Block Play

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Do you remember when you were young and you had a set of wooden blocks to play with? Do you remember how you loved to build tall towers and other buildings with them? Do you remember how you used your imagination?

Building with blocks gives a child one of the most valuable learning experiences that he can have. It is most definitely one of the most important toys that young children can play with as they can learn so much while they are playing with those wood blocks. Block play is an open-ended activity which allows a child to work on motor development and social-emotional skills, as well as math, science, and language.

When a child is first introduced to blocks they may be around 18 months of age. He may love to just pick them up and put them in a container and then dump them out again. He may do this for several times just because it is fun to hear them fall and hit the floor. Around age 2, he may start making simple towers of 3-10 blocks and then knock them over just to see them fall down. He may also start lining the blocks up end to end and say that it is a train.

As a child gets more experience with building bigger towers, he may start building bridges and other structures that look like a fence around a yard or a room. He may tell you the name of what he built with the blocks. Around 4 years of age, he may begin to put the enclosures and bridges together resulting in a complex building. He may begin using props such as little people figures, animals, cars or trains. The construction becomes more symmetrical and involves using patterns. Around 5, he may work together with a peer to build elaborate buildings that they have planned.

Block play helps with all areas of development. It helps a child to develop their large and small muscles. It helps a child to develop eye-hand coordination, perceptual and sensory motor development. Block play will help to increase self-confidence in a child. As a child grows in their block play ability – from simple towers to complex buildings – the sense of accomplishment is noticeable. Block play encourages and allows a child to use his imagination and creativity.

Building with blocks helps a child to develop many skills that he will need to know in math: classifying, sequencing, patterning, counting, spatial relationships such as height and width, and geometric shapes like cylinders, rectangular prisms and triangles. He works on his problem solving skills as he is building. As he is playing, he is working on science concepts like gravity and balance by making sure that the blocks are properly placed so the tower stands tall and is not leaning over so it does not fall. He works on predictions and comparisons. Block play also helps to increase a child’s language by labeling their structure or naming the colors. Reading readiness skills are being enhanced by visual discrimination as a child chooses what block to use to build with.

As you offer your child blocks make sure that you include a variety such as wood blocks, Legos, boxes or other empty containers. Include different props that can be used in his pretend play including small cars, animals and people.

As your child is playing with blocks follow his lead. Notice how the block play is changing. Offer suggestions if needed but don’t direct how to build or what to build. Encourage the creativity and imagination of your child. Building is an activity that he will enjoy for years (and you may too). So pull out those blocks and have some fun!

Parents As Teachers is a free and voluntary program that is available to all families with children ages 0-5 who live in Hoke County. Parent educators, both English and Spanish speaking, are available to help you be your child’s first, best and most influential teacher. If you are interested in the Parents As Teachers program, call (910) 875-2000 or stop by the Cooperative Extension office beside Turlington School.

Parents As Teachers is funded by Smart Start and administered by Hoke County Cooperative Extension