Top Ten Ways Blocks Teach Science

Mercy College Professor, Nancy Heilbronner, in her article Why Science Education Mattersreveals the devastating fact that the average elementary school student only receives 19 minutes of science education per day. Science education is important for many reasons. Science encourages children to be curious about the world them, to be inquisitive about how things function, and to ask Why? when they encounter something they fail to understand.

“We know that teaching science well teaches children how to think critically. A good science teacher is able to teach his or her students to observe carefully, to use evidence to predict, to problem-solve, and to make informed decisions.” -Nancy Heilbronner

Research suggests careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are expected to grow rapidly by 2020—almost twice the speed of non-STEM related opportunities. Figure 1, provided by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee projects the demand for STEM occupations in the future. 

We owe younger generations the chance to prepare for STEM-based careers. The easiest way to prepare children is to teach them science skills when they’re young. Toy builders and scientists alike have found that blocks teach the fundamentals of science education. Here’s a comprehensive list our researchers have collected.


1. Stability/ Balance: Block play teaches concepts related to stability and balance. Children develop an understanding of balance when they play with blocks and experiment with the stability of their constructions.

2. Gravity: Blocks were originally introduced to children to teach them about gravity and physics. As children play with blocks and stack them into tall towers, they learn that items can fall to the ground. This is an example gravity pulling everything to the earth.

3. Weight: Block play teaches weight distribution and exploration of heavy versus light objects. Children can add weight to their structures, helping them understand physical limitations and the impact of outside forces.

4. Systems: Incorporating realistic examples of physical systems with block play allow students to get excited about science and engineering. Children then use these systems and apply them to what they observe in the real world. 

5. Trial-and-Error: Blocks encourage creative problem solving skills that initiate trial-and-error experiments. Successful trial-and-error experiments make children feel confident and proud, which motivates them to conduct more trial-and error processes. 

6. Inductive Thinking: Inductive reasoning challenges children to think with bottom-up logic. Inductive reasoning lay the foundations for reasoning processes in adulthood. A child may experience the following inductive reasoning:

1. I can build structures with blocks.

2. My friend can build a tower with blocks.

3. Therefore, I can build a tower with blocks. 

7. Discovery: Blocks offer children the opportunity to experiment with open-ended play and discover the world around them. By encouraging children to feel a sense of wonder, we also encourage them to be inquisitive about their everyday lives.

8.Creative Problem Solving: Blocks do not include instructions, forcing children to construct their own designs based on their imaginations and solve problems they create while building. Children can’t turn to instructions and are therefore urged to think critically and analytically.

9.Symmetry: Block play advocates symmetry and antisymmetry. Children learn how to create equal parts of objects, how to mirror designs so they are stable on both sides, and how to create cohesiveness with their blocks.

10.Comparison: Blocks teach children “more than,”“less than,”“bigger than,”and “smaller than”concepts, allowing them to compare two or more objects. Comparisons lead to classifying objects based on size, shape, color, and weight.

And because we couldn’t stop at 10, we’ve added two more: 

11. Spatial Topology: Spacial topology explores the concept of where objects are in relation to other objects. A child’s ability to see how far or close something is requires both eyes to work together. Ultimately this leads to an understanding of depth perception and space. 

12. Patterns: As symmetry concepts develop in children, they begin to create patterns and experiment with repetitive colors and shapes in order to create pleasing designs. 

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