Topics in Early Childhood Education

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Building Blocks

I was researching some information about using blocks with children. I am always impressed by how many skills are reinforced through the use of blocks. Spatial sense, classification, patterning, shapes, cooperation, and planning are just a few of the experiences that children can have with blocks. I am also impressed by how important it is to leave block activities somewhat open-ended. Open creative thinking allows blocks to be a useful tool even an children get older. The kindergarten child creates different things with the same blocks he used as a toddler. It is important to have a variety of blocks available for children. They are also one of the most cost-effective tools and toys a parent or teacher can purchase.


At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you on how blocks can be a useful tool and reinforce many skills in children. I liked how yous said that blocks aren't just for toddlers but can be for older children as well. I also liked how you said to leave open ended questions, that way it gets the child thinking outside of the box and expands their knowledge and learning. I look forward to using blocks when I become a teacher someday.
Crystal A. 2330

At 10:39 AM, Blogger emmadad said...

You should check out If you like blocks, you will probably enjoy looking around this site.
We are the manufacturer so I am obviously biased but these blocks are unique in the way they can be used in very simple ways by young children or very complex ways with older children and adults.

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


He leído su artículo sobre el uso de los bloques en grupos de niños de la primera infancia, es interesante conocer como este agradable recurso permite el desarrollo del pensamiento en los niños menores de 5 años.

Anita Tacuri

At 3:06 PM, Blogger christy417 said...

Mr. Funk,
I agree that building blocks allow children to use many skills, and they are excellent for allowing the child to show their own creativity. For example a girl I baby-sit has a block set and she loves playing with them. I asked her to make me something, anything she wanted with her blocks. I didn’t ask her to make me something in particular so she could be creative and decide for herself. When she was done she showed me what she had built and explained the whole thing to me. It was funny and cute, because she built a shopping mall, and to me it looked like a forest of trees, but she was excited and thought her mall was fabulous. This kind of project helps with motor skills (hands on building) with thinking capabilities (thinking what to build), and language and social skills (explaining what she had made).
Christy K. 5170

At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Funk,
You have touched on a subject near and dear to my heart. Block play. Open-ended block play! I mean really openended, where there is zero direction and maximum development.

We can't forget that Frank Lloyd Wright got his start that way. And, when using unit blocks, math concepts are internalized without overt instruction. Also, great fine and gross motor development possibilities! has articles and a free cd on block play. Their blocks are lovely, but an investment.

Personally, I just bought each of my three year old grandchildren their first "toddler" sets of unit blocks from them. Those sets are proportional and work with all their other unit block sets.

We plan to commemorate events for the next years with additional sets. A whole roomful (with storage) would be a lifetime investment in their development. Those blocks, with minimal care, will last longer than that.

For our home, we have much larger cardboard blocks for a different experience for them. We're also making sure there's enough of those too.

Oddly, one of my enduring memories of my own block play is that there were never enough to quite finish what I wanted to do, to come to that sense of completion.

Then, again, blocks can be pricey and we didn't have a whole lot.

A few quickly broken plastic electronic toys would cover the cost of a good long lasting set of blocks. With as many of the electronic variety that are purchased today, a roomful of blocks may be easily accomplished!

Active baby, passive toys. Not active toys, passive child! (bless the influence of Magda Gerber and others, like you.)

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Sarah Dowland said...

John, I have 13 nieces and nephews. At my parents house, there are many blocks for them to play with. It is true how you said that any age can play with blocks because it allows for creativity. I find myself enjoying them, as much, if not more than my nieces and nephews. Cameron is 12 years old and thought he was "too cool" to play with the blocks he played with back when he was younger, until one of us adults showed him that he can make even cooler things now. I have always enjoyed blocks...they are so simple, yet fun!
-Sarah Dowland
T&L 2330

At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

melinda h 5170
I totally agree with this blog about blocks. Playing with blocks serves multiple purposes as stated. I think that children who have access to blocks and other manipulatives can think outside the box more than those children who do not have those manipulative tools in their lives. PLUS, playing with blocks not only exercises the mind, but it can help with fine motor skills that are irreplacable in physical development.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love building blocks and I think that they are the best thing that I have ever bought for my daughter. I agree also that it is great to leave the play open-ended. She got her blocks on her first birthday, and even now that she is almost 2 they are still her favorite toy (she even asks me to get them out), I am really excited that you see them as a good investment.

At 11:30 PM, Blogger MLL said...

Hi John, I hope your enjoying your Spring Break.

To add my voice, I agree that “block time” and its versatility is key to building the foundation in early childhood education. The social interactions in my classroom while playing with various forms of blocks are just as important as academic learning that takes place. I can tell that when my students are busily building with their hands that they naturally socialize with others. These natural conversations sometime have arguments; however, this is their time to resolve these issues with their words. I am amazed how my students use the small and big blocks to create fantasy play. I would agree that blocks are versatile; the same student over a course of several weeks can make a road, castle, tower, bridge or even make different shapes. Blocks are to young children like an academically rigorous kindergarten is to laying the foundations for closing the achievement gap, one block at a time.

Mindy L. 2230

At 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was hoping to read the comments and find out what kind of blocks they are in the picture here!?! I checked the link (discount school supply), but I didn't find anything that looks like the picture. I'd really like to know...something different and interesting to add to my class block collection.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I teach 3 year olds and had the opportunity to work for a few days in the Pre-K room. You are right, they are using the same blocks since they were toddlers, but the skills that clearly develop over the span of a couple of years is amazing! The structures being built by the Pre-K class were astounding.
Kelly C.

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My grandson at 12 still loves building with blocks. He started at the age of 2 and was inspired by the castle that falls down in The Jungle Book video. He realized that there were pillars that held up larger pieces so he created simular castles and then would hold the area where one of the pillars existed and would always ask me what would happen if he let go. Of course the whole building would fall. He still likes to make huge creations with his blocks, as well as video game levels using "Jenga" blocks. Some day he wants to create video games!


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