Block Play: A Simple Pastime with Serious Benefits

Children playing with blocks

"Children who play with blocks, learn to put together the world in which they live." - Friedrich Froebel (Inventor of Kindergarten)

"Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul." - Rudolf Steiner.

Block Play: The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

Block play has been a popular toy for children for centuries. The history of wooden blocks can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome, where they were used as a tool for construction and education. The first recorded usage of wooden blocks as toys for children dates back to the 1700s when they were used as a teaching tool in the educational system. The blocks were made from various types of wood, such as beech, maple, and birch.

Spatial Awareness & Creativity

According to Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, a professor of early childhood education at Eastern Connecticut State University, "playing with blocks develops children's motor skills, spatial awareness, and creativity. It also promotes problem-solving, mathematical thinking, and language development."

Motor skills are developed as children manipulate the blocks, picking them up, and placing them in different configurations. This type of play also helps children develop their spatial awareness, allowing them to understand how objects relate to each other in a three-dimensional space.

The creativity of block play comes with building and designing structures using wooden blocks is important as well. Dr. Trawick-Smith explains that "when children engage in creative play with blocks, they are encouraged to think outside the box and explore different possibilities." This type of play fosters a child's creativity and encourages them to think beyond the obvious solutions.

In addition to creativity, block play promotes problem-solving skills. As children build structures, they are faced with challenges such as how to balance the blocks or how to make their design stable. Dr. Trawick-Smith notes that "by experimenting and trying different solutions, children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve them well in many areas of life."

 "when children engage in creative play with blocks, they are encouraged to think outside the box and explore different possibilities."

In educational settings such as Waldorf and Montessori schools, wooden blocks are used as a tool for children to learn through play. In Waldorf schools, wooden blocks are often used in imaginative play and storytelling, while in Montessori schools, wooden blocks are used as a tool for building and exploring spatial relationships.

Famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was known for his love of block play, which he credited with helping him develop his spatial reasoning skills and his ability to visualize complex structures.

Children stacking blocks

Math Is Naturally A Part of Block Play

Playing with wooden blocks can also promote mathematical thinking. As children play with blocks, they are exposed to concepts such as shapes, sizes, and patterns. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, "Block play also provides opportunities for children to explore basic mathematical concepts such as number, size, shape, and symmetry."

In a study published in the journal "Child Development," researchers found that playing with blocks enhances children's spatial reasoning and mathematical abilities. According to the study, "children who played with blocks had higher scores on spatial tasks and were more likely to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."

Playing with wooden blocks can also have a positive impact on language development. Dr. Trawick-Smith notes that "as children play with blocks, they often engage in dialogue with others, discussing their designs and collaborating on projects."  This type of social interaction helps children develop their language skills and learn to communicate effectively with others.

Research has also supported the benefits of playing with wooden blocks. A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that preschool children who played with blocks scored higher on tests of mathematical and spatial skills than children who did not play with blocks. Another study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly found that block play was positively associated with language development in young children.

Children At Play Are Children At Work

Wooden block play is a simple yet effective way to promote child development. It can improve motor skills, spatial awareness, creativity, problem-solving, mathematical thinking, and language development. As Dr. Trawick-Smith explains, "Playing with blocks is a time-honored tradition that has stood the test of time because it is such a powerful tool for promoting children's development."

So next time you see a child engaged in block play, take a moment to appreciate the magic happening in front of you. Not only are they having fun, but they are also developing crucial skills that will serve them well in the future.

Child building blocks
Wooden Story​​

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