Though building blocks are a favorite of child development experts, many toddlers are not playing with them anymore—they have been widely replaced by bricks and magnetic tiles that click together. These building toys are great for all kinds of things, including open-ended play, but they don’t teach kids about balance and support in the same way that a classic set of blocks does.
Research confirms what kids, parents, and teachers have known for centuries: playing with blocks is not only fun, it’s also really, really good for learning. Blocks teach physics concepts like cause and effect, force, velocity, and gravity. They also help develop emotional growth and resilience, and provide opportunities to explore imagination and visual-spatial relationships. Blocks are the original STEM toy.
Parents often don’t know what to expect from their children with block play. Many parents think their toddlers should be building big towers and cities, but that’s a ways off for young children. Here is what you can expect for block play at different stages:
STACKING THREE BLOCKS
Between 16 and 18 months, your toddler may work up to stacking three blocks on top of each other. Building a tower requires your child to line up and balance one block on top of the other, releasing it at just the right time so it doesn’t fall.
STACKING SIX BLOCKS
Between 18 and 22 months, your toddler might build a four-block tower, then stack up to six blocks a little while later. At this point, building a tower together may become an especially fun challenge, and knocking it over is often a triumphant way to celebrate 🎉
LINING BLOCKS UP
At around 23-26 months, your child may start practicing alignment by imitating you if you line up a few blocks end-to-end, in a row. This is an exercise in precision, a brand new skill for your toddler. Imitating your row of blocks (keep it in their view) with their own will take practice and patience.
CREATIVE BLOCK PLAY
Once children turn three, their block play becomes more creative and imaginative. They may start building bridges, archways, tunnels, and more elaborate structures. They will also start to sort the blocks and make roads, paths, and patterns. Your child may start to tell stories about what they’re building and act out scenes from their life.
BLOCKS FOR ALL AGES
Even as they grow older, children still benefit from playing with blocks. Because blocks have universal appeal, they are perfect for groups of mixed-age kids. They also offer opportunities to practice 21st century skills like collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication. Preschool and early elementary teachers love using blocks for lessons in math, science, and even language arts and social studies.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, how something as deceptively simple as a block set can do so much good work for your child’s brain? There’s a reason blocks have been around for so long—they offer benefits other toys simply don’t.
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