We recently heard an inspiring journalistic piece on the Morning Edition of National Public Radio (NPR) -- Behold the Humble Block! We've long touted the benefits of block play, and we were delighted to have our philosophy validated once again!
In an age where electronic educational devices are increasingly dominating children's playtime, we'd like to revisit the benefits of what NPR calls "the anti-app" -- a simple set of blocks that transforms play into real learning opportunities.
THE MATH EDGE
Studies such as Building Blocks and Cognitive Building Blocks have shown that blocks are a powerful tool that helps teach math beyond the obvious counting and measuring that goes on subconsciously in typical building block play. Complex concepts such as fractions and multiplication are gently introduced. There are even elements of algebra present! For example, when kids try to bridge the gap between two blocks, they are essentially "solving for X".
THE LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION EDGE
Early childhood studies on language acquisition and attention have demonstrated that children who play with blocks on a regular basis have better cognition and language skills than those who don't -- and that there is a strong correlation between unstructured play such as block play and learning. What makes block play special is that it provides a wonderful platform for children and adults to engage with one another. So not only is it honing math and cognition skills, but offers a fun venue to develop language and social skills that teaches brainstorming, cooperation, and patience.
Today, blocks are a staple material in preschools and kindergartens throughout the USA, but unfortunately, block play overall is declining. Free play time with blocks is chipped away by formal academic exercises, electronic gadgets such as iPads, and of course television. We are hoping there is a renaissance in open-ended block play. It's amazing that such a simple, basic toy can interweave math, science, language, and social skills in such a beautifully sophisticated way.
If you would like to learn more about the benefit of block play, please see NPR's Behold the Humble Block!
How do your children play with blocks? Do you see your child's imagination and problem solving skills emerge during block play? We'd love to hear your thoughts!