Old-Fashioned Building Blocks Can Help With Math and Other Academic Basics

Who knew that when we played with wooden building blocks as kids we were actually learning? Apparently we were; studies show that building blocks can aid in the development of various academic skills. But high-tech toys could one day make blocks obsolete. Given their apparent value, however, should every attempt be made to incorporate blocks into preschool curricula?

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The Fundamental Importance of Building Blocks

Wooden toy blocks have been around for more than 100 years. And while it might seem that playing with them is fairly mindless - build a tower and knock it down, for instance - there's apparently more at work than an observer might realize.

While it's long been understood that play time is important for children, more attention seems to be turned to the type of activities in which children engage. Yes, video games can encourage the development of motor skills and eye-hand coordination, but what of other crucial skills? Maybe not so much.

Can simple wooden blocks do what technology can't? Can building blocks actually improve things like speech and comprehension? Social skills? Math skills? Yes, yes and yes. Some experts believe that building blocks can be...well, the building blocks of basic academics.

Building a Better Student

According to research such as that conducted by pediatrician Dimitri Christakis of the University of Washington in Seattle, children who play with blocks tend to score higher on language tests. Other studies have shown these children are better at divergent problem-solving and cooperating with other kids.

Playing with blocks also allows for human interaction and has even shown for some to lead to advanced math skills during high school years!

On the other hand, Christakis' research shows that children who watch educational videos display no improvement in vocabulary. Indeed, even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should not watch TV or be allowed computer screen time due to potentially detrimental effects to development.

The March of the Wooden Blocks

Are the results of these studies being realized? In some cases, yes; schools not commonly participating in the use of blocks have begun to show interest. Some school-supply companies are even offering more in the way of wooden blocks and block-related items.

In October 2011, the nonprofit Parents League of New York hosted a building block workshop for parents to teach them about the benefits of the activity. The director of a for-profit school to open in New York City's Greenwich Village in 2012 told The New York Times recently, 'If you talk about block programs with parents these days, they just light up.'

And why wouldn't they? What parent does not want opportunities for their children to be more socially and academically prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead as they grow and begin school? If something as simple as wooden blocks can give them an advantage, then by all means every child should have the chance to get their hands on them.

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