2019 Fall Block Champion – Build & Play Academy in Finland


The Build & Play Academy – also called Pop-Up Playground – is a public good project through Launch Pad Finland NGO. Build & Play Academy has owned the Blue Blocks for less than one year and in that time they have expanded the boundaries of play, including taking the Blocks out in the snow! They have facilitated Pop-Up Playground events for children of the region and hosted team-building activities with young adults from four different countries. Build & Play Academy embodies the spirit of learning through play for all. 

Tell us a little bit about your organization, and your role in your organization.

I am Tatiana Petrova, a founder and project leader of Build & Play Academy.  Launch Pad Finland NGO is a non-profit organization operating since 2016 in Kainuu, Finland. We are young people and mentors who are passionate about networking with people from different countries through international projects. We believe that enthusiasm is the main driving force and collaboration is a magical power for achieving many goals. 

How long have you had the Big Blue Blocks?

We have had the Imagination Playground Blue Blocks since December 2018. We are proud to say that our blocks are first in Finland. One day I came to our Launch Pad Finland community with a crazy idea to bring the joy of creative play to our region together with the Big Blue Blocks from America. I got support from other members and can’t stop being grateful for that.  They helped me to design the public good project from my idea and apply for funding. We traveled with two other members of Launch Pad Finland to New York City to explore the concept of Imagination Playground and to find more about play process with kids. 

How did you hear about the Blocks? 

My first experience with the Blue Blocks was about 3 years ago in Singapore Expo Centre at an Educational Fair. We won a robot competition on a stage with my two lovely boys. It was a love from the first touch. I saw happiness and inspiration in the eyes of my kids while they were creating amazing trains, planes and formula cars with blocks. We always loved to use imagination and creativity in our everyday life and play. Blocks were kind of perfect toy for our family. I started to explore where I can buy them and the ideas behind the unstructured play. 

What was the decision making process to bring the Blocks to your organization and how did you fund them?

We built a team and got even more inspired after our trip to NYC. We got funding from the Rural Development Fund (Oulujarvi Leader in Finnish language). We have also used our own resources, countless hours of volunteering and few sponsors’ help from the local companies. In Finland we live in such a remote area surrounded by beautiful nature, and safe and comfortable conditions to enjoy life and raise children. 

On the other hand, the distance between towns and villages are quite long. Not all kids have equal possibilities to take part in organized activities. With pop-up playground we had a chance to bring blocks and joy of play to kids. 

Tell us a little bit about how you use the Blocks in your programs to support your mission.

Activities with blocks develop social and problem-solving skills, unlock creativity and imagination. Creative confidence seems to be one of the most important soft skills in our rapidly changing world.  According to the World Economic Forum report of the Future Jobs the top 5 skills in 2020 are:  

1) complex problem solving skills

2) critical thinking

3) creativity 

4) people management

5) coordinating with others

I’m not against digital devices and modern approaches of learning. But I strongly believe that creative and unstructured play helps to develop in children the most important skill that they might need to succeed in the future.

What is your favorite thing about the big Blue Blocks?  

Our two favourite things about blocks are that they have no age limits and are very simple in mobility. Since we got our sets last December we transferred them from kindergarten to schools and different kinds of events and fairs in our region. We have done workshops not only with children, but also with young adults, people with disabilities and even elderly people. 

And one more thing, the third one – there are countless possibilities to use blocks, the only limits are the sky and our own imagination.  

What is the biggest challenge with the Big Blue Blocks?

The biggest challenge for us was a process of delivery and custom’s procedure and all the mess with documents and taxes we had to pay. I guess it is because we didn’t have previous experience in this field.   Anyway If you will ever consider to open a new production line somewhere, I can suggest you Finland or Scandinavian countries 🙂 Buying blocks from the other side of the ocean seems a little bit complicated at the beginning, but still nothing is impossible and we got our own.  

What would you tell someone that was considering buying the Blocks?

The Blocks are worth of it!  

Is there anything else you want to share about yourself or the Blocks?

I’m just in love with blocks, there is nothing I could add 🙂