Review summary: When Tegu blocks first hit the toy market in 2009, the small company received a warm welcome from parents looking for eco-friendly toys, but couldn’t keep up with demand. They closed up shop to regroup and the wait list for their blocks grew to 2000+. Now Tegu is back in business.
If you’re looking for a unique alternative to the basic wooden block you’ll love Tegu. Not only are their blocks beautiful but they have secret hidden magnets that allow kids to build some crazy cool creations. This toy is really fun and has eco-perks but also has a major con for most families – the price tag.
These blocks are on the expensive side. The Discovery Set is $50 and includes 26 blocks made with Huesito wood in three shapes: Cubes, Long Planks, and Short Planks. The Discovery set made with mahogany wood is $65. A full set of Huesito wood blocks (52 in all) is $90 while a full mahogany set is $125.
About Tegu blocks
These aren’t just plain old wooden stacking blocks. Tegu blocks do much more due to safely hidden magnetic connections between the blocks. These tiny magnets (you can’t see them) allow kids to create amazing structures that defy gravity and flexes a child’s creative freedom.
Tegu uses a sustainable hardwood called Huesito sourced from Honduras and Central America, to make their blond blocks and also has a limited block run using safely sourced Mahogany. Blocks come in a natural finish that are water-based and non-toxic. Blocks do contain magnets – although after playing with them I seriously doubt a child could ever get to these magnets (they’re VERY embedded – you can’t even see them). However, because of the magnets blocks are only for children ages 3 years and older. Blocks meet stringent safety standards and you can view their CPSIA mandated General Conformity Certifications online (pdf).
Eco-perks of Tegu blocks
The wood used at Tegu is sourced from small-scale FSC-certified woodcutting cooperatives supported by international NGOs focused on sustainable forestry. Wood suppliers have the requisite legal permits from the Honduran governmental forestry agency (ICF) and oversight from international NGOs (Nepenthes, Rainforest Alliance). Tegu is also currently developing relationships with cooperatives in the Biosfera Rio Platano, Honduras’ largest deciduous forest, who partner with GTZ and Rainforest Alliance.
Tegu also has a recycling program in place. If your Tegu product ever becomes less fun (I doubt it) you can contact Tegu and the company will pay for shipping to take the toy off your hands.
Whenever you purchase a Tegu toy, you have the chance to contribute to a charity of your choice. You can choose to send a Honduran child to school for a day or you can plant a tree. Tegu’s partner, Trees for the Future, facilitates their replanting project.
Tegu was originally launched with two main ideas – to bring safe non-toxic toys to kids and to create a for-profit company in Honduras that can not only create a positive social impact through its business efforts i.e. by creating jobs but also by giving back to the people of Honduras through unique programs such as mentioned in the bullet above.
Tegu is not Fair Trade certified from what I can tell after checking around. Although they do have a Fair Trade statement of sorts. AND they allow anyone to visit their factory, which bodes just as well with me as certification does.
“Tegu treats all its people – from the toy maker in Honduras to the marketing guys in the USA -with respect and dignity. We believe in the intrinsic value of each human life, and we strive for our approach to fully reflect that belief. In Honduras, for instance, we pay a true living wage (much higher than the minimum wage most factories pay production workers), offer unparalleled benefits and maintain exceptional working conditions at our toy factory (health and safety, lighting, ventilation, working hours, etc).
We encourage all of our customers to visit the tropical country of Honduras. While it has its challenges, we are striving to create a small beacon of hope for the Honduran people. We are proud investors in the people and industry of Honduras and want to share it with anyone who’s interested. Please contact Tegu to request a factory tour.”
One downside of Tegu, which Tegu themselves point out – is the magnet sourcing. As noted, “The negative effect on the earth of mining for the materials in our magnets. At this stage, there’s not a whole lot we can do about this impact (mining is mining, never pretty), but we’re working to make sure we source from responsible suppliers who treat their workers well and minimize, themselves, the negative effect mining has on the environment.”
The Tegu experience
What sets Tegu blocks apart are their hidden embedded magnets. Because of said magnets, Tegu Blocks let kids build complex designs and structures that can move, bend and stand up to rough play. Cedar my nine year old and Bella my best friend’s three year old (with supervision) put these blocks to the test.
Right away the kids were utterly delighted with these blocks because they were so surprising. We test a lot of eco-toys and Cedar is not one to be overly thrilled by new items but he loved these blocks. He was surprisingly not limited by having just 26 blocks and managed to build houses, robots, a car and more. He also made a ton of abstract designs just to see if gravity would hold. Most of the time gravity did hold. What Cedar seemed to like best is that these blocks, once configured into a design won’t fall apart. The magnets hold the designs in place.
Bella the three year old, liked the blocks too, but she more enjoyed stacking them up and trying to pull them apart – she was very enthralled with how they stuck together. The adults in the house found these blocks amusing too and more than once adults built stuff sans any kids around.
Another cool thing about these blocks is that they are packaged in an attractive, easy to recycle box, that’s strong enough to use as a carrying case. Bella, who my son calls, “The little destroyer” didn’t harm the box in the least even though we let her play with it. The box also boasts some fun educational facts for kids to ponder about trees, recycling, Honduras and more.
The price debate
As Tegu notes, “Handcrafted wooden toys will always cost more than injection molded plastic… Tegu toys offer a unique combination of quality craftsmanship, luxurious materials, and a wholesome and developmentally beneficial play experience for years to come. It should come as no surprise that you get what you pay for in toys.” I agree to a point. You should expect to pay more for handmade wooden toys. While you can get a very nice (and large) set of sustainable wooden blocks for around $30-$40 they won’t do what these blocks do – i.e. defy gravity and more. So partially the price point for these is set due to their unique qualities.
Also I’m guessing that the higher price is due to issue like fair wages, the charity programs Tegu is involved in and travel costs – since they’re not made in the USA shipping is likely taxing.
Still, that said, I believe in affordable green toys for families and I find it hard to believe that $90 is reasonable for many green families. Would I pay that much? No, but I’d buy the Discovery Set ($50) as a nice bling gift for a child or a household with many kids. These blocks will last years, they’re not full of toxic goop and I’d consider them a safe fun investment.
I can’t, in good conscious, give this toy a full five points due to the fact that these blocks are just too expensive for many families. Also, while I love the idea of what the company is doing in Honduras, I’m a local advocate. So I took off one full point.
Would I still recommend these…? Yes. I like the fact that they’re a safe, non-toxic, long-lasting and most of all fun, toy. My kid testers adored them and do play with them often, so the blocks are an excellent investment. I’d suggest Tegu blocks as a special gift for a holiday or birthday.
See a gallery below of all the cool Tegu designs your kids can make…