We came up with the idea for our construction toy Lubu Town, while we were watching our son one day play with his new city play rug. There were little figures that were taken for walks or for a ride around town. As there was no space for them inside our son’s toy cars, they climbed onto the roofs of the cars. The cars then drove along the streets and parked in front of the different buildings. The figures got out and “entered” the buildings, which basically meant that they were being lain on the images of the buildings on the play rug. We observed our son play. His play was very versatile. While he was making use of his motor skills by moving the cars along the streets, his play also included role play and symbolic play with the little figures. We began to wonder. Wouldn’t it be nice, if the people wouldn’t have to climb on top of the cars, but could actually sit inside them? Like this they wouldn’t constantly fall of during their rides through town. Wouldn’t it also be nice if they could really go inside of the buildings, instead of just lying on top of the flat images on the rug? Couldn’t we adapt the whole play concept of a play rug and move it to another level, from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional?

Our construction toy: versatile, flexible and sustainable

An idea was born. We began to sort our thoughts, made first sketches and drawings and searched the internet for information and inspiration. We decided to give it a go and convert our idea into a real project. How did we want to go about? What were we expecting? How did we imagine the product and what were our most important values and priorities regarding this project? We knew fairly quickly that we wanted to make an eco-friendly product using sustainable and natural materials. Another important point was the visual aspect and the design. We wanted to create an educational and stylish toy, that would not just convince children but would also be ascetically appealing to parents. We decided to use natural beech wood as basic material and began to build the first prototypes. The first version of Lubu Town was similar to the final toy and consisted of small toy cars with little figures that could be placed inside the cars, as well as house building blocks with which you could build different urban constructions, such as small houses, skyscrapers or towers.

Three to six-years-olds thoroughly test first prototypes of Lubu Town

We tested the first prototypes at our son’s kindergarten. We watched and observed the children play with the toys, asked them what they thought and what they would change. The house blocks of our first prototype were designed so that they could be placed horizontally as well as vertically. However, not one of our three to six-year-old test players used the blocks in a horizontal way. A kindergarten teacher explained that during this age, children tend to play and build vertically, meaning everything has to go up. When children start playing with building blocks, the first thing they do is place one on top of the other and build towers. They begin to expand their constructions horizontally when they are older. We further observed that most kids enjoyed placing the smaller pieces, such as toy cars or figures, into the houses. Not all of the cars of the first prototype would fit into the houses, which caused some level of distress to a number of children. Another point was that there were no ladders or stairs for the little figures to climb up the buildings, which most children found confusing.

The final product: a fun toy that promotes instinctive and creative play

We analysed our observations of the play tests, defined the most important points and changed the toy prototypes. We adapted the size of the cars, so that they would easily fit into houses. We also redesigned the house blocks in a way that would prevent them from slipping easily when being placed on top of each other. We also created ladders, so that the toy figures could effortlessly reach the top floors. The result was a product that totally convinced the kids as well as us. A toy system that promotes instinctive, versatile and creative play and is loads of fun to play with.