It’s often said that kids these days are too distracted by television and other gadgets to develop active imaginations like their forebears did way back when. Just a few decades ago, children had far simpler toys to play with, requiring more creative thinking and the use of make-believe. But they also had building sets like “Meccano“: a model construction system with decidedly grown-up parts, which made it possible to create anything from a working miniature crane to a model steam locomotive.
Making its debut in 1901, Meccano came with perforated metal strips, wheels, pulleys, gears, axles, plates, girders, and nuts and bolts to screw them all together. Its popularity soon inspired the “Erector Set” brand, which is arguably better known today. Both toys allowed kids to experiment with engineering and robotics in surprisingly complex ways. Check out the things that can be made with Meccano, and you’ll find that LEGO sets suddenly seem a lot less interesting by comparison.
Now, a new furniture set from Seoul-based design firm G280 Studio is reminding us of how fun these toys really are and what they can do for developing minds. “Toniture” is a DIY set of parts that allows children to create their very own furniture designs. Based on the parts you’d expect to find in a Meccano box, this kit comes with a series of perforated surfaces in various shapes and sizes, along with brackets, handles, and connectors. The screws are just the right size for tiny hands, making it easy to secure the pieces together without using tools.
“The Toniture (Toy + Furniture) project was designed to give children an extraordinary experience,” say the designers. “It is inspired by the ‘science box MECCANO’ that we had been playing with during our childhood. Toniture consists of various units 10 cm apart. It can be desks, chairs, and shelves fixed by bolts and nuts. The children can build their own objects by stacking, joining, and assembling each unit. They are able to create the relationship between themselves and the surrounding space.”
Photos show how these pieces can come together to create all sorts of fun objects, including rocking horses, dog-shaped benches, side tables with built-in lights, wheeled carts, and more. It’s probably safe to say that the parts are complex enough to require some adult supervision, but what adult could turn down a chance to play with them? Figuring out all the different objects you can make with the same simple kit is just as delightful for grown-ups as it is for kids.
If you find yourself stuck, the Toniture set provides some sample designs to help get you started, including one for that cute giraffe-shaped table. Of course, it would also be fun just to see what kids come up with on their own, without any prompting. When they’re done with one creation, you’ll have no problem disassembling the parts and starting all over again. It’s easy to see how toys like this could inspire the next generation of engineers.
The Toniture DIY furniture set doesn’t appear to be commercially available, but if you’re intrigued by its possibilities, here’s a pro tip: Meccano still exists, and the modernized version of it looks more fun than ever.