Play is the work of a child. It’s how the deepest, most meaningful learning happens. So, it’s not playtime versus learning time. Playtime IS learning time. We wanted to take a more detailed look at block play.
Why Block Play?
Blocks are a classic toy that almost everyone, of any age, has played with at some point. The possibilities are endless when you’re building with blocks and that brings us to our first key benefit: imagination
Imagination is “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality” (Mirriam-Webster). If you stop and think about it for a moment, countless things around us came from someones imagination. Artwork, architecture, movies and books, inventions, medical breakthroughs, etc. all began as a mental image or idea.
A 2015 article entitled “Imagination: Use It Or Lose It” published in Forbes magazine explained, “It has become an axiom that as children mature they lose their sense of imagination. Certainly the structures of formal education — coupled at times with a need for conformity — does not encourage imagination and in some areas it is devalued. That said, the world has been shaped by the creative energies of people who refused to stop imagining, whether they were at drawing table or a research bench, or work on CAD screen or managing a new business. Creativity abounds.”
The second (of many) key benefit we would like to highlight is social-emotional skills. The National Association for the Education of Young Children explains, “Blocks help children learn to take turns and share materials, develop new friendships, become self-reliant, increase attention span, cooperate with others, and develop self-esteem.” All of these things help children grow as learners and a strong foundation in social and emotional learning in early childhood has been proven to lead to academic success and fewer negative outcomes later in life.
Block play affects multiple areas of academic learning as well. You’ve probably heard of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and blocks are an essential materials for STEM learning. From the earliest ages, blocks allow children to explore with explore cause and effect and learn about gravity, stability, weight, and balance as they play. As children mature, block play encourages inductive thinking, experimentation, understanding properties of matter, and inclined planes, ramps and physics. Blocks also involve spacial awareness, quantities and measurements, looking for similarities and differences, and fractions, symmetry, classification, and other mathematical concepts.
How to Make the Most of Block Play
If you have even one set of blocks at home for your child, you’re ahead of the game! Simple wooden, cardboard or foam blocks are a great start. Include some accessories with the blocks like cars, trucks, people, animals, road signs, buildings, etc. You can also change it up with other simple additions like cardboard boxes or tubes, mirrors, measuring tape and rulers, or natural materials (rocks, leaves, sticks). Hang photos of various types of buildings and bridges to inspire your child. We also recommend taking photos of their creations and creating a book for them to refer to later. For older children, include a clipboard, paper and pencil or whiteboard and marker for them to plan out their creation.
For more ideas on encouraging block play at home, click here.
Resources and further reading