The past few weeks have been nothing short of utterly chaotic for our little family. But for a few minutes this afternoon the world stopped spinning for a while, as I sat down with my little almost-two-year-old and did some serious building with blocks. We made towers and castles, fences for the farm animals, and a bed for dolly. Blocks absolutely everywhere. And the sweetest, happiest smile on my busy toddler’s face…
There could be no more perfect toy than a simple set of building blocks. Period. No bells and whistles toys will ever come close. Yet sadly, the trusty block is being neglected. I worked for ten years with hundreds of young children and their families. And while most had battery-operated toys spilling out of every corner of their home, few regularly sat down to play with a set of blocks.
Of course, the toy industry has a vested interest in trying to convince us well-meaning parents that more complicated toys are what our children need. And in our effort to do what’s best, we may lose sight of the fact that simple is often so much better. And what could be simpler than a set of blocks! From a developmental perspective, it would be tough to find a toy more ideally suited for promoting learning through play.
Did you know that playing with blocks and stacking toys…
· Helps your child develop spatial awareness.
· Promotes development of fine motor skills
· Helps to develop attention span, persistence, and frustration tolerance.
· Promotes understanding of important concepts such as size and quantity.
· Encourages creativity and imaginative play.
· Provides opportunities to develop cooperative play and turn taking skills.
A simple set of wooden blocks will provide your child with endless opportunities for fun and learning, beginning at about six months of age (when babies begin actively grasping, banging, and combining objects in play) and continuing on through the toddler, preschool, and early school-aged years. And while there are lots of lovely stacking toys out there to buy, homemade toys are often just as entertaining. Here are a few ideas…
Homemade Stacking and Building Toys
· For little ones just learning to stack or little ones with gross motor or fine motor challenges, try playing with a set of clean, never used cleaning sponges. They are easy to grasp with little hands, and won’t slip and slide when stacked.
· A set of bean bags also makes a great, easy introduction to stacking.
· Save your paper grocery bags. Stuff them with newspaper, then fold the edge over and tape shut with masking tape. Older children love stacking giant, jumbo-sized towers or making “castles” big enough to play in.
· Empty cardboard boxes make wonderful building blocks. Empty Kleenex boxes work particularly well.
· Tupperware or other food storage containers (with the lids on) also make interesting stacking toys.
The next time you want to spend some time really connecting with your child through play, try turning the TV off, putting the bells and whistles toys away, and sitting down to have some fun with blocks. You’ll be building so much more than just a tower…