What’s the most popular toy at your house? Our is definitely blocks. My four year old son Jack builds with blocks everyday, many times a day. He’ll build bridges and houses and whole cities.
It wasn’t always this way though. For almost a year the blocks sat in a basket ignored, in favour of any and all other toys. I really loved blocks though and wanted so much for Jack to love them too. I loved the potential of blocks; the open-ended play, the problem-solving, the design and creativity, the potential for deep imaginative play.
Then one day Jack asked where Daddy worked,
Daddy works in an office building.
What’s an office building?
Here was my opportunity. Would you like to build one with some blocks? YES!
Jack’s buildings were very basic at first, just a few blocks stacked on top of each other but he was so interested in office buildings that he built and built. This was the key. He now had an interest and a material which helped him explore that interest more deeply.
From then on more little opportunities presented themselves for Jack to build with blocks; a building in a story, a building we passed in the car, ‘Let’s build that with blocks when we get home’ I would say which eventually turned into ‘Hey Mummy, can I build that with blocks?’
Over the next few months I was so happy to see Jack seeking out blocks. Over the next two years, Jack’s love of blocks has continued to grow.
Throughout that time there have been a few quite deliberate things we have done to encourage and develop Jack’s block play:
- Set-up an inviting area for blocks
- Offered loose materials (based on his current interests) to incorporate into his play
- Asked Jack about his buildings and sculptures ‘What is this here?’ to encourage him to think more about his designs
- If he is having difficulty building something, I ask him to draw his ideas. This helps him to explain his thoughts and relieves some frustrations
- Provide beautiful materials to entice
- Provide a space for his buildings and sculptures to remain untouched over a number of days for Jack to return to and build upon
Through blocks Jack is expressing his creativity, he’s learning to problem-solve and manage frustrations and he’s learning important concepts of balance, symmetry and design; all the things I had hoped for while the blocks sat ignored in a corner those years ago.
Do your children like to build with blocks? How do you encourage their interest and play?