Playplax set, 1968

Playplax was a clever construction toy from the 60s. It was the brainchild of part-time designer and teacher at the Hornsey College of Art, Patrick Rylands. The transparent coloured shapes were fascinating to children. In the 60s it was cutting edge play.

Patrick Rylands designed Playpax for Trendon Toys in 1967. The original version just had plastic squares.  An improved version from 1968, illustrated right, had cylinders as well. Rylands was originally working on prefabricated parts for the construction industry, but had the idea of miniaturizing them to make a toy.

Patrick Rylands' view was that the best toys were simple. A cardboard box can offer a world of possibilities. The fun is in the imagination of the child. Rylands thought less was more as much with toys as with buildings.

Playplax could be used to make abstract designs or models of real things. It was all down to the child. Children also discovered that you could hold the squares up to your eyes to see the world in shades of red, blue, green or yellow.

Playplax was so advanced that Rylands won a Design Centre award for it in 1967.

In 1967 you could buy Playplax for 9s 11d (£12 in today's money). Playplax sold over one million copies by 1970 and was on sale in over 30 countries. In that year Patrick Rylands won the Duke of Edinburgh's prize for Elegant Design for his work with Trenden Toys.

Do you remember Playplax?

More on Playplax

See Playplax Design Centre Journal.

You can't buy Playplax now, but a few vintage sets do come up on eBay. See . You should be able to get a set in good condition for around £10.

See also Toys and games from the past

Add your comments on Playplax

"PlayPlax the iconic children's construction toy has been relaunched, and is available from" Capt.Tobias 11/11/2010

"I absolutely DO remember Playpax. I LOVED it, not only because of being able to interlock the squares, but the different colours that appeared as a result. I thinkl of Playpax and am instantly transported back to the magic of Christmas paticularly. Now I am, of course, a little bit older but am thrilled to hear of the relaunch and shall be getting some asap!" Debs 19/12/2010

"My. Now grown up. Children loved Playplax particularly for the amazing colour spectrums produced. As a result one became a ceramic sculptor with flair as a colourist and original colour blends in her land and sea scenes. I have looked constantly for re-launch for my now young grandchildren who would love them as well. Hopefully easily available? Shocked that 19/11d is equivalent to £12.00!" Mary Fallon 25/02/2017

"BRING BACK PLAY PLAX!! Absolutely loved this as a child and still love it today for its multiple creative possibilities and beautiful see through coloured shapes - one of the best toy by miles - I would buy many packs of these if they were still on sale!!" Jane Cooper 14/10/2017

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history