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Playing, building and using imagination to create something new are all part of a child’s development. Construction sets – standardised parts with limitless possibilities – have been used to recreate objects from the modern world for over 200 years.

What is a Technical Toy?

“We can safely assume that in the distant past, the children of cave dwellers created small miniature caves out of earth or stones,” commented the school reformer Paul Hildebrandt at the beginning of the 20th century. For thousands of years, children played and built whatever they could find in their immediate surroundings. It was not until the year 1800 that the wooden construction kit appeared on the scene – made particularly popular by the efforts of the famous German pedagogue Friedrich Fröbel, who invented the kindergarten. This development very quickly led to a veritable explosion in the types of construction kits available. These sets often varied in how the building blocks fitted together, as well as in the materials used to make them. This exhibition focuses on the diversity of these construction kits and their history.

“Play is not a game. It has a function of great importance and deep significance.”
Friedrich Fröbel (1782–1852), Reforming Pedagogue and Creator of the Kindergarten

Exhibition Themes

  • Construction sets made of wood
    The exhibition begins with Friedrich Fröbel’s elementary wooden building sets, before moving on to ready-made kits – for example for buildings and cars – as well as the more modern construction sets from Matador and Baufix.
  • Construction sets made of stone
    This room is largely devoted to Anker stone building sets, which are considered to be the first system construction kits. The red, yellow and blue bricks were originally invented by aviation pioneers Otto and Gustav Lilienthal.
  • Construction sets made of metal
    Meccano, Märklin and Trix are three of the best-known names associated with the metal construction set. They all use perforated metal strips as their basic construction element – but who actually copied whom?
  • Construction sets made of plastic
    Studs on the bricks make it possible to build far more stable models – for example with systems such as Idema. Plastic can be used in injection moulding to produce really complex parts – a prime example being the construction sets from fischertechnik, which remain very popular to this day.
“Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.”
Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805), Poet and Philosopher

Dandanah Glass Building Block Set

The short video series "Das besondere Stück" (The Special Object) presents masterpieces from the collections. In this film clip, curator Moritz Heber presents the Dandanah glass building block set from the museum's Technical Toys collection. The film is currently only available in German.

Facts

  • An exhibition at the Deutsches Museum since 1984
  • 500 sqm exhibition area
  • 249 exhibits
  • The exhibition can be found on Level 2

Any Questions?