Helping Children Learn to Play with Blocks and Construction Toys
Play is a powerful method of learning for young children and we can support them as they explore how to play with blocks and construction toys. Yes, play is natural; even animals will play. However, we can build on what happens naturally by helping kids learn how to play in different ways.
It’s not as obvious what to do with a block as it is with a ball. One block all by itself doesn’t do much, but two blocks can make a wall, a tower, or even a noise, when tapped together. Several blocks invite children to combine them in endless ways. This is similar for many various types of construction toys.
Kids will discover many of these by themselves as they play. Because children learn so much by watching and imitating what we do, we can participate with them and introduce different combinations. We might stack one block on top of 2, or 2 on top of 3, or 3 on top of 5, like stairs, or link construction toys in different ways.
Children also respond to encouragement, such as acknowledging how high they build a tower. We can ask if they can build one higher still, then count the number of blocks with them and watch with excitement.
Blocks and construction toys can also be combined in a pattern, such as red one-blue one / red one-blue one, and so on. Kids will sometimes make long snake or chain patterns wiyh as many pieces as they can. When they seem ready, introduce other patterns such as 3 colors, or pairs of colors. This is a play activity that kids can do independently. They enjoy the creativity and making their own challenges.
Pretend play is another way to play and also build brain connections. Combined with other small pieces, blocks and construction toys can be castles, towns, boats, zoos, farms, and whatever children imagine. Once children have some play strategies, their interests can form the basis for elaborate interactions, and imaginary travel beyond time and space. Block play can grow to be a block-buster movie! LEGO block displays and parks are visited by millions each year.
Blocks come in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and materials, such as sponge, wood, heavy paper, or plastic. By extending children’s play with blocks and construction toys , we encourage greater involvement and learning. Does your child have a set of blocks?