Throughout the early years of a child’s life, play can have an enormous impact on the learning and development that child experiences. Although play may seem more fun than anything else, children are learning and developing all of the skills they will need to have in order to function as adults. As a child moves through the stages of being a baby, to infancy and the toddler years, different types of learning take place, and so different toys are the subject of their attraction.
One toy that seems to remain in fairly constant are construction toys, mainly because they offer open-ended play opportunities for kids. They are able to use a wide variety of skills to build, design, create and imagine, on top of tuning their fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
And, no matter what type of technological developments are made, tried, tested and true building clocks and construction toys remain a staple for most kids. Here are some of the ways that these toys can help in child development:
Building blocks aren’t really anything until you make them into something, and the possibilities are endless. Because they are so simple in design, they don’t necessarily assign themselves as ‘being’ anything, so a child is free to make them into whatever they want.
Thinking Skills and Problem-Solving Skills
Unlike other toys that have a single outcome or solution, construction toys have endless outcomes. Sometimes the creation a child is putting together just doesn’t work, so problem-solving skills are called upon to help figure out what to do to make it work. And, as they build, they will need to make adjustments to account for their growing structure. They’ll learn through trial and error the best methods to use to build what they want.
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Blocks in a variety of shapes and sizes give children a chance to think spatially as to whether two pieces will fit together, and how to build what they want without having it collapse. Spatial reasoning begins to develop when a child can start to make connections between the assembly of individual pieces in a certain way, in order to create the final product.
Construction toys are inherently wonderful learning tools for math and science concepts, including counting, comparison, shapes and combining geometric shapes. Even something as simple as a block tower tumbling over can open their minds to mechanics, balance and gravity.
Blocks are also a great way to visually show a child concepts of addition, where two smaller blocks can be put together to equal the size of a larger block. One of the organizations leading the charge in the learning and development of children is the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which helps promote high-quality early learning for young children, and helps to connect early childhood practice, policy and research.
Gross and Fine Motor Skills
These physical skills are developed as a child moves around, sitting, standing and stretching to put together their creation. And the actual act of putting each piece together helps to develop the small muscles in their hands and fingers, helping to tune their fine motor skills. As these skills develop, a child will find it much easier to do these tasks, perhaps then being able to build more elaborate creations or use smaller, harder to assemble blocks.
Hand-Eye Coordination and Dexterity
As they learn that they are in control of their hands, fingers and the rest of their bodies, children will start to enhance their hand-eye coordination. Making a connection between touch and sight means they are learning they can reach out and physically touch or grab something. Then, as they assemble blocks into a structure, they gain the knowledge that the creation is coming together because of the movements they are in control of.
Communication and Co-operative Play
If children are playing together with these toys, it’s nearly impossible to build anything without working together, communicating and sharing. Communication is key because it helps all of the children building understand how they are contributing to the final structure. If they all decide to build different parts of the same structure without communication, it’s highly unlikely that structure will stay standing for very long.
The Changes In Modern Toys
Of course, the toys that children are playing with these days will feel radically different to the ones from your youth. This is thanks in part to the rapid rise of the internet as a whole, and the technology that grew with it. This means that there are now toys that we wouldn’t have thought possible even a decade ago.
One such example is the programming toy. These toys are designed to help children create their own computer programs. With programming beginning to be taught in schools, these toys can actually give your child a leg up. They often focus on creating paths for a small toy, such as a computer controlled ‘mouse’ looking for his ‘cheese’. It’s amazing how much children can pick up from these toys when they’re still very young.
There’s also educational toys and internet content that help children through their early years at school. There are many sites online that have devised books and games that help your child learn, without realizing it. These sites grow with your child too, with services such as Top Canadian Writers and UK Top Writers helping older children with their studies.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every technological toy should be trusted. There has been a wave of WiFi connected toys, especially dolls, that ‘listen’ to children and talk back to them. There have been concerns about what kind of data they store about children, and what companies are doing with that information. In fact, Germany has banned one such toy, the internet enabled ‘Cayla’ doll, over fears for privacy.
As with all toys, you’ll see that you have to be vigilant and investigate the toys you give your children. Look at what educational value it has to offer your child, and don’t forget to think about how much fun it will be for them to play with. The best toys are those that spark imaginative play, while educating children at the same time. You can find sites that advise on the ability of toys to aid child development, so don’t be afraid to do your research.
No matter what types of toys are created throughout the years, construction toys remain one of the most popular and best all-around learning toys available to kids.