Maybe you haven’t given any thought to the importance of blocks, but they have been a staple of early childhood education for good reason. Following this post, you’ll be able to describe and/or explain ways blocks further child development. In other words, you’ll be able to explain why building with blocks is important!
Gaming: It’s Not about PLAY…
A main focus for video play systems such as those made by Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation is to capture and keep your attention with graphics and accompanying audio. Even apps made for your mobile phone are geared to getting and holding your attention. It reminds me of a jacked-up version of early Sesame Street episodes. Sesame Street bombarded children with short-segments of action-packed, usually loud scenes. Sadly, many children’s toys take the same stance as their virtual counterparts. Hence, why you find aisles packed with flashy. battery-operated toys focused on bells and whistles.
PLAY: It’s Not about the Glitz…
Coming from engineering and early childhood education backgrounds, I know the flashy and loud environment described above is not an appropriate PLAY environment. It does not lay the groundwork for developing the necessary skills for problem-solving in young children.
Luckily, blocks, and other manipulatives*, are ideally suited for problem-solving. So, when children PLAY with blocks they have the opportunity to develop, not only problem-solving, but the following:
• Fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination,
• Spatial skills,
• Social skills
• Language skills
• Math skills
• Innovative, creative and divergent thinking
Problem-Solving via BLOCK PLAY…
As noted, PLAYING with blocks, gives kiddos (many) chances to problem-solve. When kiddos PLAY with blocks they can explore concepts such as
• cause and effect
• spatial relationships
Additionally, children can experiment with different ways blocks fit together and/or operate.
Taking BLOCK PLAY to the Next Level…
Enrich your child’s PLAY, and hence their learning, with a few, simple additions. For example, take your child’s imagination into the prehistoric by adding several toy accessories like dinosaurs, trees and perhaps even some real rocks transforming block play into pretend play.
Extend their PLAY even further by incorporating a book into the mix!
Read classics, for example:
or newer books with a car theme like:
Include ACCESSORIES to the books…
Add toy cars, and perhaps toy traffic signs, and watch the story be re-enacted. Providing these extra ‘props’ increases pretend play and serves as launching pads for building ideas. When more than one child is present then another dynamic enters into the play arena: Social skills. Children learn the give-and-take nature cooperation requires to get a ‘project’ finished; beit a high-rise tower or freeway bridge of blocks or steel.
Open-ended materials are valuable for active learning!
Another feature that make blocks especially beneficial is their classification as an open-ended, or divergent, material. This type of material encourage:
Functioning on many different levels, blocks provide a variety of learning and educational experiences for young children giving them many opportunities to engage in exploration and experience success. Building with blocks and other manipulatives, and enriching those experiences with additional props, lets active learning flourish! It’s easy to see why building with blocks is important!
Hands-on experience with building is invaluable any way you look at it. Building with blocks, or constructing with any type manipulatives, is good for the preschool set, but older children (and even adults) benefit too! It’s something that can test and explore a design plus keep the creative juices flowing. Great for the (growing) mind and body!
For more, read Karen Hewitt’s article Blocks As a Tool for Learning:
Historical & Contemporary Perspectives.
Yours in Play!
*Toys that require eye-hand coordination to fit, turn, move or organize pieces qualify as manipulative toys.
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