It was raining this afternoon so out came the blocks. I love watching Joshua building things, and sat back to observe how his skills have developed in the last few months.
Unit blocks are wonderful. They help a child learn in so many different ways and most educators agree as to the many benefits that unit blocks have on development, here are just a few things:
Block play can provide an ideal situation to solve problems and to cooperate in a group (if in a larger situation). Sharing and trading different blocks and joining up structures are a great way to foster cooperation. Sharing ideas for how to build different structures can also share knowledge between older children which is a great way for children to learn to respect a viewpoint that is different to their own (and not coming from an adult). There are social benefits if an adult is involved too, the same concepts can be applied.
Stacking and building, fitting blocks together all exercise strength in hands and fingers and increase hand-eye coordination.
This assists in developing the vocabulary as a child describes the block, size, position. Child can experiment with how blocks fit together and gravity, balance and geometry. Blocks also give a child a chance to create representations of their experiences in a concrete form. It promotes an understanding of concepts that are essential to logical thinking, such as size, shape, order, number, area, length, patterns and weight.
Child is encouraged to build and design their structures. Blocks can be used as a part of pretend play such as building a railway track and running little trains across it or make little landscapes for little figurines to play in.
Montessori supports the use of unit blocks as a part of a child’s curriculum. The open-ended nature of blocks allows for all of the above points to be fulfilled. I was pleased to read what Montessori had to say about the fulfillment for the need for movement in a child and how this exercises the mind:
This system, in which a child is constantly moving objects with his hands and actively exercising his sense, also takes into account a child’s special aptitude for mathematics.
If men had only used speech to communicate their thought, if their wisdom had been expressed in words aloe, no traces would remain of the past generations. It is thanks to the hand, the companion of the mind, that civilization has arisen. The hand has been the organ of this great gift that we inherit.
– Maria Montessori
So where is Joshua at with his block building development?
There are different stages of block play. Joshua is in the discovery stage at the moment, he is piling up his blocks, making roads and learning how these fit together.
Fine motor skills have improved. Joshua can balance things on top of each other and is judging when something seems like it will not stay up and will take it off quickly before it falls over.
Gross motor skills are also improving. Hefting a few blocks at a time now to his work space and back again. I observed Joshua trying to lift a part of the structures he was building.
Joshua seems to be expressing his imagination now. He is putting things in different places and seeing if it looks “good” to him and is not afraid to take something down and change it if it does not meeting his vision. I see him assessing the “goodness” of his placement of blocks and moving them around if he doesn’t feel it should be there. He also seems to be making the stretch to try and build things not just upwards but out sideways.
Unit blocks are cut specifically to fit together in different patterns and ways. Joshua has worked out the lengths that fit together and spent time fitting rectangular posts and cylinders under a “floor” of part of his building – cognitive development.
As Joshua loves his unit blocks so much we have invested in some different unit blocks which will be available after Christmas for him to use. It will be wonderful to see what he does with them, watch this space for updates. I would also love to take this a little further and find out more about the blocks themselves so that I can name them properly for Joshua. Joshua’s Daddy has been showing him different building techniques and building alongside him but I would love to show him different pictures of different architectural structures to give Joshua his own ideas and really start to set his imagination free.
I recently read a wonderful post by Racheous – Lovable Learning. Rachel referenced a wonderful diagram on the benefits of unit block play in early education and her experiences with her children. I would have loved to have gone with Joshua to the exhibit they attended.