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Building with blocks is more than child’s play; it’s a gateway to promoting a huge range of different developmental skills.
What may look like simple play and exploration as kids stack and create with blocks, what’s really happening is much more complex and can have a profound impact on a child’s growth and development.
We use lots of different block sets during our developmental play groups, during occupational therapy and physical therapy sessions, and during co-treatment sessions with OT, PT, and SLP. Why? Because they’re a simple tool that can be used in many different ways to create awesome therapy activities for kids and to promote nearly every developmental skill you can think of.
Skills Developed Through Block Play
Fine Motor Skills and Visual Motor Skills:
Manipulating and stacking blocks enhances fine motor control and coordination. Kids have to have precision in their grasping skills and control of how they release the blocks to create a tower or other block design. Their eyes need to be coordinated with the movements of their hands so they don’t knock their tower over! Building with blocks is also one of our favorite hand strengthening activities for kids because there are tons of awesome building blocks sets (e.g. LEGO and magnetic blocks) that work those hand muscles.
Gross Motor Skills and Sensory Processing:
Carrying and placing larger/heavier blocks is great for working on upper extremity strength, core strength, and balance activities for kids. You can also use blocks to make all kinds of gross motor creations – a balance beam, obstacles to weave in and out of, obstacles to jump over! Or – add this to your heavy work activities for kids – try filling up a basket or bin with large, heavy blocks for a child to push and slide around the room! Check out some of our favorite Gross Motor Activities Using Blocks.
Add building with blocks to your list of emotional regulation activities for kids. Block play is perfect for working on coping skills (how do I react when my block tower falls down?), social skills (can we work together to build a tower?), and emotional regulation (what can I do or say when my friend knocks my tower down?)
Spatial Awareness and Problem-Solving:
Block play fosters an understanding of spatial relationships and encourages reasoning skills that are important for success in math. Figuring out how to balance, stack, and fit blocks together promotes problem-solving skills. Moving between block designs and being careful not to knock them over takes a lot of body awareness.
As children play with different types of blocks, from classic wooden blocks to magnetic and interlocking varieties, they are not just constructing towers; they are constructing the foundations of essential life skills.
Creative Ideas for Block Play
Usually, building with blocks comes naturally to kids and their creativity immediately takes hold. But sometimes, it can be fun to pair blocks with other fun manipulatives and objects to spark some imaginative fun! Here are some of our favorite ideas:
- Pair blocks with play dough – Kids can use blocks as stamps to push into the dough to make different shapes. Or they can use the play dough as “cement” to stick their blocks together as they build!
- Pair block sets with other toys like action figures, cars, and animals – Kids can build zoos for their animals, cities for their cars to drive through, and more!
- Pair building blocks with scarves and playsilks – Help kids wrap up or hide the blocks like “presents”
- Pair blocks with gross motor equipment – Kids can carry blocks across the beam/through the tunnel/up the stairs)
- Pair building blocks with HEXBUGS to create mazes for them to run through!
- Pair magnetic blocks with marbles to create your own marble run!
- Create a hand strengthening activity with blocks and velcro!
- Have kids create a pattern as they pretend to stack “presents” using these free printable block building templates.
The Best Block Sets
Open Square Blocks
These flexible silicone blocks are perfect for pairing with other toys like action figures and toy animals because kids love putting objects inside of them! You can stack them up to create a house with lots of openings for all of their favorite little toys!
Large Foam Blocks
Let’s face it. Sometimes kids throw blocks. These lightweight foam blocks are the perfect option to avoid injuries if you have a particularly rowdy crowd!
Small Foam Blocks
And here’s a small foam building blocks set for table top block play. These are a great option to throw into your therapy bag!
Tegu Magnetic Blocks
This might just be the best building blocks set we’ve ever seen. These wooden magnetic blocks are beautiful and kids love building with them!
Large Cardboard Blocks
This is definitely one of our most-used block sets at The Treehouse. The kids could seriously build for hours with these and we pair them with almost every one of our play group themes! They build zoos for animals, buildings for superheroes to fly through, and cities for cars and vehicles to drive through!
Versatile Wooden Block Set
This gorgeous wood block set is actually a lot more than just a block set. It comes with a shape sorter, blocks with holes to string like beads, mini wooden people, and blocks in lots of shapes and sizes!
Magnetic blocks from Amazon
If you’re looking for a plastic magnetic block set option- this one is a top-seller on our Amazon storefront! See them in action here!
Clear Colored Blocks
This wooden block set has a special twist – clear, colorful windows built into each block!
How pretty is this clear acrylic building blocks set? They almost look like gemstones! Kids will love building one-of-a-kind creations with these!
If you’re looking for a classic block play option, Magnatiles are always a hit!
Another beautiful and unique block set for kids who like to think outside the box!
We love LEGO! And our favorite sets are these LEGO Junior building sets – great for younger kids or anyone who doesn’t have the patience and time for a larger, more complex build! Side note – have you seen the LEGO Builder App? This is one of the coolest things ever if you have a LEGO lover! It scans the bricks you have available and then shows you different designs you can build with the blocks you have on hand!
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