Archive for the ‘Toys & Games’ Category

Pass the Pledge™ and Watch Out for that Tree

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Streamridge Vintage Wooden Toboggan

These steam-bent Ontario ash toboggans are a direct continuation of a Canadian tradition going back possibly a millennium. Distinct from a sled with runners, the flexible toboggan is ideal for use on rough ground and was the standard wintertime sledge for Innu and Cree living below the tree line. Additionally, Streamridge toboggans, from the Bauman Sawmill near Saint Jacobs, highlight a second venerable Canadian tradition: that of rural sawmills producing toys and amusements outside the building season (think Victoriaville).

Six Foot Vintage Toboggan with Pad: $199.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

We’ve Carried Lots of Really Cool Items Over the Years, But This, Well, This is Really Cool

Monday, October 18th, 2010


The product of a collaboration between LEGO and celebrated architectural artist (and LEGO Certified Professional) Adam Reed Tucker, whose educational company, BrickStructures, Inc., specializes in the design and execution of scale replicas of architectural masterpieces in the ubiquitous plastic bricks. Or rather, not replicas. Tucker makes this point on the BrickStructures web site: “I first and foremost do not view my models as literal replicas, but rather artistic interpretations that capture the essence of their sculptural form.” Furthering his educational mission, Tucker’s ‘artistic interpretations’ are currently the centerpiece of an exhibition at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry. “With products such as the line of souvenir sets and educational events, we wish to promote an awareness of the fascinating worlds of architecture, engineering and construction in a new and unexpected way.” Tucker states. In the newly released Frank Lloyd Wright licensed series, as in the entire LEGO Architecture program, Tucker’s artistry is equally evident in the individual designs and in the overall concept, which puts to shame anything that’s come out of Billund recently. They are simple, honest and to the heart of what has made LEGO a mainstay of Twentieth-Century childhood.

Lego Architecture Landmark Series


Sears Tower
? 2008: Adam Reed Tucker, Owings & Merrill Skidmore, Bruce Graham & Fazlur Khan

The first in the LEGO Architecture series, this striking black-and-white replica of the famous Sears Tower in Chicago measures 9 inches (228 mm) tall.

John Hancock Center
? 2008: Adam Reed Tucker, Owings & Merrill Skidmore, Bruce Graham & Fazlur Khan

Another Chicago landmark, this model of the John Hancock Center measures 7.5 inches (192 mm) tall.

Empire State Building
? 2009: Adam Reed Tucker & Lamb & Harmon Shreve

The Empire State Building, third in the LEGO Architecture Landmark series, proudly standing 7.4 inches (188 mm) tall.

Space Needle
? 2009: Adam Reed Tucker, Edward Carlson, John Graham & Victor Steinbrueck

This futuristic tower, Seattle’s famous Space Needle created for the 1962 World’s Fair, is the fourth in the LEGO Architecture Landmark series.

Each set: $29.95

Lego Architecture Frank Lloyd Wright Series


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
? 2009: Adam Reed Tucker & Frank Lloyd Wright

2009 marks the 50th anniversary of New York City’s best-known museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Guggenheim set stands 4 inches (102 mm) tall and includes a booklet describing the history and construction of the classic 5th Avenue landmark.



? 2009: Adam Reed Tucker & Frank Lloyd Wright

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1934, Fallingwater is the most famous residential architectural design in the world. The assembled model stands 10 inches (256 mm) wide and includes a booklet with facts about the building, its construction and its history.



To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Children’s Books by Graphic Designers, Part 3: Munari and Mari

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

In the late 1960s and earily 1970s Bruno Munari and Enzo Mari produced a series of children’s books and products for Italian manufacturer Danese, who otherwise specialized in fancy desk accessories and stylish ashtrays (a rather Italian product mix). Despite this association, the two designers are reputed to have rather contrasting personalities.


Bruno Munari is one of the most universally beloved figures in Italian art and design. Having designed and illustrated children’s books for decades, Munari began, in the 1960, to travel the country giving workshops on art and creative thinking to young children and their teachers. While none of us at Swipe ever met Munari, several of our Italian customers of a certain age relate fond grammar-school memories of “Uncle Bruno”.

With Mari we do have some direct experience. In 1999, after having spent a day being shown around Toronto by a Design Exchange staffer, the diminutive Mari marching up to the counter at Swipe and announced unceremoniously: “I used to think Canada was the country of dreams, now I know it is the country of shit.” A second Mari story come by way of a customer who, while attending a party at the flagship Alessi shop on Corso Matteotti in Milan, noticed a man sitting all alone in a corner. When he asked his host who the sad looking gentleman was, he was told: “Ahh, that is Mari. Nobody likes Mari.”

What is most astounding about Mari’s reputation as a world-class grump is that he is, in fact, responsible for some of the most lyrical, joyful and empathetic pedagogical products ever designed. His 16 Animali and 16 Pesci puzzles, designed in 1957 and produced by Danese throughout the 1970s, are wondrous objects, equally delightful to any three-year-old as to the most critical aficionado of industrial design. Anyhow, perhaps Mari’s frankness is exactly what the design world needs today. At a recent talk hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco, Mari stated flatly: “Now, people frequently want to buy stupid things, but good design is not a copy of what people want.” Damn.


Nella Notte Buia / In the Darkness of the Night
? 1956: Bruno Munari

Arguably Munari’s most famous children’s book, In the Darkness of the Night is a poignant and touching voyage through darkness. First published in 1956, the book has become a landmark in children’s publishing for its tactile and interactive qualities. (1996: Corraini Editore; ISBN 9788875700799)

$ 48.95

Bruno Munari’s ABC
? 1960: Bruno Munari

Munari’s ABC was originally published exclusively for the American book market in 1960, but its success led to numerous reprints in multiple languages, including his native Italian. Beautifully illustrated in Munari’s iconic style, ABC plays with whimsical combinations of text and image to create a playful introduction to the alphabet. (2003: Chronicle Books; ISBN 0811854639)

$ 25.95

The Circus in the Mist
? 1968: Bruno Munari

As with In the Darkness of the Night, the elaborately produced and beautifully illustrated The Circus in the Mist is a wonderful book for children and adults alike. With a range of paper stocks, and the creative use and vellum and die-cuts, Munari captures the feeling of traversing Milan’s characteristic fog only to arrive at a circus dress rehearsal. (1996: Corraini Editore; ISBN 9788887942972)

$ 43.95


Adapted from Munari’s famed Playing with Art workshops, this wonderful series for older children playfully explores the relationship between perception and visual representation. In Munari’s view, careful observation leads to liberated self-expression and actually connects the young artist to the essential nature of the subject. Make art, not pictures!

Drawing a Tree
? 1978: Bruno Munari

“When drawing a tree always remember that every branch is more slender than the one that came before. Also note that the trunk splits into two branches, then those branches are split into two, then those two, and so on, and so on, until you have a full tree, be it straight, squiggly, curved up, curved down, or bent sideways by the wind.” – BM (2000: Edizioni Corraini; ISBN 888794276)

Drawing the Sun
? 1980: Bruno Munari

“When drawing the sun, try to have on hand coloured paper, chalk, felt-tip markers, crayons, pencils, ballpoint pens. Also remember that sunset and dawn are the back and front of the same phenomenon: when you are looking at the sunset, the people over there are looking at the dawn.” – BM (2000: Edizioni Corraini; ISBN 8887942773)

$19.95 each


Più e Mino / Plus and Minus
? 1970: Bruno Munari & Giovanni Belgrano

A unique visual game for children, Plus and Minus consists of 72 images printed on opaque and transparent cards, which can be superimposed to create landscapes, vignettes and narrative scenes.


As can be expected of Munari’s games, there are no rules and the game is only limited by the child’s imagination. This new edition of Plus Minus has been carefully reissued by Corraini, remaining completely faithful to the 1970 original. (2008: Edizioni Corraini; ISBN 8033532910020)

$ 74.95


Il Gioco delle Favole / The Fable Game
? 1965: Enzo Mari

The Fable Game is among Mari’s most beloved projects and is one of the high points in the history of design for children. Similar to the Eames’ House of Cards, The Fable Game consists of interlocking cards printed with characters from Aesop and La Fontaine, intended to encourage children to develop narratives based on the ‘intersections’ of the cards. Each new card combination brings together different characters and suggest a new story. (2004: Edizioni Corraini; ISBN 888794296x)

$ 38.95



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? 1978: Enzo Mari

Another extraordinary concept piece from Mari, Drawing Cards anticipated Taro Gomi’s Doodles series by three decades. Each cardstock folder contains five long strips of thick drawing paper partially printed with images or graphic elements intended to provide a point of departure for young artists who would prefer to draw rather than simply colour. (2008: Corraini Editore; ISBNs 9788886250672; 9788886250665; 9788886250696; 9788886250702; 9788886250689)

$14.95 each set


Il Posto dei Giochi / The Place of Games
? 1967: Enzo Mari

Perhaps Mari’s key insight was his recognition that children are best left to imagine for themselves. With his die-cut cardboard play structure Il Posto dei Giochi, or The Place of Games, Mari provides a subtle suggestion of fantastic environments, leaving the child’s imagination to fill in the rest. Unfortunately, Il Posto dei Giochi is produced in Italy in such small quantities that it is priced more as a design object than as a child’s toy.

$ 149.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Winning Hearts and Minds

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Through a combination of good design and perceptive market-assessment, PlanToys of Thailand has, over 28 years, carved a unique niche in the North American and European toy market. The company has demonstrated an understanding of the Western parent that Mattel™ and the rest of the Toys-R-Us™ crowd seem incapable of achieving. For instance, instead of having to wrestle toxic Disney™ licensed action figures from the hands of disappointed toddlers, parents might prefer toys that are both safe and manufactured in a sustainable manner. With a string of ISO certifications for product safety and socially responsible management, Plan is a model for a more ethical relationship between Western consumers and manufacturers in the developing world.


PlanToys Mini Garbage / Recycling Truck
? 2009: Vitool Viraponsavan & Plan Creations

Part of PlanToys new eco-themed line of toys that help kids learn how to live in harmony with the environment, this sturdy truck will delight any toddler while offering parents an opportunity to introduce the concepts of waste reduction and recycling.



PlanToys Eco Green Dollhouse, with Furniture
? 2009: Vitool Viraponsavan & Plan Creations

The most elaborate (and costly) item in the PlanToys eco line, this full-size dollhouse features a (pretend) wind turbine and solar cell panel, a rain barrel, a green facade and roof, and a shade canopy. There is even an adorable little set of recycle bins and all furniture is included.



All PlanToys are made from reclaimed rubber wood with water or soy-based finishes in ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and SA 8000 certified, locally-owned factories in Thailand.


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Is This the Real Reason So Many Canadians Have a Penchant for Modernist Architecture?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


Girder and Panel Building Sets
? 1956: Austin Kelk & Peter Kelk cdnmapleleaf

In 1956 Toronto toy manufacturer Peter-Austin Manufacturing produced a novel toy building system consisting of interlocking polystyrene girders and thin vacuformed panels. Marketed in Canada as the Trans Canada Highway Bridge Set and later, with the addition of architectural wall panels, as Pam ‘n Andy Structural Building Sets, the system was licensed by Kenner Products of Cincinnati in 1957 and released in the United States as Grider and Panel.


This wonderful Canadian design, the first architectural toy to emulate Twentieth-Century curtain wall construction techniques, remained in production with Kenner until 1980. However, given its Canadian origins, it is not surprising that the product continued to be manufactured in Canada long after that. In fact, as late as 1994, we carried the line at Swipe (at that time manufactured by Irwin Toys of Toronto) although it did disappear altogether shortly thereafter.


In 2005 engineers Carol and Peter Flack founded Bridge Street Toys near Boston for the sole purpose of reviving Girder and Panel and the more elaborate “Hydrodynamic” pump, tank and valve building system. The line has been gratifyingly well received by a new generation of parents and educators, winning Parent’s Choice, NAPPA, and Dr. Toy awards. We offer a selection of all systems, though as these are bulky items, shipping to Canada makes them unfortunately expensive. Also, for anyone nostalgic about a particular set they had as a child, there is a comprehensive collector’s site with pictures of virtually every historic model.

Girder and Panel Tower Set: $79.95
Girder and Panel Plaza Set: $129.95
Bridge and Turnpike Set: $79.95
Hydrodynamic Deluxe Set: $149.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Wham-O! (Need We Say More?)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

For Swipe’s annual Summer Amusement, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of a consistently successful brand-driven company. Throughout the 50’s and 60’s Wham-O™ had an unbelievable string of brand successes: first Frisbee,™ then Hula Hoop,™ and finally SuperBall™. Wham-O was also early to embrace television as a promotional medium and, with the help of a series of zany commercials, managed to maintain momentum through the 70’s and 80’s with products like Hacky Sack™ and Slip’N Slide™.


Wham-O Hula-Hoop

? 1958: Arthur K. (Spud) Melin & Richard Knerr

What set Wham-O apart from other post-war toy startups was their innovative use of plastics and pioneering use of modern marketing methods. In 1957 an Australian company was offering wood exercise hoops in American retail stores. The item attracted the attention of Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin, of Wham-O, who started manufacturing hoops out of Martex in a variety of bright colors. For months prior to Hula-Hoop’s release, Knerr and Melin promoted their product on Southern California playgrounds, where they would hold a demonstration and give a free hoop to the most co-ordinated boy and girl at each demonstration (rather cynically, they gave hoops to the most attractive boy and girl as well). When the product was finally launched in 1958 twenty million were sold for $1.98 in the first six months alone. Genuine Wham-O Hula-Hoops are still manufactured in Emeryville, Claifornia.

Original Wham-O Hula-Hoop in three sizes, each: $9.95


Wham-O Pluto Platter Glow-in-the-Dark Frisbe & Classic Frisbee

? 1955: Walter Frederick Morrison & Richard Knerr

Frisbee started life as a college pie-plate toss game (the name Frisbie sic. originates wtih a Connecticut bakery) which was developed into a patented product, the Pluto Platter by W. F. Morrison in 1955. Morrison’s collaboration with Wham-O began in 1957 with co-founder Richard Knerr quickly renaming the product Frisbee™ base on the colloquial name for the earlier pie plate game.

Wham-O Reflyer Frisbee

? 1955 (2009): Walter Frederick Morrison & Richard Knerr

Newly released for 2009, this 100% recycled polyethylene (60% post-consumer) version of the classic 110 g Fastback model is manufactured by Wham-O in their plant in Emeryville, Claifornia.

Original Wham-O Pluto Platter Glow-in-the-Dark Frisbee: $10.95
Original Wham-O Classic Frisbee: $3.99
Wham-O Reflyer Recycled Frisbee: $10.95


Wham-O SuperBall

? 1963: Norm Stingly & Richard Knerr

SuperBall was created as a collaboration between Wham-O and chemist Norm Stingly in 1963. The product is still made from Stingly’s hard synthetic black rubber, dubbed Zectro™ in Wham-O promotional speak, and, while there are prettier high-bounce balls on the market, nothing bounces higher.

Original Wham-O SuperBall: $1.99


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us

An Absolutely Inspired Children’s Art Product with One Small Problem

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Aquarellum Painting Kits

? 2004: Véronique Debroise

Aquarellum is a simplified wax-resist painting concept for children – a sort of freeform watercolour paint-by-numbers where the child gets to choose the colours. Each Aquarellum set contains a set of primary colour liquid watercolour paints, a sturdy mixing tray and chart, a quality brush and four resist-printed cards. Each of these components is of surprisingly high quality. The process is challenging enough for a 12 year old, yet even a (well-supervised) three-year-old will achieve a very exciting result.

My three-year-old is addicted to these kits. She loves the process, has become a whiz with a paintbrush, and is always proud of the finished product. So, what’s the problem? Naturally, it’s the price. Made in France, these sets cost $24.95 and a younger child can go through each of the four cards in fifteen minutes. Makes a great Grandparent gift but, if you’re paying for it, save it for a special day when making something beautiful would really lift your child’s spirits. – David

Aquerellum Junior: $24.95
Aquerellum Classic: $29.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at: