I recently took Corinne to the predication for her fifteen month check-up where I found that, as expected, Corinne is growing and developing well and is an all around a healthy little toddler. She says five or so words in addition to the four that she signs. She loves scribbling and has recently started helping around the house by putting away her toys or bringing snugglies to her brother. The doctor also asked if Corinne stacks blocks. Thinking back to dinnertime a few weeks ago I remembered Corinne stacking cubes of watermelon on her high chair tray. Yes, Corinne stacks blocks.
Stacking blocks is not only beneficial because it develops hand-eye coordination or social skills, but it is also beneficial because during block stacking toddlers begin to think like mathematicians. Specifically, they learn the most basic concepts in geometry.
Through block building children explore complex concepts in geometry such as balance and symmetry. Children compare like items and make important choices during block play. Think of the toddler who is tacking blocks, one at a time, but each block is off-set a bit and soon the tower is leaning slightly in one direction. Continuing on this same path will cause the tower to fall over, which usually results in frustration, however through that cause and effect practice toddlers learn to make adjustments in their building as they continue to experiment. They stop their play to problem solve. They learn that various shaped blocks have different attributes that make them uniquely useful in building, but not every block is suitable to the same job.
My dad made our set of wooden blocks, which has traditional squares and rectangles, but it also has triangles and cylinders, and multiple sizes of each. Through play Corinne discovered that you cannot lay a cylinder on its side and then stack on top of it, nor can she place a heavy, bulky cylinder atop a slender, smaller one. In a few months, Corinne will learn that to build tall towers she must build from larger to smaller. William has recently mastered creating a heavy base before building upwards to assure that the weight of the tower itself doesn’t cause it to buckle and fall.
Research has shown that children who actively participate in complex block play have higher IQ scores. Other studies link block play to higher math scores and a greater ability to think spatially by improving their spacial reasoning skills. Further studies also conclude that building with block increases a child’s creativity and problem solving skills.
Blocks have been a favorite child’s toy for over one hundred years, and it is clear why. Children can learn so much through this play based learning, but equally as important children still enjoy the open-ended play that blocks offer.