishing communication between your adult self and your inner-child. The part of you that wants to play and express its creativity by sticking blocks together; and the part that needs a stimulating challenge, an intellectual exercise that will nourish the mind, even as it uplifts the soul. At least, that’s the intention. Question is: do they work?
Well, I won’t lie to you – I had fun putting together a couple of the models. A very tiny, deluxe version of Neuschwanstein Castle now sits beside my laptop, making me feel a little bit like a giant – and even more like the big kid I really am at heart. Although the range is currently a little limited, I can’t help but feel like these guys are onto something. A year down the line, who knows: we may all be queuing up outside ‘Nanoblock Land’ in Windsor; in search of that ephemeral memory of our near-forgotten childhoods.
Written by Sydney K. Michaelson.
Sydney K. Michaelson loves creativity and inspiration, and was delighted to stumble across Nanoblocks whilst browsing through Gift Library.
Photo Credit: Lloyd Morgan