Have you ever wondered why your child enjoys playing with blocks so much? Or why blocks form such an important part of any good preschool classroom? What is the hidden “power” behind these simple toys?

From the youngest builder struggling to balance a tower, to the older, more experienced child creating a complex structure - block play is for all children as there is no “wrong-way” to play with blocks.  Playing with blocks can be frustrating and challenging while at the same time fun and engaging due to block play’s open-ended nature. Unlike screen time, block play offers children practical learning in the real, physical world. The durability of blocks allows children to play freely without fear of breakage; the smooth, sensual feel of the wood is satisfying to the touch.

As children move through the various stages of block play (carrying, piling, stacking towers, bridging, enclosing, recreating their world and creating designs) they have an endless number of opportunities to develop in the following areas:

  • Foundational Math’s concepts: numbers, counting, shapes, addition, weight, size comparison, volume, grouping and sorting
  • Science concepts like balance and gravity
  • Understanding cause and effect
  • Language & vocabulary skills
  • The use of technology such as ramps
  • Practicing spatial awareness skills
  • Eye hand co-ordination
  • Social and character development including sharing, cooperation and responsibility
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Small and large muscle movements
  • Experimenting and recreating experiences
  • Problem solving, solution finding and planning abilities

Although children think they are just playing, they are developing in various ways - this is the power of blocks.

So now you understand the “power of blocks”, but how do you capitalize on and enrich children’s block play? Firstly, provide children with numerous experiences to a variety of places that they could then recreate in block play e.g. a trip to a fire station, train station, harbor etc. Provide accessories to expand children’s experiences or props that would suggest a play theme. These accessories may be bought items or be resourceful and find inexpensive ones around the house/class. And most importantly be actively engaged in children’s block play: observe, offer suggestions and be involved. With conscious effort not to take over the activity, redirect children or offer suggestions to extend activities according to their interests and ask them questions about the blocks and their creations. A richness of experience, joy and confidence blossom when adults show interest and are actively involved with children in play.

For a list of list of block play accessory suggestions: http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=397

For details on the developmental stages of block play: http://fairydustteaching.com/2011/03/developmental-stages-of-block-play/

For a comprehensive list of the specific concepts and traits that children learn through block play: http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=397 0
  • August 29, 2016
  • Carmen Kingwill
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