The Benefits of Block Play for Toddlers
Blocks are a play staple for young children both at home and in preschool settings, and rightfully so: they help young children practice motor and building skills, and let them exercise their imagination and creativity. I’ve recently learned, though, about the countless other underlying benefits of block play. I was amazed at the breadth of skills that blocks allow children to hone, and I couldn’t wait to share! Block play touches on so many important developmental areas and concepts that can help prepare your children for what they’ll find out there in the world in a way that is A LOT of fun for them. Take a peek at the myriad of benefits block play provides for little learners.
Science: Building structures works hand in hand with concepts of science. A process of trial and error is always at work. Children can explore the interaction of forces when working with ramps and inclined planes. Concepts of balance, weight, stability, and gravity are all natural investigations around block building. You can even introduce basic physics with simple machines: make a homemade cup and pulley elevator using a Dixie cup, a simple pulley and string.
Mathematics: There are many different kinds of blocks, but the fundamental preschool “unit blocks” speak to mathematics the most. Unit blocks are sized in relation to each other, exploring halves, doubles, and quadruples. The sizing of unit blocks speaks to exploring concepts of size, measurement, equality and inequality, numbers and fractions in a way that is fun and engaging.
Language Arts: Believe it or not, block building also helps to build literacy skills. Working with blocks is sure to encourage children to ask and answer questions, exchange ideas, and work out building plans. These interactions all help to build oral language skills, a prerequisite for reading. Kids can also narrate stories about their buildings, and use additional materials to make signage, for example, both integrating literacy into block play.
Art: Working with blocks allows children to explore patterns, concepts of symmetry, shape recognition, and size relation.
Social Studies: The opportunities for imaginative play are many with blocks. Map out your community, and explore the ways in which maps and symbols help us find our way. Take this further, and set up a model community and explore people and their work, and the ways in which we depend on each other.
Physical Development: Working with blocks provides children with important motor skills practice as well. When stacking blocks they’ll have a chance to work out their hand-eye coordination and visual perception. Tower building will also help to develop their balance, steadiness, and hand manipulation. And, parents, you’ll love this – picking up those blocks can help with gross motor skills such as squatting and lifting. So, go ahead kids, make a mess and pick it up!
Social-Emotional: When children work together with building blocks, they are learning to cooperate and negotiate as they create something together. What to build, where to place blocks, and how to deal with disappointment when, say, their masterpiece gets knocked over are all ways that children can collaborate over blocks. Additionally, the nature of block building encourages children to explore, take risks, and ultimately, build self-confidence. Lastly, block building is a zone in which children are able to engage in social and dramatic play, a place where fantasy and reality meet. Often times, children will draw on their real-life experiences to engage in dramatic play, which gives caregivers a window into a child’s mind.
There are many different kinds of blocks to choose from, including soft blocks, silicone blocks, magnetic options, colorful blocks, and unit blocks. We love this set of unit blocks by Melissa and Doug, as the natural colored, carefully sized unit blocks allow for the exploration of mathematic concepts as well as offering the most opportunity for imagination and creativity.