Playing with Melissa and Doug Building Blocks Develops Social Skills

By: Kanooga

Building blocks are known for being one of the most popular play toys. Almost everyone can remember playing with them as a child. But they are not so well known for their educational value. In addition to promoting physical and cognitive development, blocks can be an invaluable part of childhood social and language skills development. This article explains specific ways that block play promotes social and language skills.

Building blocks encourage development of social skills by promoting increased interaction among playmates. Playmates include peers as well as adult playmates. The give-and-take inherent in using blocks as a group is an important part of social interaction, and one that should be emphasized in all kinds of play. Block play puts kids in a situation where they are motivated to communicate and negotiate with other kids to resolve important issues such as who gets which blocks. How many do you get and how many do I get? I want the blue ones!

As kids begin building a new structure with blocks, each child has a different idea about what they want to build. Their different ideas must eventually be reconciled as the block structure begins to take shape, differently from the way they had envisioned it. Kids must establish rules and boundaries to determine who gets to have their way and who must compromise. Social hierarchy begins to emerge and relationships are more clearly defined. Block play provides a catalyst for kids to define social relationships. In the process, they develop their own social identities and important skills of negotiation and communication.

Blocks offer additional language skill building in the form of alphabet blocks, where each block displays a different alphabet letter. Alphabet blocks provide a fun way to introduce kids to the alphabet, as well as introductory phonics sounds, which are themselves considered as the building blocks for successful reading skills.

As parents and teachers participate in kids play time, blocks stimulate increased interaction and communication between kids and adults. Kids share their ideas, ask questions, and test the limits of established boundaries, all of which helps kids define these important relationships.

Here are some creative ideas for using building blocks to encourage increased social interaction. Each of the activities listed below works best with two or more, and are ideal for child-child play and child-parent play. Resources for these activities are readily available from block manufacturers like Melissa and Doug, as well as many other brands.

• Get children to build block towers in teams, using alphabet or numbered blocks to build verbal social skills (what’s this number? etc.)

• Hide the blocks then send groups of kids on a scavenger hunt

• Block bowling using a soft ball to minimize the damage

• Imagination activities such as building a house and populating it with other toys

Building blocks are a valuable toy at any age, though materials can vary. Blocks are available in just about every possible material including wooden, plastic, plush, cardboard and foam materials. Plush blocks are the ideal starting point for babies and toddlers for safety reasons. Around fifteen months or so, most toddlers are ready to graduate to sturdier building blocks.
Wooden blocks, such as those from Melissa and Doug, are generally easier for kids to stack because they maintain even smooth-cut surfaces while plastic and foam tend to develop slightly uneven surfaces. Wood blocks are also safer because the wood is well-finished and hard to break into pieces, meaning less likelihood of a child breaking the block and swallowing pieces.

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Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about popular toys and toy brands like Melissa and Doug. Click here to download a free Toy Information Guidebook loaded with ideas for parents, helpful tips about popular play toys including articles about building blocks and many other toys.

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