If you watch your child(ren) play for any period of time it’s obvious that fun is being had, creative juices are flowing and, if there is more than one child playing, cooperation is at work.
But what value is gained by playing? What value is there to playing at all? Scientists have studied this idea and came up with some pretty interesting conclusions. Besides emotional and developmental benefits, several educational benefits can be gained from play.
Educational benefits include…
- providing a meaningful context for children to learn concepts and skills;
- making learning fun and enjoyable;
- encouraging children to explore and discover together and on their own;
- allowing children to extend what they are learning;
- encouraging children to experiment and take risks;
- providing opportunities for collaborative learning with adults and peers;
- allowing for the practice of skills.
So, we know playing is valuable for kids. In fact, it’s considered by many to be the most important
activity in the development of children.
The same could be said about playing with toy blocks (LEGO®, MegaBlock, etc.). There are a ton of benefits to playing with blocks.
1) It Builds Creativity
I know a lot of a child’s interaction with blocks comes from putting them together according to the instructions. This is a great way to for a child to start gathering ideas and building techniques that can later be used when a build is created in their imagination. There is nothing wrong with building a specific build according to the instructions. Later on, as the child gathers more pieces and more ideas, they are ready to start embarking on the task of creating builds they thought up themselves.
Also, getting them involved in building challenges or trying to capture their interest in another area is a great way to pique their interest in building. For example, a Harry Potter fan who has a collectible wand set can build display racks for those wands out of LEGO® bricks.
2) Develops fine motor skills
Let’s face it. It’s not always easy to get those little bricks to go together the way you want. Just watch any building instruction or class video and I’ll eventually have trouble at one point or another – and some of those pieces are really tiny! They either fall out of my fingers and go skittering across my desk or my adult fingers cannot get a couple of tiny pieces together. Building with these pieces helps kids (and apparently adults, too) develop their fine motor skills, which is important for all children, but especially important for those who are having challenges with writing or other fine motor skills.
3) It plays off a child’s strengths.
Your child plays with bricks for a reason, right? What child would play with a toy they didn’t love? Chances are your child has strong building skills and playing with bricks not only supports those skills, but strengthens them, too. Exposing them to new ideas or builds that other people built have made can help get the creative juices flowing in your own child, prompting them to build something they’ve never created before.
4) It can help build confidence.
I know a lot of kids who had no interest in building with bricks, but do an about-face really fast when they see their siblings building and having fun with LEGO® bricks. A lot of these kids didn’t have an interest in building because they thought they were no good at it – or that they weren’t as good as their brother or sister. There are no performance standards in the world of building with bricks. There are no grades. No judges. Just you, your imagination, a set of fingers (preferably yours) and a bunch of bricks. These kids find out really quickly that, not only are they better than they thought, it’s fun.
5) It helps problem-solving skills.
I tell the kids to improvise, improvise, improvise – and I mean it. Not all of the children have all the pieces on the supply list for a given class and that’s ok. For me, building with bricks is not about having all the pieces so that the build goes together perfectly, it’s about gathering at a starting point and branching out in different directions. I see it every class, one child doesn’t have the right bricks to build a sloped room so they build a flat one instead. Another child has shorter slope bricks so he/she has to think of a way to create a roof using those bricks instead. These are fantastic learning opportunities for them! It engages their minds to think of a path from where they are stuck to where they want to get to (the end point of their build).