The Brilliance of Blocks


"Blocks are some of the best developmental toys around. With plenty of space, equipment and encouragement, children learn all kinds of skills."

• Blocks can be used by children of all ages – individually or as a group. They are non-threatening, meaning there is no real standard of achievement. They are clean to use, hugely versatile and allow a child to create and destroy their own work (destroying is a big part of the fun!).

Benefits Of Block Play

Among other things, block play helps children develop –

  • basic maths skills, such as counting, sorting and weighing
  • an understanding of the basic concepts of physics, such as balance, gravity and stability
  • motor skills and hand–eye coordination
  • problem-solving skills
  • the ability to cooperate with other children.

Dramatic Play With Blocks

This is where things really get fun.

Combine the blocks with toy cars, a train, some farm animals or miniature people, and the stories and dramatic play will begin to flow.

Dramatic play is important because it helps develop social and language skills; allows the expression of positive and negative feelings; teaches children to negotiate, take turns and resolve conflict; and helps children make sense of the world.

Ideas For Block Play

Toppling as dominoes
Making geometric shapes
Figuring out how many small blocks make up the length of a longer block
Testing the weights of blocks using a rope and pulley system (suspended from the roof) with a bucket either side
Playing skittles
Using blocks in the sandpit
Using blocks with playdough
Making a maze
Making a small obstacle course
Using blocks in dramatic play
Building a city
Building a farm yard or zoo
Constructing a model of the Sky Tower

Essential Equipment

A good set of blocks is essential for any early learning centre.

Playcentre recommends the following as a minimum:

  • Shelving or block cabinet
  • Large smooth mat or piece of carpet
  • Multiple unit blocks
  • Smaller plain or coloured blocks
  • Interlocking set (without wheels)
  • Wheeled vehicle (large enough to carry blocks)
  • Small vehicles
  • Animal shapes
  • People shapes

See the Playcentre basic equipment list for more details.

Accessories

Blocks are fantastically versatile by themselves, but if you want to stimulate dramatic play, you'll need some accessories:

  • Wooden forklift
  • Small people and animals
  • Other construction equipment, such as Mobilo or plastic blocks
  • Vechiles & Train set
  • Miniature telephone poles
  • Dolls
  • Bridges and tunnels
  • Toy trees and fences

Tips

  • Provide plenty of space, equipment and encouragement.
  • Get down and play with the child and talk to them about their play.
  • Set them a challenge (e.g. "Do you think you could build a castle?").
  • Encourage cooperative building projects.
  • Encourage girls as well as boys to play with blocks.

Te Whāriki & Block Play

Block play relates particularly to Strand 5 of Te Whāriki, which is Exploration/Mana Aotūroa.

To learn more about Te Whāriki, visit the website.


Our thanks to the Auckland Playcentre Shop for permission to use this article. Great play starts here.