It’s not a challenge to get most kids to play with blocks – you put ‘em down, they pick ‘em up – and there are loads of benefits to both structured (replicating a pattern or design) and unstructured (open-ended, creative play) construction play. From enhancing gross and fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and hand/eye coordination to the more intangible creative problem solving and critical thinking to specific mathematic and scientific principles, construction toys are literally a building block to higher-level thinking. Working with blocks is really the beginning of algebra, says a nursery school director interviewed in a recent NPR story on block play. "Essentially they're solving for X," he says. "They've got one piece on one side and one piece on the other and a distance to fill. So what is that amount going to be, what does the length of that block have to be to bridge, to sit at both edges of the block. It's the beginning of mathematics, really."
From math concepts to the principles of physics, your child will reap most of the incredible benefits of building with blocks through the powerful osmosis of play, but there are some simple (and fun!) things you can do to enhance his or her experience and increase the amount of time spent unplugged and engaged in this classic, non-electronic, brain-building activity:
Engaging in your child’s construction play, encouraging creative, imaginative building, and providing a few challenges when your child is ready are easy ways to maximize the STEM benefits of block play. And it’s fun!
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