Block Play = Learning

Children can develop important math and science skills without a lot of expensive toys. Empty boxes and containers, pots and pans, and blocks can be easily counted, sorted, stacked and nested. And learning math concepts does not begin in kindergarten; it starts as early as infancy as babies distinguish the differences in quantity and toddlers solve non-verbal calculation.

Although blocks aren’t the only way to develop math and science skills, they do offer a fun way for children to learn math concepts. In addition to the basic concepts of sequencing, classifying, patterning, and counting are working with height, width and area. Children can also learn about estimating, predicting and comparing, plus more advanced exploration of gravity, balance, and cause and effect – all important concepts in science.

Children experiment and problem solve through building. Can a small block hold a large block? How many blocks can be stacked without falling? Visual skills increase as children use structure appearance to make decisions and figure out relationships between objects and space. The brain’s motor pathways develop through this repetitive motion of stacking, which also fine-tunes children’s motor skills.

There are even more benefits of block play. During play children use their imaginations to create structures and bring other toys into the mix. Block play can also help children develop social skills as they learn to work in a group, and practice conflict resolution through planning, communicating and building together.

A grasp of math concepts starts with simple activities at all ages and abilities. Allow babies to touch and move objects. Sing counting songs or sort blocks by shape and color. Help toddlers by counting when they touch objects, tracing around objects of different sizes and shapes, and providing a variety of boxes for building. For preschoolers, you can explore more advanced activities, such as measuring in the kitchen or creating patterns with beads, colored macaroni or cereal.

Article Extension from Lisa

A good resource on the Importance of Block Play through Journey Into Education .  This page gives links to four pdf files with wonderful information.

  • Block Play – What We Are Learning.  This document covers all of the important concepts that can be reinforced through block play and gives examples of academic skills that children explore, practice, experiment and refine during opportunities with free exploration block play.  These skills include math, science, social, cognitive and language skills.
  • Block Play – Adding Accessories to Construction.   This document gives many good ideas of props and additional materials that can be added to enhance the block play area.
  • Open Ended Questions.  This document gives examples of open questions to use with children during block play.
  • Stages of Block Play.   This takes you through the stages of child development and block play.