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The Benefits of Block Play for Children

May 15, 2024


Block play, a seemingly simple activity, holds profound developmental benefits for children of all ages. From the moment a child grasps their first block, a world of learning begins. Hosted by Kym Simoncini, our upcoming 'Block Fest' workshop aims to delve into the intricacies of block play and its vital role in early childhood development.

What is Block Play? 

Block play involves children building, stacking, and arranging different shapes and sizes of blocks, whether they are made of wood, plastic, foam and cardboard boxes. Blocks can be either; 

    • Traditional like wooden blocks,

    • Collected, like boxes or egg cartons.  

This type of play is not only about physical stacking and building, but also about applying skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and spatial awareness. Block play can also be a social skill to develop sharing, negotiating and communication.  

What Kind of Blocks Should a Child Be Building With? 

The choice of blocks for children should vary depending on their age, developmental stage, and the learning objectives in mind. For infants and very young children, soft, large foam blocks or big plastic interlocking blocks are ideal as they are easy to handle and safe for small hands. As children grow older, wooden blocks and more complex interlocking systems like LEGOs can be introduced to challenge their dexterity and cognitive skills. It's also beneficial to include a variety of shapes, colours, and sizes to stimulate creativity and learning. For educational settings, magnetic blocks can further enhance learning, allowing children to explore concepts such as physics, mathematics, and language in a hands-on manner. By providing a diverse range of blocks, caregivers and educators can cater to the evolving needs of children, promoting a richer, more engaging block play experience. 

Why is Block Play Important for Children 0 - 2? 

For infants and toddlers up to two years old, block play is crucial for their initial learning and development. During this stage, children explore textures, colours, and the balance of objects. Handling blocks helps in developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. As they attempt to place one block on top of another, they learn about gravity, balance, and geometry. Block play at this age lays the foundational skills of cause and effect as they observe what happens when blocks fall or when they fit perfectly together. 

Why is Block Play Important for Toddlers? 

As children move into their toddler years, block play starts to become more complex.  
Big Blocks can be: 

  • Sat on.
  • Stood on.
  • Crawled on and around.
  • Knocked down and pushed.  
  • Repeatedly taken out of contatiners and replaced.
  • Covered in cloth to create hidey holes.
  • Integrated into movement as children are exploring the capabilities of their bodies. 

Toddlers begin to build larger structures, and through these activities, they improve their motor skills and hand-eye coordination even further. This stage is critical for language development as well; as they play, toddlers often talk about what they are building, ask for specific blocks, and interact with their peers and educators. The act of playing with blocks can also help toddlers learn important social skills such as sharing and cooperation. 

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Why is Block Play Important for Preschoolers? 

For preschoolers, block play enters a new stage of complexity, and is an essential part of learning that integrates multiple skills. At this age, children use blocks for more sophisticated constructions, from elaborate towers to intricate cities. This type of play encourages not only creativity but also critical thinking and problem-solving. As preschoolers plan and execute their building projects, they learn to set goals and develop patience and persistence. Also, block play can introduce early math concepts such as symmetry, measurement, and counting, which are integral to their academic growth. 

How to Set Up Provocations in Block Play 

Setting up provocations in block play involves creating inviting and thought-provoking setups that encourage children to engage and extend their play. Educators can place loose parts alongside traditional blocks, such as fabric pieces, natural items, or figurines, to inspire curiosity and dramatic play. Another effective provocation is to display photos or create books from photo’s of architectural structures to provide children with opportunities to revisit their creations with peers and adults.

How to Set Up Environments for Block Play 

Creating an effective environment for block play involves organising a dedicated space where children can access materials easily and display their constructions. This space should be safe and large enough to accommodate multiple children. Including a variety of blocks and related accessories in accessible bins and shelves encourages children to mix and match resources as they build. It's also beneficial to provide a nearby area where completed projects can be displayed, enhancing the children’s sense of achievement and allowing for discussion and appreciation of their work. 

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Developmental Benefits of Engaging in Block Play 

When children engage in block play, they experience a range of developmental benefits. Cognitive skills are sharpened as they solve problems and think critically about how to balance and construct their ideas. Physically, they enhance their fine and gross motor skills through manipulating the blocks and assembling their designs. Socially and emotionally, block play fosters cooperation, negotiation, and sharing. Additionally, this form of play supports language development as children describe their processes and narrate their play. 

A fundamental, enriching activity 

Block play is a fundamental, enriching activity that supports a wide array of developmental benefits across cognitive, physical, social, and emotional domains. Through structured and thoughtful engagement in block play, as will be explored in 'Block Fest', children can develop crucial skills that lay the groundwork for future learning and success. We invite parents and educators to join us to discover how to effectively harness the potential of block play to foster young children's development in a holistic manner. 

Register For Our Blockfest For Educators Course


Topics: Teaching Strategies and Practice

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