My daughter was gifted her first set of wooden blocks when she was just over a year old. Watching her play with these blocks has been fascinating – she has taught herself to build towers, sort colours and use the blocks as imaginary objects way before she turned two. It’s amazing to see how creative such a little mind can be when something so simple is placed in front of them.
So what are the benefits of wooden blocks?
1. It encourages creativity & imaginative play
Wooden blocks invite open-ended play where children can use their imaginations to do anything from building towers and bridges, sorting colours (if they are coloured blocks of course) or using these blocks in ways only they can imagine. Brooklyn has put blocks in a bowl and offered it to us as “food”, planted them in the garden as “flowers” and placed them in her shopping trolley as “groceries” to name but a few.
2. It develops communication skills
While playing with wooden blocks, children are exposed to new experiences which naturally encourages communication and further discussion. As young as she was, Brooklyn would look at me with wonder in her eyes when she builds a tower and say “LOOK MOMMY!”. I used to respond and say “WOW! Look at your high tower” and before I knew it she associated the words. She then started using the words “tower” and “high” in the correct context.
3. It teaches them to express emotions
As Brooklyn played with her wooden blocks, we had the opportunity to experience her in all her emotions. She was excited when we fetched the blocks, frustrated when a block was stuck in the box, happy when she built a high tower or deliberately knocked it over, disappointed when the tower fell down, proud when the tower stayed up and sad and angry when we had to pack up the blocks because it’s bed time. This has offered us an opportunity to explain these emotions to her and today she identifies her emotions with much more ease.
4. It encourages independent play
With wooden blocks, children are able to entertain themselves for long periods of time with minimal interaction from adults. Brooklyn would play independently as her mind runs wild with ideas while I just watch her from across the room. I often sit and play with her, but most of the time she is content with playing alone. This in turn enhances self-esteem, imagination and concentration skills.
According to Play Based Parenting, independent play allows children down time, or time out, to relax their mind. The ability to regulate emotions improves during this time – when a child is overwhelmed or over-stimulated from too many people or toys or sounds, they can’t regulate their emotions and they become highly reactive.
5. It boosts self-esteem
While playing with wooden blocks, children discover that they can take risks. Its intriguing to watch Brooklyn place yet another block on a tower that looks like it is about to topple over. When the tower stays up, she is so proud. We often praise her for building new things like a house or a rocket which in turn makes her so proud that she can come up with her own ideas.
6. It encourages problem-solving
Playing with wooden blocks teaches children first hand about what works and what doesn’t. Brooklyn, for example, would build a tower and place a triangular block on it, only to realise that another square block won’t balance on top of it. She would then remove the triangular block and replace it with a square block and only place this triangular block right on top when she is done.
7. It teaches basic mathematics and science skills
Wooden blocks come in different shapes and sizes, allowing children to compare big and small, explore sequences and measuring height. In addition they learn concepts like gravity and reasoning. As Brooklyn played with the blocks more, she started to distinguish between “big” and “small”. She also started sorting colours by building the towers individually in the various different colours – this is fascinating to watch. This develops the much needed skills for her future school career.
8. It promotes physical development
While playing with wooden blocks, children lift, reach and move their bodies which naturally strengthens their little muscles. Hand-eye coordination is also developed through judgement and depth perception.
9. It develops social skills
When Brooklyn plays with her wooden blocks, we would often join in and, in doing so, she has learned to share her space with us and allow us to be involved in the activity. When Blake was finally sitting, we would give the blocks to both girls to play together – there is definitely a positive change in Brooklyn who was, at first, very reluctant to share her toys. Now she would offer the blocks to her sister and help her build a tower.
10. It encourages early learning & listening skills
We build Blake (currently 7 months) towers with the blocks, hold her arms and count to three where after we let her knock it over. By using anticipatory phrases like “1,2,3”, it teaches your child to wait and listen during an activity. It also teaches cause and effect with the resultant falling of the blocks after knocking it down deliberately.
Wooden blocks have been around for ages and judging by all the benefits it will be here to stay. I have personally witnessed the positive development in Brooklyn and would highly recommend that parents introduce wooden blocks from an early age.