Toy building blocks have traditionally been a way for children to use their imaginations to build, stack and create. Now, with the History Makers Puzzle Block Set, toys can also teach children about Black history.
The History Makers Puzzle Block Set consists of 30 multifunctional wooden blocks. The blocks form three puzzles: two are Black history puzzles, and the other is a puzzle that teaches children leadership skills. The puzzle block set was created by Tiffney T. Laing.
“What makes [the blocks] so different is that they share and tell the Black experience through the lens of self leadership,” Tiffney T. Laing, founder and owner of the History Makers Puzzle Block Set, told AFRO. “They shouldn’t have to wait until they’re older to learn it,”
Lain said she was inspired to make the block set from her 15 year old sister, who, much like herself, was not learning much about Black history in school. With her background in education, Laing said that children learn through play.
“While I was an educator, I noticed that school curriculum and textbooks seemed to limit African American history to slavery and the Civil Rights movement; showing African Americans as victims of slavery and injustice, rather than sharing the stories of how African Americans contributed to the development and success of the United States. When I read about my ancestors, I do not see victims. I see remarkable and courageous people who illuminate what the word leadership means,” she said.
Laing said the blocks are meant to help children see themselves think and accomplish things.
“It is vital that young Black kids get a sense of self and what it means to have black skin in America,” Kyler Hughes, a junior secondary education minor at Howard University, told the AFRO. “Identity is one of the biggest struggles that African Americans in this society face.”
“The blocks focus on times after slavery and before the Civil Rights Movement. They feature People such as Black surgeon T. C. Williams; Black chemist Dr. Henry Palmer; Maggie Walker, the first female to be president of a U.S. bank – St. Luke Penny Savings Bank; and others such as Soul and Funk musician James Brown and journalist Ida B. Wells.”
“Seeing images from our past and history that are positive is something that’s powerful, and talking it through with your children gives you a sense of pride and gives them a sense of pride, and it lets them know that they actually can do what they want to do” said Calvin Haney in a parent review of the block set.
Block sets include a booklet that illustrates the stories of additional historical figures.