Here’s a piece from the NYT about kids and competition referencing Alfie Kohn: http://goo.gl/6LKnL
One of the best investments we can make in a child’s education and playful enjoyment is the purchase of blocks of all kinds. Blocks are the quintessential educational toy. Block play provides hours of fun for children as well as enhancing the development of basic skills.
The best blocks for learning are unit blocks, which come in several sizes that are matched so that putting two smaller blocks together will be the same size as one larger block. Unit blocks can be evenly stacked in many different arrangements, and they allow children to compare sizes. When children pick a block to fill a space, they are learning about the meaning of “half” and “whole” as well as area and length. Blocks also encourage children to count, match, sort, group, and add and subtract. As a child is building she is experimenting with gravity, balance, and geometric shapes. Parents may help children learn by introducing math and science terms as they explore playing with blocks. Children learn these ideas much more quickly when they are dealing with how to actually balance the blocks or how many blocks they need to support a bridge they are building.
Block play helps children develop physically. Children develop both large and fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination when they play with blocks. These skills, especially the fine motor skills, help improve children’s writing.
Playing with blocks can lead to improved reading as well as writing skills. Keeping clipboards with pencils, markers, and plenty of paper near the blocks encourages children to make signs for their block buildings, learning how to connect sounds to letters. Children may want to draw a blueprint of their design so that they can recreate it at another time. Whenever possible, let children keep their block buildings standing and give them time to play again later. Coming back to their block structures and analyzing what they want to change enhances creativity and problem solving skills.
Children learn social and emotional skills as they share their block play with other children and parents. They learn to cooperate in building together. Adding toy people, cars, and trucks to the blocks helps children move from simple building to creating imaginative miniature worlds. Through this play, children learn about their social worlds by acting out life with little people figures. They make sense of what they see adults do and they explore ideas they learned in books. Children also have a safe way to explore emotions like anger and fear by acting them out in pretend worlds.
Parents may enrich their child’s language skills and reinforce basic educational concepts by talking about blocks as they play. Next time you and your child play with blocks talk about the shapes of the blocks: squares, rectangles, triangles, cylinders. Talk about the position of the blocks: on top of, through, underneath. Count the blocks and talk about the idea of more than and less than. Talk about the blocks the child decided to use: “You used two kinds of blocks for your building– squares and triangles.” Talk about how a child has arranged the blocks: “You made a space for the cars to go under the blocks.” Talk about the number of blocks used: “You made a long road. Let’s count how many blocks you used. One, two, three. . . .” Talk about balancing: “Is it going to stay balanced when you take your hand away?” Rather than trying to guess what the child is building, say, “Tell me about what you made.” Ask questions. “How do the people get to the building?”
You are never too old to play with blocks and have fun learning about your child’s block world. Happy Block Playing!
-Betty Wood, OCP Director
Welcome to “From the Nest,” our community blog about all things OCP. Look here for news about happenings at school, in our community, reflections on helping preschoolers learn and grow, suggestions for family activities in the area and at home, and everything in between. We hope this space comes to reflect the many diverse voices that make up our cooperative, that it provides insight, food for thought, and with any luck, a few smiles. Welcome!