Building blocks provide hours of creative play for preschoolers.

The Importance of Block Play for Preschool Children

by Erica Loop

You walk into your preschooler's classroom to see her stealthily building a block skyscraper. If you think that this is all fun and games, think again. Block play is an important part of the preschool child's learning and development, helping her to build fine motor skills and even start on the road to mathematic discovery.

Multiple Uses for Multiple Ages

Blocks aren't just for 3-, 4- or 5-year-olds. Blocks are an important staple in the preschool classroom that doesn't have to change just because the children are getting older. The newly-turned 3-year-old may use blocks in a more sensory-inspired way, making a smooth line-like surface or creating a ridgey road. The older preschooler may take a more complex approach and use blocks to build a tower, create an imaginary zoo for toy animals or experiment with different designs and patterns. Kids of multiple ages using blocks in multiple ways means that these time-tested toys are a fixture in the pre-K classroom that the children can go back to year after year.

Social Development

Blocks may not seem like the most social of play things, but when it comes to preschoolers, these simple structures can actually encourage group interactions. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, preschoolers are learning how to cooperate and develop friendships. Your preschooler can work with his friends, hopefully constructively, to create block cities or larger group block structures. This type of block play allows young children to gain valuable social skills and work together, problem solve, listen to other people's opinions and resolve conflicts.

Motor Development

During the preschool years, your child is developing new fine -- or hand and finger -- motor skills that will lead to her drawing pictures, printing letters and doing her own daily tasks such as dressing herself and zipping her jacket. Blocks can help pad this type of development by providing the opportunity to use eye-hand coordination and dexterity. As your little learner picks up blocks, stacks them, takes them apart and then rebuilds them into new and different structures, she isn't just building towers. These seemingly easy actions -- at least to an adult -- are also building muscle control and important fine motor abilities.

Imagination and Pretend Play

The bare nature of the block lends itself to pure imagination and creativity-based activities. Using plain wooden, rubber or plastic blocks in the pre-K classroom -- or at home with your preschooler -- can help your child to use his imagination and engage in pretend play. As an open-ended toy, there is no real right answer when it comes to building with blocks. Your preschooler can create almost anything that his mind can dream up with blocks, flexing his imagination muscle. From a straightforward skyscraper to pretending that the blocks are cars on a raceway and trains on the line, blocks are ideal for helping preschoolers to think out of the box.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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