Melissa and Doug toys have become known for not just quality, but for their educational value. With wooden block toys as diverse as trains and cooking sets, however, it’s easy to forget the value of one of their first and most popular toy sets: building blocks.
Building blocks are a valuable toy at any age, though materials can vary. Younger children should only use soft building blocks for safety. Around fifteen months or so, though, most toddlers are ready to graduate to sturdier building blocks.
There are many reasons to encourage your child to play with building blocks. One of the best is that building blocks encourage social play, which teaches children how to interact with people, and the world in general. Good examples of social play with building blocks include: getting children to build block towers in teams, using alphabet or numbered blocks to build verbal social skills (what’s this number? etc.), hiding blocks for a group scavenger hunt, block bowling (use a soft ball to minimize damage), and imagination activities (such as building a house and peopling it with other toys).
A good way to get your child started with building blocks is to encourage them to build a tower. Divide the blocks then let children take turns placing them. Let the children decide how to divide the blocks--encourage them to communicate. Suggest each pick blocks based on their favorite color, and ask questions. Soon, the children will be asking questions of their own.
Games that involve a lot of noise and action--such as block bowling--are another great way to get children talking. Help children set up the blocks together, then, instead of “conventional” bowling, have them try and knock down all the blocks together. Similarly, scavenger hunts help children work together and build social skills. Hunting for blocks around the house or garden not only helps children work together, it also helps them communicate about working together--you search the couch while I search under the big chair. This sort of team work is the basis of early social interaction.
Whether you use building blocks from Melissa and Doug or any other brand, the educational benefits are great. The give-and-take inherent in using building blocks as a group is an important part of social interaction, and one that should be emphasized in all kinds of play. The language skills involved in group building play--can I have the blue one?--are also an invaluable part of childhood social development.
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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about building blocks. Click here to download our free Melissa and Doug guidebook filled with tips, ideas and information.
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