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The Benefits of Block Play and Building

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

In this blog post I want to explain the benefits of block play and building. Also, you will find photos of some of the fantastic different creations the children built all during one day at Busy Bodies.

Block play offers an open-ended, creative, and valuable play and learning experience available to every child. It offers children freedom – to explore, take apart and put back together any block-based creation they can think of.

Children often choose to play with blocks and building as it is a) great fun b) offers a range of possibilities and c) give them the opportunity to explore and practice a number of different skills. Below I have listed a few of the main benefits to building and playing with blocks.

As a side note – you do not need fancy wooden bricks or any particular items. You can build with pretty much anything if it safe to do so. We build with cups, toilet rolls, magnet bricks, wooden bricks, sticks, stones and much much more.

1. Imagination – Through block play children are free to follow their own ideas as they embark on a voyage of discovery or share in the development of their friends’ creations. Just today we had castles, zoos, dinosaur houses and robots. With blocks and loose parts the possibilities are endless.

2. Self-expression – Children are able to express themselves through their play, creations and discoveries, a form of communication that’s particularly valuable for bilingual or non-verbal children.

Block play and Lego are proven to have a calming effect and being able to have the freedom to sit and build at your own pace is very important. No rushing, as every brick might need to be carefully considered.

3. Problem-solving – Blocks offer a great platform to develop problem-solving and reasoning skills. This can be deliberate, with children consciously working to develop a solution, or as a natural consequence of play, as they learn first-hand what does and what doesn’t work.

4. Mathematics – Due to the many shapes, sizes and colours on offer, blocks offer ample opportunity for children to practise important maths skills, covering measurement, number, symmetry, balance and estimation. By comparing shapes and sizes, creating patterns or providing measuring and weighing tools, we can can extend play and exploration.

A child may be able to rattle off the numbers to 10, but only through playing with objects like blocks do they develop an understanding of the value of 1 object, 2 objects, etc. They develop one-to-one correspondence.

Children learn what it means to need “1 more block” to match the towers, why one building is taller than another, how to “take away” blocks from the construction or “add” blocks to make the ramp longer.

Through block play, children learn about number concept, measurement and geometry without even realizing it which is why construction play is so beneficial for children.

5. Physical development – Block play promotes the development of spatial awareness and develops hand-eye coordination as children reach for, lift, move and build with blocks, strengthening their fingers, hands and arms.

As children progress through the various stages of block play, they develop their fine motor and gross motor skills as they move and manipulate the blocks.

Gross motor refers to the large muscles responsible for big movements and fine motor refers to the small movements of the fingers and hands.

Developing these muscles is important for children to be able to do everyday tasks and to eventually have the muscle control to write at school.

6. Creativity – Blocks are loose parts, meaning children are free to combine and recombine them in countless ways. We can add alternative resources such as dough, small world characters or paint and pencils to further extend opportunities for creativity but you definitely do not have to. One child added toilet rolls that became the binoculars to see into his spiders house. Children are naturally creative and if you provide enough loose parts they will create everything and anything.

7. Science – Through the exploration of cause and effect and experimentation, children are able to develop their problem-solving skills, test hypotheses and practise scientific reasoning. Blocks help them to become familiar with balance, weight, spatial awareness and gravity.

8. Self-esteem – Children can take risks in their block play, helping them to discover that they have independent ideas. Children experience a sense of achievement as they ‘have a go’, creating and developing something new and unique.

No two towers are the same and no two children will play with blocks and loose parts like this in the same way. They will bring their own play ideas, experiences and personalities and create something unique to them

9. Social and emotional growth – Block play allows children to co-construct and negotiate. They take turns, share materials and cooperate with others, forging new friendships. It also encourages self-reliance, increases attention span and develops their sense of self.

When children build with siblings or friends, they are developing social skills – most importantly cooperation.

Building a structure together takes a lot of give-and-take. Children have to share blocks, agree on what to build and how to build it, negotiate the tasks involved and sort out disagreements along the way.

Building with blocks is a great opportunity for learning to work together harmoniously with others and towards a common goal.

10. Communication & literacy – As children encounter new experiences through block play, there are countless opportunities for discussion and the development of new vocabulary. Social interaction with adults and peers unlocks further benefits, while using blocks can support story creation and collaborative storytelling.

Block play might seem like such a simple activity and yet playing with blocks offers so many developmental benefits both physically and cognitively.

Remember that through play children learn, develop and at the same time have fun. Through simply building and playing with blocks the potential for learning is huge. As adults we can:

· join in,

· follow their play ideas,

· suggest ideas,

· ask questions,

· commentate and build vocabulary,

· teach

· and work together. Building connections and having fun together.

So in summary find the bricks, the stones, the sticks, the (whatever you can find) and build, have fun and share these magical moments with children.

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