In an article by toy designer Karen Hewitt, on the website of The National Association for the Education of Young Children, blocks have a long history when it comes to children's play. From building with natural materials such as rocks to the modern version of wooden or plastic blocks, these manipulatives provide children with the ability to hone fine motor, literacy, math and creative-thinking skills.
Blocks aren't just simple construction tools. The NAEYC suggests that adults add elements of dramatic play into a block area or block activity. This can include plush and plastic animals, mini cars, people figurines, dolls or any other small-sized toy. Your child can use the blocks to create zoo structures for his furry friends or build a house for a doll's family. Following the construction process, your little learner can imagine his own scenes and stories with the blocks and dramatic play toys.
Turn your child's activities with blocks into early literacy lessons. Instead of just building with blocks and leaving the structures as is, your child can make her own signs to label her creations. Give your child paper, markers and crayons. Have her name each construction that she builds such as "Skyscraper" or "My Home." Help her to write the letters for each name on a piece of paper. If she is struggling to write on her own, lightly draw the letters first and have her trace over them with a crayon or marker. Place the labels near the block buildings to create a connection between the words and what they represent.
The early childhood education experts at NAEYC suggest helping young children learn about math through block play. Kids can tackle concepts such as geometry or pattern through simple block activities. Provide your child with different shapes of blocks such as triangles, squares, rectangles and spheres. Ask him to sort the blocks and organize them by shape. Another option is to try a pattern activity and have your child create his own alternating line of shaped or colored blocks. For example, he can line up a rectangle, triangle, rectangle, triangle, rectangle pattern or make one that is red, green; red, green.
Fine Motor Activities
The very basis for block building is to manipulate these small-sized items. Fine motor skills such as eye-hand coordination, dexterity, and finger and hand muscle control are all essential as your child grows. Without these skills, your little one will struggle to feed himself, dress himself or write the letters of his own name. The educational experts at NAEYC's For Families website recommend that parents give their young children small blocks to play with when helping build fine motor skills. Give your child wooden or plastic blocks she can easily pass from hand to hand, stack, turn over and generally manipulate.