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Parents, stop what you're doing — we've found the holy grail of restaurant toys.
They're called Plus-Plus blocks, and they are amazing: portable, educational, fun, affordable. And they have the rare mystical ability to keep kids entertained. For, like, a long time.
Plus-Plus Basic Assortment, $18 (originally $20), Amazon
Small, colorful and flat, the tiles each have the same puzzle-like shape, and lock together to make 2D or 3D designs.
"It's the best restaurant toy EVER," a mom friend at swim lessons told me, as my son made a beeline for her kid's bricks.
She wasn't kidding. Soon other boys and girls wandered over, like zombies, or moths to a flame.
I immediately ordered a box — $20 for 300 pieces on Amazon — and can't remember the last time I was this happy with a toy purchase — heck, any purchase.
Now, we bring them everywhere: restaurants, sports events where the other sibling is bored, and I'm sure we'll bring them on trips. I look forward to eating in peace for many, many meals to come.
Why do kids like them so much?
"Because you can basically make anything you want out of them," my 7-year-old told me. And he's right: Even though each piece has the same shape, the combinations are endless, so they're challenging for big or little kids. (For kids under 3, check out the Plus-Plus Big set.)
They're even kind of addicting for adults — I sat down and instantly started to construct a garden of 2D flowers, and found it way more relaxing than any grown-up coloring book.
Another mom friend said the toy has "superpowers." She keeps them in her purse to maintain their novelty with her kids, and she, too, busts them out at restaurants.
Originally invented in Denmark in 2005, Plus-Plus remained a well-kept secret outside of Scandinavia for years until a U.S. distributor, Ryan Hamilton and his business partner, spotted them at a toy show in Germany.
"When I gave them to my four kids, I saw right away that they would be a hit," Hamilton told TODAY. He and his partner founded Plus-Plus USA in 2016. "Parents love the tubes because they're portable and reusable, and have tons of play value in a small package," he added.
Plus-Plus Mini Maker Unicorn Tube, $8 for 70 pieces, Amazon
Reviewers on Amazon are equally in love: "The nice thing about Plus-Plus is that you can put them into a reasonably small bag and take them on the go easily," one parent wrote.
Oh, and they can even get kids to give up — wait for it — screen time.
"(My child) ignored the Nintendo and the iPad and played for hours, making all sorts of amazing things," another reviewer wrote on Amazon. "And two weeks later, he's still playing with them."
For more kids' favorites, check out:
- Flying with kids this year? Here are 9 mom-approved toys for the plane
- 8 fun and easy crafts for kids
- Finally, a video game my whole family actually loves to play together