National

Building block creator seeks to spur kids' creativity

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo

The Japanese creator of building-block sets for children that have become popular in Asia and Europe believes toys should promote children’s healthy growth and help them communicate with their parents.

Kanto Miyaji, 35, president of Xiao-All Japan Co. and a father himself, said in an interview that he created the blocks with the philosophy that “great toys are those that can increase the stimulation of children and that they can play with together with their parents and grandparents.”

The blocks, called Columbus’ blocks in Japan but Shall-Blocks in English, come with puzzles and games, targeting children from 18 months through 9 years old.

A basic set for children above 18 months contains plastic blocks with one or more holes and strings, while the one for those aged 3 or older has a hammer and nails so children can do basic carpentry.

Children aged 4 or older get a silhouette puzzle with the plastic blocks.

Miyaji said that the toys were all developed to help promote children’s imagination, concentration and shape recognition.

Miyaji used to work for a company selling toys, but did not see the kind of high-quality, creative toy that he would want to give to his own daughter.

He then left the company and embarked on developing his building blocks.

He first rolled out the blocks in 2012 in China, where he was then living, and later launched them in other parts of Asia and Europe too.

Miyaji finally released the toy in Japan last fall, having sold about 700 sets through the yearend shopping season.

Miyaji said that to ensure customers understand his philosophy on toys before purchasing them, he limits the marketing channel to department stores and the company’s website.

But he also plans to sell the blocks to kindergartens and day care centers in the future.

The company’s name, Xiao-All, is a combination of the Chinese character “xiao,” meaning a smile, and “all,” as his goal is “to deliver smiles to everyone.”

“In order for children to grow healthy, they need good-quality communication with adults around them,” Miyaji said. “Toys should serve as an important tool to realize that.”

Noting that children today tend to play digital games at a very early age, Miyaji said, “I’d like to develop products people remember even years later as toys they played with a lot.”