Photo by Mary Tsao
The following post is written by Steady Mom's monthly contributor, Melitsa.
Blocks- you either love them or are totally indifferent to them.
Whether they are scattered around your house or piled in a dusty corner of the playroom, these are one of the most versatile play objects you can have in your home.
Myths about blocks I have had to work through:
- All children magically know how to play with blocks for hours. Therefore if mine stacks two and then pitches the rest at the dog, I should give up.
- Alphabet blocks are the best blocks.
- Multicolored blocks are better than wooden or one colored blocks.
- Those 100 piece block packs are a cost effective solution.
- Blocks are for babies.
My children didn't magically play with blocks. I knew children that did play with blocks. I soon noted that it was the parent who actively played with the child building blocks and talking about it with the child that led to block play.
We can stack together, separately, in sets of two- whatever we want to do, that fits our mood. We can also knock down and pitch them pretty accurately.
Most importantly, I shouldn't give up because my child has limited interest in blocks. Sometimes we need to warm up to something. We have to be interested in it to try it.
We were given a set of alphabet blocks and while they are lovely blocks- do we really need alphabet letters on the side for the babies and toddlers? The temptation for me was to say "Here's the A block, Let's put that on the B block."
I felt that colour was enough knowledge and language. You may disagree. However we ran into the next problem, multicolored blocks.
Brighter is better for babies and toddlers right? Not for ours and many others. They had sensory overload with all those different colours. As they get older these multicoloured blocks are great for sorting but as beginner blocks they didn't work well for us.
We bought a 100 piece block pack without paying much attention to the size. It was on sale . The blocks arrived were too small for little hands to control. We couldn't control that many smaller pieces either as they rolled away and were scattered around the house.
Also they were multicoloured so assaulted all our eyes. Even worse, there were never enough of any shape to build anything with. Does a baby/toddler really need to be building with cylinders, semi circles, cuboids and blocks? As they move through the toddler to preschool years, this larger variety would be more appropriate.
Very quickly we realized there is more to buying blocks. Blocks are not just for babies.
With our pooled block purchases and gifts we learned five things about blocks:
- Simplify- Limit the amount of shapes for the little ones. Cubes are the best.
- Quantity- Have a large amount of this one shape. We tried to keep more than 20 available.
- Sensory- Keep the colour as simple as possible. They don't really need all the colours of the rainbow in blocks. Save that for as they get older.
- Quality- Consider buying or making a wooden set for your first child. This child and the others will love them dearly. They may even become an heirloom. Also the cost is much easier to absorb.
- Variety- Have different sets for different occassions and purpose. Building blocks, touching blocks, blocks for shaking, and so on.
Through these experiences my family learned to enjoy block playing. The kids are much more self-directed and I don't need to be there instigating or facilitating, unless I want to.
**What have you learnt about blocks? Do you love them? Or find them difficult to manage? I'd love to hear about your block experiences in the comments.**
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Melitsa is raising three full of fun boys in various countries, as a military wife and mother. She writes at her blog, Play Activities, and also hosts a weekly podcast, Raising Playful Tots, dedicated to making the most of playtime.