Has block play become a thing of the past? Many parents now provide tech entertainment such as tablet computers and video game systems for their growing preschool children. With overuse of high tech entertainment the question arises as to whether or not creativity, cognitive enhancement, and find motor development become hampered. These three factors are invaluable to proper early childhood development. A typical method of encouraging the development is the usage of toy blocks and block play. Other potential benefits of block play include language development, which was especially shown in toddlers, in which the language development is integral to cognitive development.
The creativity factor is the primary area of focus when it comes to playing with toy blocks. A famous example of such would the Lego brand of toy block. Lego blocks have been proven to stimulate learning, as seen on April 22nd 2013, when Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, owner of the Lego Group, funded a developing Lego international school. The International School of Billund in Denmark is to open August 2013 and set where the Lego Group is based, with an emphasis on creativity. Many a prospective parent did show much support, as the school will teach children how to think and be creative at the same time. The Lego Group also is researching into child development for use in the international school. Even the autism spectrum gets creativity stimulation from the Lego blocks. Between six and ten years old, the autistic children were observed with enhanced creativity. The goal was to enhance adaptive behavior in autism as well as develop creativity, which is a challenge for many autistics. With children of many types, autistic or not, building blocks have been proven to encourage and stimulate creativity development.
Another benefit is that block play may enhance cognitive abilities. Dr. Meghan Barlow, a child psychologist with the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital supports the idea, quoted, “Play is the work of children. That is what they are supposed to do. When you can turn off the TV and electronics and just allow them to play, they’re really developing their own creativity and their own skills. They’re also developing patience and tolerance.” Dr. Barlow adds that younger children focus on the fundamental concepts. The older a child becomes, the more they focus on creativity and imagination. Dr. Barlow also discourages overreliance on technology, as technology would not, “directly translate into a smarter child.” Barlow asserts her claim with, “Certainly these are tools that you can use and be helpful but they’re not essential to a child’s development or progress in school.” In addition, Barlow adds that the more interactivity, the better the brain activity and development. Block play has also been observed to develop strategies for planning, thinking, and even problem solving by the Queensland Studies Authority. The case study showed how blocks were used in a classroom environment. The children in the class generally didn’t attend classes that would prepare them, as well as having little or no experience with using blocks in a classroom context.
FINE MOTOR SKILLS/DEVELOPMENT
The fine motor skills represent one of the most important stages in a child’s development. It has been inferred that usage of toy blocks would enhance fine motor skills. This has been observed in that spatial skills, hand-eye coordination, and other motor skills have been developed as well as enhanced. In one experimental study, researchers ran the spatial skills subtest of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) to a group of preschoolers. Next, researchers presented the preschoolers with blocks and tinker toys. Kids in the treatment group got training in how to use these toys and were encouraged to build. After six weeks, the preschoolers were tested again. Preschoolers in the treatment group showed significant improvement. Those in the control group showed no change. Preschoolers who scored better on the spatial skills subtest of the WPPSI showed more interest in block play, and were more skillful at reproducing complex block models. The fine motor skills involved in the tests helped the preschoolers efficiently use the toy blocks to build while they were integrated with spatial skills and awareness. It is also recommended for children to play with blocks and other construction toys according to Dr. Carl Gabbard and Luis Rodrigues of Earlychildhood News, a professional resource for teachers and parents. Toy blocks, among other methods, were listed as a recommended activity for early childhood brain and motor development.
Authorities on early childhood have recommended the usage of active play with construction toys. Blocks are one of the most common forms of construction toy, if not the most common. An overreliance on technology as the only means of play does not promote well rounded developmental experience. There are multiple benefits from the usage of toy blocks, most of which are especially cognitive in nature. Young children playing with toy blocks are more likely to develop stronger fine motor skills, thinking skills, and creativity.
Science Daily, 10-07-2007, Block-Play May Improve Language Development in Toddlers
The Guardian, 4-22-2013, “Lego school promises the building blocks to successful learning”
Psych Central, 12-2-2010, “Legos Help Autistic Kids Develop Creativity”
WKYC, 11-4-2011, Experts: Legos can help child’s brain develop
Queensland Studies Authority, 2006, Using Blocks: Scaffolding children’s block play to develop their strategies for planning, thinking, problem solving, cooperating, reflecting, and presenting
Parenting Science, 11-2012, Toy blocks and construction toys: A guide for the science-minded parent
Earlychildhood News, acquired 6-6-2013, Optimizing Early Brain and Motor Development Through Movement