The Value of Block Play in Early Childhood

Posted by JancettNurseries on August 18, 2017



In this blog, we’ll explore why block play is so valuable in early childhood development. From toddlers to pre-schoolers, the block unit is not only fun to play with, but can encourage the development of cognitive, intellectual, physical, social-emotional and language skills in young children. 



Why the basic block?


For many years now the block has been a feature in nursery and pre-school classrooms including our own Jancett Day Nurseries, and early childhood educators such as our childcare practitioners recognise the value of block play for the children in their care.


The National Association for the Education of Young Children identifies key things children can learn from block play...and this is just the tip of the iceberg. (Do read the full article which lists all the benefits under each of the skills areas. It is a fascinating read!)





Let's explore a few of them....


- Science


Science is introduced through block play as children start making predictions, comparisons, experiment with cause and effect, stability and balance.


- Language Skills

Block play can help children learn sequence and language skills and add to their vocabulary as they discuss what they are building and what the blocks represent. They learn to name colours and shapes. 


- Mathematics

Blocks encourage children to count, match, sort, group, add and subtract. Concepts of length, measurement, comparison, estimation, symmetry and balance are all explored when using the blocks. 


- Problem Solving

Children can develop problem solving skills when, for instance, they build a tower and it collapses. They can review why their tower failed and to try and find a new way to rebuild it so it doesn't fall. 


- Geometry



Through block play children begin to encounter and explore 3-dimensional objects such as cones, cylinders, cubes and prisms. 




Throughout the years


Block play adapts to the stages of a child's growth and enhances learning at different age groups. 


- Sensory Play - Toddlers


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Clayton Early Learning explains how block play benefits toddlers: “When toddlers are first introduced to blocks they may learn how to hold on to them, how they feel, how heavy they are, they explore the bright colours, and begin to carry them around.”


Blocks can help toddlers with their strength as they reach for, lift, move and build the blocks. This can strengthen their fingers, hands, and arms as well as help with their hand-eye coordination.


Sound – the noise the blocks make when they fall or bang together.


Touch – The sensation of the block in their hands, the different shape and corners of the blocks and texture of the smooth wood.


Height and Width – children learn about height and width when they watch a tower or bridge grow in front of them or when they experience the blocks fall and spread around them.


Self-Confidence - at this age toddlers feel a sense of accomplishment when they learn how to stack the blocks.  



- Imaginative and Creative Play - 2 to 3-year olds


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Block play encourages imaginative and creative play, especially in two to three-year olds. “A three-year-old usually plays alone or near other children and are beginning to engage in pretend play. They are starting to build enclosures that resemble zoos, farm pens, roads and castles. They are learning concepts such as sorting, ordering, counting, one to one correspondence, size and shape.”

- Social Interaction - 4 to 5-year olds


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Within the four to five-year olds age group, block play is more open-ended and exploratory and encourages children to cooperate and share when they are working together with the blocks. On their website, Community Playthings suggests it can develop character: “Block play provides experiences that foster emotional and social development as children work together in a respectful and cooperative way. They share a sense of joy in their communal accomplishments. While solving structural challenges, they learn to concentrate while gaining mastery in the arts of persistence, patience, and overcoming frustration. Children also have many opportunities to be rewarded with the sense of pride and satisfaction that come as they develop confidence and competency. They come to understand that their friends may have different perspectives on “construction” and they learn cooperation and tolerance along the way.” 



Photo credit:


The Block Corner - preparation is key


Early Childhood News explains how organising the blocks again after each block play session helps children the next time they visit the Block Corner: “Always categorise blocks neatly when putting them away. Place them with the long side in view to make their size readily apparent. Never dump them in a bin or tub. Children will have difficulty finding the needed sizes when blocks are not stored in an orderly manner. They will simply scatter blocks unnecessarily if you store them in a bin or in any disorganised manner.” 




In a world where computers and screens are now a normal part of early childhood learning, the block corner is a physical space children can fully immerse themselves in to learn. We're sure you’ll agree there is so much more to the basic block than perhaps meets the eye and that this explains why block play has stood the test of time and is so valuable in nursery and pre-school. 


All websites and articles sourced and quoted from are linked directly above.


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