As parents and owners of Turner Toys, we’re big believers that children learn through play. As schools face more pressure to have kids “learn to the test,” many are pushing academic pressures down through the grades to even the kindergarten and preschool level. With more time needed for academics, play is getting pushed out of the classroom. Some schools (and parents) are quick to think of playing with blocks as just a toddler activity without any connection to learning.
As often happens, old things become new again. Last year, The New York Times’ Kyle Spencer wrote about about the renewed interest in blocks in With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics. Blocks have never gone out of fashion in progressive schools, but now traditional – even academically-rigid – schools are expressing interest in the value of blocks to today’s educational approaches.
Benefits of Block Play
Why blocks? In addition to being fun, several scientific studies have established links between children’s block play and later success in math, language acquisition, science, spatial skills, and more. The New York Times’ article specifically mentions two academic studies:
A 2001 study demonstrated how more sophisticated preschool block play could result in higher math grades and test scores.
A 2007 study showed the connection between block play and better language acquisition skills.
We found a Temple University 2011 study that demonstrated when children play with blocks they strengthen spatial skills and concepts that are critical in math and science but, perhaps more importantly, in everyday life. How well do pack your suitcase or park your car? The answer might show how much you played with blocks when you were a kid!
- They learn to create buildings and other structures, and to design imaginary things based on their own ideas.
- They develop social relationships with other children, which can be a valuable opportunity when groups of children are sharing.
- Children expand their language abilities as they are able to articulate about size, shape, colors, comparisons and other aspects of building.
- Children learn and practice math skills by grouping, adding, subtracting, matching and sequencing.
- Children experience science and physics when experimenting with gravity, weight, balance, and stability.
- Children are stimulated and develop skills and imagination including cause and effect, problem solving, classification skills, and critical thinking.
- Children gain a sense of achievement when they construct with blocks, building sets, construction toys, and model kits.
- They build strength in their fingers and hands, and improve their eye-hand coordination.
The fascination of playing with blocks doesn’t seem to end at any particular age (though it seems to take a hiatus as kids get older.) My wife is a violin teacher and we’ve put out some bags of Citiblocs to amuse students who are waiting for their lessons. Not only do we see the kids’ creations, we’ve noticed that their parents are really into them! She’ll frequently hear the clatter of the blocks during lessons and the students will want to see what their parents did.
What are your experiences with block play? Are you a teacher using a block center? Any further ideas on how kids benefit from playing with blocks? Let us know so we can share your ideas!
- Young Children are Natural Scientists and Mathematicians (eyeonearlyeducation.org)