Ahh, Lego. The one toy it's perfectly acceptable never to grow out of. Especially if you end up with the skills to create masterpieces like these:
There are people out there paid good money to be professional Lego sculptors. Guys such as Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kenney. I want their lives.
However you might not know that Lego has a pretender to its crown. A very small, very tough and very awe-inspiring little rival. Nanoblocks were invented in 2008 in Japan (those masters of miniaturisation) and are distributed in Britain by Nanoblocks UK. That company's founder Ashley Yeates recently promoted the product by making this tribute to the X Factor!
I first saw Nanoblocks at this year's Autumn Fair and my jaw nearly hit the ground. Photos really can't do justice to how intricate these bricks are, but this pig will give you a clue.
The smallest single peg bricks are an incredible 4 mm square so you might need a magnifying glass to work on some of the fiddlier details! Other differences to Lego are that all the blocks are one height, 5 mm, and they have a different interlocking mechanism which makes it easier to place them diagonally, as you can see with the pig's ears.
At the moment you can buy them as kits to build specific models, ranging from an 80-piece cockatiel to a nerve-wracking 6000-piece castle (complete with LED lights). Here's a 550-piece International Space Station from the Sights To See range:
The miniature kits such as the pig come with a 4 cm x 4 cm base plate and Sights To See are 8 cm x 8 cm. With prices starting at less than £8.00, they're a very affordable stocking filler for anyone over 12 that would pass away the duller hours after Christmas. So you could easily collect all the kits, solve the puzzle of how to put them together (instructions are included but the website encourages you to also come up with your own ideas) and still have lots of room left on your shelves!
Hopefully in the future Nanoblocks will release basic starter kits so you can create whatever you want. If they could get artists as talented as Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kenney behind them, the mind boggles at what they could achieve!
•UK retailers for Nanoblocks include Firebox, Dinkybox, FireStar and Clockwork Mouse.