Blocks are as important today as they were a century ago. As essential tools children use in their play, blocks also perform a vital role in a child's development. We have assembled simple block activities for toddlers and preschoolers that supports their play and development.
Block Play And Child Development
The link between block play and child development is undeniable. In a previous post, we discussed the value of block play in your child's early years. Through block play, children build skills in social-emotional, physical (fine and gross motor), language, creative, and cognitive development domains. The benefits of kids playing with blocks are priceless. Read our detailed post on the benefits of block play.
Children Playing With Blocks
We want to be clear that open-ended and unstructured play is still a critical part of block play. Kids need free time to build and develop their imagination and creativity. So, be flexible. Start with a plan, but let your children take the lead. Keep it fun and let them be imaginative!
H. Jackson Brown said, "Give children toys that are powered by their imagination, not by batteries."
What's important is keeping a balance between child-led play and adult-guided activities. This interaction builds cooperation between children and adults while encouraging adults to play. At first, you will want to keep things simple based on the stages of block play. As their skills develop, you can add more complex activities. For example, using regular blocks in surprising new ways or using unusual items as blocks for building. Turn routine block play into enhanced experiences.
Our youngsters learn best leading their own play with hands-on activities. Therefore, what better way to build their skills than to provide fun and interactive block play activities. Kids love blocks! So, let's look at some simple block activities for toddlers and preschoolers you can incorporate in your child's play.
To get you started, here are a few activities to engage your children during block play.
Block Activities For Toddlers
Block play for toddlers is usually simple. Typically, a 2-year-old can build a 4+ block tower while a 3-year-old may build a 6+ tower. Keep these general milestones in mind when planning your block activities for toddlers.
Block Sorting and Matching Activities
You can find sorting and matching block activities for toddlers in the blog post, "When do Kids Learn Colors?"
Have each person build their own block tower. Then use different types of balls (i.e., tennis, soccer, bouncy, Wiffle) to knock them down. First, stand close, and as it gets easier, move further back. In good weather, this could also be played outside with giant building blocks.
Block Counting And Stacking
Create sheets of paper with numbers using 0-9. One number per page. If you want to use them over and over again, laminating will protect them. You could also use floor tiles with numbers written on them. Next, have your child start creating corresponding towers. 0 blocks go on the 0; a 1-block tower goes on the 1, a 2-block tower goes on the 2, and so on. Younger toddlers may only be able to complete up to 4 or 5 towers. Use the number of sheets to match your child's skill level.
Block Tower Build-Off
Here is a twist on a classic. Take turns with your child and create different types of towers. For example, instead of the tallest tower, why not try creating one using the largest number of blocks. Or how about the most exciting or creative tower? This activity stretches your kid's imagination and creativity.
Roll A Block Tower
This is an exciting game to play with your toddlers and preschoolers to strengthen their counting and fine motor skills. Start with some snap-together blocks like the Building Toys for Toddlers - Plus Plus® BIG and a die. The goal is to see who can build the tallest tower before the blocks run out.
Taking turns, players roll the die, then stack the same number of blocks on their tower. When all the blocks are gone, the winner is the one with the tallest tower. While the idea is to stack them on top of the other, your child may choose to be creative and go wide and tall. Remember, it is not about the "right" way, but instead that they are using their fine motor skills and counting. Looking for more ways to build fine motor coordination? Check out our post on 25+ Fun And Helpful Fine Motor Activities For Preschoolers and toddlers.
Block Floor Puzzles
Using painters' tape (please test it first before putting it on your floor), mark off a square or rectangle on your floor. Usually, about one to two feet works well, but it really depends on how many blocks you have to fill it in and your time frame. Then let the kids fill in the square with their blocks. They may want to stack them as well, which is fine until they run out of blocks. At which point, you can suggest they go back and use those to complete filling in the square.
Block Activities for Preschoolers
As your preschoolers' skills increase, their block play will become more complex. Now is an excellent time to begin adding block center materials for more imaginative play. Explore this post on "Making The Best Block Play Area" for block props ideas found around the house for free or purchased inexpensively. Use your imagination when planning your block play activities for preschoolers.
Building Blocks Maze
Using blocks and other props from your block play area have your child create a maze on the floor. The complexity will vary by age. Using a short wide straw and lightweight balls (i.e., ping pong, pom-poms, or other hollow lightweight plastic balls) have your child blow them through the maze. It is also fun to push cars through the maze using their hands (not the straw).
Block Obstacle Course
Here is an adaptation on the above maze for toy vehicles or balls. Create an obstacle course using blocks and other items found around the house. Things that work well and add interest like cardboard tubes for tunnels and cookie sheets make fantastic ramps.
By including magnetic blocks like Tegu Blocks, they can create obstructions on the sloping ramp that will stay in place. Really a lot of fun to watch the cars or balls bounce off the obstacles on their way down the ramp!
Fill In Block Shapes
Take 5 or 10 square blocks and create the block shapes. Create different patterns with the blocks on a sheet of paper and trace each one creating an open design. Next, give your child either the 5 or 10 blocks you used and ask them if they know how to fit them into the shape. You can create several layouts for variety, increasing the number of blocks as your child becomes more proficient.
Kids love to measure things! One fun way to get them involved is to have them stack blocks to measure the height of a table or a chair. They could use them end to end to measure a doorway or the length of a couch. Or how tall is their truck or doll? Best of all, have them measure each other or you. Lie on the floor and line up blocks from head to toe. Then they can count how many blocks tall they are.
For this activity, it is helpful to have pictures of rainbows available to visualize. For younger children, draft a rainbow on a large sheet of paper. Let older kids draw their own rainbow. Next, have them sort some colorful blocks by color. Then by placing the colored blocks along the matching color arc, have them build the block rainbow.
Block Play and Art
Using blocks in unusual ways models creativity for our kids. For this activity, colorful, simple shaped blocks work best. Have your child build a quick design using the blocks. Next, your child will recreate the design with paper and paint. By encouraging them to tell you what they see, you can discuss colors, shapes, and relationship vocabulary (i.e., on top, next to, under).
Shape Blocks And Picture Cards
Build some designs using the shape blocks. Create simple ones and some more complex (multiple blocks the same color, unusually stacked, or multiple layers). Now take a picture of each model and print them out in color. You can attach them to an index card for stability, and if you plan to use them over and over, lamination helps keep them in good shape.
Invite your child to build, matching the picture cards. Once they master it, you can ask them to develop their own design. Then take a picture of it and create a card with their model!
Block Picture Cards Variation
As your preschooler's building skills develop, you can create a more intricate version of the picture cards using real-life photos of famous formations—for example, the White House, Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu, or Big Ben to inspire. Simple print out pictures from the internet and display them in their block area. Have too many to view individually? Hole-punch them and tie them together like a book.
Extending Block Play
Is your child bored with building the same old things? Are they in a rut? Which, by the way, is perfectly OK.
Melanie Jean Juneau said, "Kids need time to be bored; That is how creativity is born."
However, by adding a few simple props to the block play area, you can inspire your child's building activities. Remember, these are not meant to be adult-guided activities, but rather to add a new perspective that will give kids new inspiration in their block play ideas.
Block Activity: Build A City or Town
Encourage your child to visualize their own town or city. What are some of their favorite places? Where would they build them? It is important not to stifle their creativity by too much reality but rather let their imagination soar. Here are a few props to add:
- books about cities and towns
- construction vehicles
- cars and trucks
- transportation vehicles
- block play people and pets
- traffic signs purchased or homemade
- business signs- some premade (school, library, playground, bakery, grocery store, gas station, fire station, police station, etc.); more can be made based on the child's request
- natural elements like stones, leaves and small trees for creating parks and landscape
- interlocking road or train tracks (black masking tape makes an inexpensive quick and easy alternative)
- photographs of cities, parks, and playgrounds
Block Activity: Build A Zoo
Has your child been to the zoo? Encourage them to think about that time. If they haven't been, ask them to imagine what they would see? What would be their favorite part? Adding some of the following props will help stimulate their imaginations.
- books about the zoo
- block play people
- animals of all types
- zoo and animal signs
- craft sticks make perfect fences
- fabric pieces or paper strips in blue for water
- create cold spaces by wrapping some blocks in aluminum foil
- natural elements like stones, leaves and small trees for creating animal habitats
- pictures of zoos
Block Activity: Build An Airport or Transportation Hub
Has your child ever been to an airport? Train or bus station? If so, what did they see? What was their favorite part? If not, have them picture it? Adding some of the following props will spark their creativity.
- books about airports and other transportation
- block play people
- airplanes, trains, buses, and other transportation vehicles
- cars, trucks, and construction vehicles
- repair or maintenance shops
- airport signs purchased or homemade
- interlocking road tracks (use for black masking tape to define runways)
- photos of airports, train or bus stations
Block activities for toddlers and preschoolers not only increase the benefits of block play but are a wonderful way to spend quality time with your child. Are you looking to expand your block play area? Explore our wooden building blocks, giant building blocks, blocks for toddlers, magnetic blocks, and magnetic wooden blocks for safe and creative play.