10 Aesthetically Pleasing Playthings for Tiny Modernists


Charles Eames, one half of the world’s most famous frolicsome design duo playfully posited, “whoever said that pleasure wasn’t functional?” Form follows function was a — if not the — guiding principle of modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th century, and the Eames hit it on the head with their lifelong pursuit of forms for the sake of pleasure. There’s no better representation of this doctrine than the imaginative modern designs for children. From Eero Arnio’s whimsical design hybrids to Hans Bolling’s classic Danish ducks, click through to check out well-designed playthings perfectly suited to tiny (and not-so-tiny) modernists the world over.

Pony by Eero Aarnio

Images via icollector

When he designed it in 1973, Aarnio said “A chair is a chair, is a chair, is a chair … but a seat does not necessarily have to be a chair. It can be anything as long as it’s ergonomically correct. A seat could even be a small and soft Pony on which you can ‘ride’ or sit sideways.”

Tipi Stool by Eero Aarnio

Image via The Red List; Eero Aarnio

A modern companion to his famous ’70s Pony, Tipi was introduced in 2002 as an abstracted furniture friend for young and old alike.

Molded Plywood Elephant by Charles and Ray Eames

Images via DesignApplause and haus

Perhaps the most famous child’s furniture/toy hybrids ever made, Charles and Ray Eames’ original Plywood Elephant was never mass produced. In fact, only two models were made. Inspired by a mutual lifelong interest in circus life and Eastern culture, the gentle giants were featured in many of their famous photographic documentations of the exotic environs of each. In 2007, Vitra launched a limited anniversary edition of the Plywood Elephant. Vitra also manufactures a plastic version of the elephant made of dyed polypropylene with a matte surface finish, available in a variety of bright colors. The only known original Eames Elephant resides with the Eames family.

Duck and Duckling by Hans Bolling

Images via modernchild

This teak duck and duckling represent a small family of feathered friends that was safely escorted by a policeman across a busy intersection in Copenhagen one fine spring morning in 1959. The event was so memorable that the story was published in newspapers around the world, and even made into the poster seen above. Bolling’s handmade duckies remind us of the little miracles that happen in everyday life.

Bauhaus Bauspiel by Alma Siedhoff-Buscher

Images via modern design

Characteristic of timeless Bauhaus style, this building block set only contains reduced forms: cubes, cylinders, and balls. Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, called the blocks one of his favorite pieces in their collection, and one of the key objects in their Bauhaus Workshops for Modernity exhibition.

bObles Tumbling Animals by Louise and Bolette Blædel

Images via Educate with Toys; SourceWire

Love me Hug me. Ride on me. Sit on me. Push me. Pull me. Roll me around. Step on me. Try and squash me.

Or, so their press release states. Taking the fundamental ideas established around the time of the Bauhaus, these brightly colored characters are designed using simple, geometrical shapes to inspire creative play. Made from environmentally friendly materials, they form a unique fusion between furniture and toys.

NDEBELE playhouse by Vittorio Locatelli

Images via STYLEPARK

So much better than the playhouses of our childhood, we can’t help but wonder if they make an adult version, or at the very least a wallpaper inspired by this punchy print?

DESKHOUSE by Ninetonine

Images via ninetonine

A playhouse and drafting table in one. Surely there’s no better way to inspire the next generation of architects and designers?

Seesaw by Tau

Images via TAU

This beautiful wooden seesaw comes flat-packed for full assembly at home. Trust the Germans to come up with a well-designed version of one of our favorite playground playthings and a clever shipping solution.

House for Sale by Studio PAPAS

Images via Studio PAPAS

Build a house or a village with these bold, graphic, life-sized building blocks.