What Your Child Learns by Playing with Blocks
Even the simplest set of blocks contains the seeds of imagination, creation and destruction. Your toddler will enjoy stacking a tower of blocks as high as possible and then watching what happens when she knocks them down again. This is one way toddlers develop fine motor skills and explore concepts like early math, geometry, problem solving and cause and effect. After she figures out the properties of her blocks (size, weight, shape, stability level) it won't be long before she's building cities complete with roadways and bridges.
Choosing the Right Blocks for Your Toddler
The best blocks to start with are open-ended rather than those that come in sets that must be used to construct a specific object. Large foam blocks of different shapes, sizes and colors are the safest for young toddlers who are learning to throw things. Older toddlers will enjoy a set of ordinary wooden blocks. Cardboard bricks are also always a hit and you can make these yourself. As your child grows, consider more complex sets like Duplo and Waffle Blocks, but remember that these can be limiting and frustrating as beginner sets.
Blocks can be tossed into a large container or stacked neatly on a shelf. If you have different shaped blocks, you can use a construction paper guide to help your child stack them at clean-up time. Keep cars, dolls and figures (see below) nearby and you'll have the perfect setting for your toddler to try out some role-playing.
Rules for Blocks
The large blocks of your toddler quickly grow into the Legos of your older child which quickly become a scourge on the soles of a parent's feet. The issue with blocks is that there are just so many of them, too. Still, early on, assist your child with proper clean-up and insist that blocks are put away based on your house rules - whether that rule is to clean them up before getting another toy out or that all toys must be picked up at the end of the day.
An exception to this rule, however, might be when your toddler is in the middle of an ongoing project or if she's having trouble dismantling a creation. In this case, allow her work to stand so she can continue to manipulate and admire it. Don't worry, she'll soon grow bored and move on and the blocks can be put away when she does.
You also might want to establish a rule of not allowing your toddler to stack blocks higher than her head. She might be tempted to stand on a chair to stack the blocks even higher or might be injured if heavier / sharper blocks fall onto her. Later, as she gets better at stacking and knowing how to get out of the way of falling blocks, you can relax the rule as needed.
- Discourage your toddler from throwing blocks.
- Make sure your toddler doesn't climb onto possibly unstable block structures.
- Don't discourage your child from knocking down her own creations (it's part of the learning process) but do make sure that she learns to respect the creations of others.