Colorful Blocks

Usually when I come out from my office at the end of my workday, I’m greeted by an enthusiastic toddler at the bottom of the stairs:

“I want to build! I want to build with colorful blocks! Mama, can you build with me?”

I bought a set of wooden blocks for my toddler for her 2nd birthday, not expecting her to grok them for a while, as the box listed them as a 3+ toy.

At first, she could only stack a few blocks, which, developmentally, was to be expected. She also wasn’t that interested in them. She preferred toys that had a much more obvious use case, like books, or a stacking toy.

I figured, if the blocks weren’t going to be used to “their fullest potential” for a while, maybe we could use them some other way with toys she was more familiar with.

How might we use the blocks for her dolls? Why, they need a bed, of course:

How about a lamp?

Designers and weird lamps…

Pretty soon, the doll was running her own coffee shop:

“Mama puts on her sandals and works from the coffee shop.”

And taking her friends out in her unicorn slipper lowrider:

Now this meant that we had to build places and spaces for the dolls. And so began the building of the “towers.”

We built “downtowns” for us all to enjoy, including Swiss Cow:

By now, building was something she would do every day, and she was more than happy to do it by herself for almost an hour on end–enabling us to cook meals, or tend to the baby. Building is second-nature to her. She’ll raise up some pretty funky-looking cantilevered stuff now. My buildings look so uncreative by comparison.

Building blocks have helped her use her imagination, which is usually in the form of asking a ton of questions. What was most surprising though, was this got her to start noticing the world around her. She knows when she’s downtown, she points out tall buildings in real life, and she asks us to help her “build this design.”

All it took was to unlock her imagination with something that was obvious and real to her. The basic building blocks. Now she just wants to build! She was the apprentice for a hot second before she was the one giving me creative direction.

Jugando a la Comidita


Xochico is a brand based out of my hometown of Santa Ana, California. Originally known for their pan dulce cushions, they’ve expanded their offerings into the types of physical products that Mexican-American Millennials like me drop their cold hard cash for in a hot second.

When my oldest hit toddlerhood and started modeling the behavior of the people around her, I set up a play kitchen next to mine for her to use when she could not join me in my cooking (for us, cooking is a life skill, not a gender role). I gave her my plastic molcajete salsa bowl and got her a miniature cast-iron skillet. When it came to purchase play food for her, however, I hit a wall. None of the food out there looked like what we ate at home. I have since been crafting food items for her, something that the extended family has happily joined in on.

Boring upholstery samples make great tortillas. Here’s Elmo hitting the tacos at the end of a long night.

When Xochico came out with pan dulce keychains, I immediately thought about getting a bunch of them, cutting off the chains, and using them as play food–if I ever had children.

Now that I do, it seems as though they were reading parents’ minds all along. They made the box.

Did I pay $30 for a few play food items? Hell yeah, you bet I did.

Of course, then I became dissatisfied with the coffee play toys…

For the rest of the this 100-day project, I want to share more work by Mexican-American 90’s kids, particularly those from my hometown. This was something I was inspired to do after having an unexpected real talk with a colleague of mine thousands of miles away from our homes. Hoping to eventually write about that.