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Fred’s XYZ Alphabet Blocks

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Alphabet blocks have been around since 1693. A beautiful marriage of the woodcutting industry and the printing press, they were the first educational toys designed specifically for children. If everyone from baby Beethoven to baby Darwin to your own baby has played with them, obviously these things have staying power and with good reason. When kids play with alphabet blocks they strengthen their fine motor skills, learn their letters and expand their vocabularies by associating simple words with those letters. T is for turtle!

Alphabet blocks are virtually unbreakable, they don’t stain things, and they don’t require batteries, a rarity in this the age of the tablet for toddlers. Blocks are, in essence, a perfect toy. But what if E is for elephant just isn’t cutting it anymore?

If your kid is using his or her alphabet blocks to tell you something — “A is for Anything would be better than these dumb blocks. B is for blah. C is for can I play with your iPhone, Daddy?” — then maybe something a little edgier is in order. For the quirkier set, Fred & Friends has taken an offbeat approach to the alphabet with their XYZ Alphabet Blocks. Each block measures 1.75 inches cubed, and they come with a tray for easy storage.

Fred’s blocks are still wooden, still educational, and they’re still safe to drool on but this go around A isn’t for apple; it’s for Afro. W isn’t for watermelon; it’s for werewolf. U is for underpants, J is for jackalope, V is for vinyl. It’s undeniably a much nerdier — and much improved — A,B,Cs with these blocks.

The wonderful retro artwork was created by animator and illustrator Christian Northeast. Colorful and and campy, the art will engage your developing bambino as well as give you a new conversation piece to share with your cooler-than-normal friends once the tykes have gone to bed.

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