How can something as simple as just a few blocks keep children engaged for hours at a time?
I recently watched as a younger child played with wooden blocks. The fun started when he tipped them out of the box they were in. The banging and clashing as they tumbled past each other and then hitting the ground instantly captured his attention. His face was lit up with joy.
As I sat back and watched him more, he began stacking the square and rectangular blocks upward. He may have stacked them five or six blocks high before they would unbalance and crash down. The tumbling sound was different than when he first emptied them out of the box. He was excited about the mess he created and then began to restack them – again only getting a few high before they crashed to the ground. I then noticed that an adult went to him and helped him stack them higher. With the adult guiding him, the tower rose quickly. This time, they were stacked 10 or 12 blocks high and the crash was even louder. The little boy loved what he was creating.
I always notice that towers are the first things that children build with project blocks. They like the challenge as they work out gravity and balance. Then they might start to arrange them to make fortresses, castles and vehicles. As children develop more, they tend to want to create structures rather than just make noises with them. This reflects their growth as their imagination craves a new challenge each time.
Children working together to make structures can be very rewarding as they begin to learn and become more familiar with new ideas. They will learn valuable social skills such as negotiation, language, expressions of emotion and gain a sense of well-being. With a shuffle of a few blocks, castles can become ships and ships become road trains. The play space can easily evolve and children’s imaginations cause shifts in the stories they are creating.
Working in the early childhood industry, it is easy to tell which children are left to play using their imagination and which children are played with all the time. I recall one child who was not able to be left to draw or play in the sand as she found it was not stimulating enough. The girl required attention from the carer all the time. I was told this girl had an abundance of toys at home which allowed for closed play. These toys serve only one purpose and limited the child’s imagination to that purpose. Once the child had mastered the toy, its useful life had expired and she needed a new toy to keep her stimulated.
On the flip side, I also remember a young boy who would happily play with limited resources. I suspect he didn’t have many ‘commercialised’ toys at home and he was able to make many things out of the same objects. A simple stick he found under a tree started as a fishing rod, then transformed into a hiking aid, and then to a sword. The boy’s imagination allowed for the impossible to happen.
This level of imaginative play is a vital part of children’s growth as it forms the foundations for their ability to learn and create. In Albert Einstein’s words – “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world”.
So, why will wooden project blocks keep children engaged for hours at a time? Quite simply, it allows them to use their imagination…
Boab Toys stock a fantastic range of wooden blocks and other imagination inspiring toys. You can visit their webpage by clicking here.