Maybe you haven’t given a thought to the importance or lack thereof of blocks, but it has been a staple of early childhood education for good reason. Following this post, readers should be able to describe and/or explain ways blocks further child development….in other words, take note why building with blocks is important!
A main focus for video play systems such as those made by Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation, and even apps made for your iPhone, is to capture and keep your attention with graphics and accompanying audio. I liken it to a jacked up version of the early Sesame Street years where young preschool children were bombarded with short segments of action-packed, usually loud scenes one after the next. Many children’s toys take the same stance as their flashing virtual counterparts with battery-operated this or plug-in that.
Coming from an engineering background, I question whether the above flashy and loud environment is conducive to laying the groundwork for developing the necessary skills for problem-solving in young children. As mentioned earlier, this type of toy has been a staple of the preschool years. Blocks and other manipulatives* are ideally suited for problem-solving as well as give children the opportunity to develop the following:
• Fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination,
• Spatial skills,
• Social skills
• Language skills
• Math skills
• Innovative, creative and divergent thinking
as I said: problem-solving as they explore concepts such as size, sequencing, comparing, cause and effect and spatial relationships experimenting with different ways they can fit together and/or operate.
With a few, simple additions to your child’s blocks their play—and hence their learning—can be greatly enhanced. For example, your child’s imagination can be easily be taken into the prehistoric by adding several toy accessories like dinosaurs and trees and perhaps even some real rocks transforming block play into pretend play.
If you’d like to extend the play (ie, learning) even further consider incorporating a book into the mix.
Read classics like Red, Stop Green, Go or Go, Dog, Go! or newer books with a car theme like Toot Toot Beep Beep or Sheep in a Jeep.
Include ACCESSORIES: Add toy cars and perhaps toy traffic signs to their blocks and watch the story be re-enacted. Providing these extra ‘props’ increase pretend play and serve as launching pads for building ideas with the blocks. If there’s more than one child present then another dynamic enters into the play arena—social skills. Children learn the give and take nature that cooperation requires to get a ‘project’ finished be it a high-rise tower or freeway bridge.
Building with blocks or constructing with any type manipulatives isn’t only good for the preschool set, older children (and even adults) benefit from it too! It’s something that can keep the creative juices flowing or test and explore a design…hands-on experience with construction is invaluable any way you look at it.
Another feature that make them especially beneficial is they are classified as an open-ended or divergent material. Open-ended or divergent materials encourage:
Open-ended materials are valuable for active learning!
Blocks function on many different levels to provide a variety of learning and educational experiences for young children. Children need many opportunities to engage in exploration and experience success. Building with blocks and other manipulatives—and enriching those experiences with additional props—allows active learning to flourish…it’s rather easy to see why building with blocks is important!
Yours in Play!
*Toys that require eye-hand coordination to fit, turn, move or organize pieces qualify as manipulative toys.