Benefits of Playing With Building Blocks

Posted by Debra Carmona on 26 June 2015 | Add a Comment

Wood Building Blocks

The Foundation of Childhood Development

DIY Wood Building Blocks TutorialWood blocks have been a favorite toy for children for centuries and one of the best toys for developing creativity in children. Wood building blocks aid development in a variety of basic skills for young children. Playtime with building blocks are fundamental to the growth of childhood development from infants to teens for both girls and boys.

 

Children of any age can enjoy hours of creative fun with building blocks. Block play can also be especially beneficial for a special needs child.  Even a blind child can enjoy the sensory opportunity to play with different shaped blocks. Building blocks offer years of play value with: sorting, ordering, counting, classifying, sequencing, stacking, grouping, building

 

Set of Homemade Building Blocks
 An assortment of sizes, shapes and colors

DIY Make Your Own Building Blocks

You can make your own building blocks from scrap wood left over from other projects or buy new wood as you can afford. Pine is a soft wood, easy to work with, and not expensive. Oak is a hardwood and a bit more pricey. Pine blocks will acquire dents and scratches over time whereas the oak will resist dents and scratches. Each wood has it’s own unique smell offering another sensory element to block playing. Cedar has a very aromatic fragrance. The quality of the wood is not going to matter to a child. So even the poorest parent can afford to give their children the very best toys.

 


 

 

 

Video Tutorial

on How to

Build Your Own

Wood

Building Blocks

 


 

Gradient Block Set

This block set has a different color on each side painted in varying shades of each color. Example: one side has all orange but they range from pure orange to the very lightest orange. To create the values add a little white paint to the orange before painting the next block. Repeat until all the blocks have a value of orange on one of their sides. Rearrange the order of the blocks before painting another side with a different color. There are six sides to a cube so choose six main colors. Try not to choose colors that are too close to another color for eample teal is in the green family so it might not be wise to use both teal and green.

 

 

 

Tutorial video

on how to paint

the gradient blocks

(Video still in

production. Will

be posted soon)

 

Lessons to be learned from Gradient Blocks

My daughter is an artist like myself so when I was making blocks for her son I wanted to incorporate the basic principles of colors. This set of blocks will enable her to teach her son about the differences in values of colors which are necessary when creating three dimensional drawing and paintings.

  • Color recognition and identification
  • Sort by colors: orange, blue, brown, teal, purple, black ect.
  • Arange by values: from the darkest color to the lightest color

Gradient Blocks Set Gradient Blocks Set
Orange Gradient Blocks Set
Orange Gradient Blocks Set
Gradient Blocks Set Gradient Blocks Set
Teal Gradient Blocks Set They can be arranged in a line
Gradient Blocks Set Gradient Blocks Set
First they must find all the purple sides Purple Gradient Blocks Set
Gradient Blocks Set Gradient Blocks Set
Blue Gradient Blocks Set Brown Gradient Blocks Set

Of course the above blocks can also be used as a building material combined with the other blocks in their collection. The gradient values can also be stacked by value. The small 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" square blocks are the perfect baby size blocks for infants to hold.

 


 

Playing With Building Blocks Develop Children's Mind, Body, and Soul

Child playing with Blocks Child playing with Blocks
 Baby Building Blocks
Blocks to grow on

Physical Development:

Playing with blocks improves hand and eye coordination, builds strength in a child’s fingers and hands, help them learn about balance and gravity, helps them build coordination. Block play develops fine and large muscle control and of motor skills such as lifting, stacking, and balancing.  Wood blocks have their own smell so most of the senses are involved in playing with wooden building blocks: sight, sound, touch, and smell. Young children try to taste them so you may want to avoid toxic paints or unsafe sealants. By handling as well as seeing they can distinguish the different shapes, sizes, and colors.

Child playing with Blocks
 My grandson opening his gift of blocks

 

Social Development:

Playing with blocks encourages children to make friends and cooperate. Because building blocks encourage creativity, interaction and imagination they help with social play. It can also be a great parent-child activity. Daddy builds a tower and the very young child has the joy of knocking it over. As the child grows he can learn to build his own structures and feel the satisfaction of his creation or play with his friends learning cooperation. As children play with blocks they tend to group and regroup during play. That interaction leads to cooperation in ideas, construction, and problem solving. They learn to create, bouncing ideas off one another and thinking for themselves, thus fulfilling the ultimate goal of education.

 

Mother and Child playing with Blocks Child playing with Blocks
 Picking up is also an activity
 Adults or older children can encourage play

Intellectual Development:

Playing with building blocks can broaden their vocabulary as they learn the words “fill,” “dump,” “pick up,” “stack,”  “balance,” “tall,” “short,” “in,” “out” and as they grow a little older they learn spatial relationships such as “top of,” “bottom,” “under,” “over,” “off,” “beside,” “through,” etc. It helps to have parents or older children play with the young child to show him what he can do while using words to describe the activity.

Domino Dots for Counting Numerical Wooden Blocks
 Dots for Counting arranged like Dominoes
Numerical Wooden Blocks

The current research shows that block play is fundamental for later cognitive success for learning math and numbers. As the child grows older his math skills are developed through the process of grouping, counting, adding, and subtracting. Experiences with gravity, balance, and geometry learned from wooden blocks also provide intellectual stimulation as well. Those lessons learned from constructing structures lead to the fundamentals of basic enginering.

Children who play with blocks when they are three, four and fives years of age will do better in math, especially Algebra in middle school.

In a research study, “Block Play Performance among Preschoolers as a Predictor of Later School Achievement in Mathematics”, published in the Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education, the researchers proved that children who play with blocks when they are three, four and fives years of age will do better in math, especially Algebra in middle school.


 

Colorful Geometric Block Set

Colorful Geometric Blocks
Freshly painted Geometric Blocks drying on waxed paper

Young children are naturaly attracted to bright colors so I wanted to have some blocks painted. I chose both the primary colors and the secondary colors to cover the basics as well as nuetral colors of white and black. Since we already had squares with the gradient blocks above I chose to make triangles and rectangles for these. Later, I will add some circles. To make the triangles I cut squares in half. It was interesting to observe that a four year old upon seeing the triangles immediately placed two triangles together to form a small square.  Four triangls arranged can form a large square. So fractions could be taught using bocks.

Primary Colored Blocks
Primary Colored Blocks

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. From these three colors all other colors can be made. To make an even square I added the green. Many nurseries will use these four colors to add colorful excitement to a pre-school or kindergarten classroom. Many people are so familiar with seeing these four colors together that they think green is also a primary color but it is not. Green is a secondary color composed of blue and yellow.

Blue and Yellow Makes Green Blue and Red Makes Purple
 Blue and Yellow makes Green
Blue and Red makes Purple
Red and Yellow Makes Orange Secondary Colors
Red and Yellow Makes Orange Secondary colors: Purple, Orange, Green
Nuetral Colored Blocks
Nuetral colors: White and Black

Lessons to Teach From Colored Geometric Blocks

  • Color recognition and identification of colors
  • Shape recognition and identification (Geometric shapes)
  • Color Theories: Primary Colors, Secondary Colors, Mixing Colors, Colors Vs. Nuetral Colors
  • Fractions: 1/4, 1/2, etc.
  • Patterns: using the different shapes
  • Grouping: by shape, or by color

 


Set of Homemade Building Blocks
There is no right or wrong way to build with blocks

Creative Development:

Children develop their creative stimulation by constructing the wooden blocks in numerous arrangements and structures. There is no wrong way to build with wooden building blocks so it makes for a positive learning experience.  A sence of accomplishment and satisfaction can be derived when they successfully stack a pile of blocks or build a towering structure, or something that resembles something the child has seen in real life or from picture books such as a castle or a church. They can arrange, stack, or build in countless ways.

 

Block Play Offers a Vast Range of Experiences

The play quality of building blocks progresses as the child grows and discovers and applies the things learned. An assortment of blocks of various shapes, sizes, and colors exposes the child to likenesses and differences of shapes, counting, sizes, and amounts.

 

Colored Geometric BlocksCOLORS:

Color theory: primary colors, secondary colors, mixing colors, neutral colors, warm colors, cool colors, color identification, gradation of colors, sorting colors

 

Numerical Wooden BlocksNUMBERS:

Counting: count the dots, order the dots, order the numbers, number recognition, adding, subtracting, fractions

 

Numerical Wooden BlocksSHAPES:

Identification of shapes: triangles, square, rectangle, cube, cylinders, circles

 

SORTING or GROUPING:

Calssifying: by color, by size, by shape, by type of block, by number, by number of sides, number of corners,

 

PATTERNS:

Create patterns by: color, shapes, or sizes,

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Create patterns, design a variety of structures. Understanding symetry, balance, gravity

 

CLEAN UP:

Cleaning up is also a life skill. Children should be taught to clean up and put away their toys. Find ways to turn clean up time into a play activity as well to make it enjoyable. A song I used to sing with my children as we picked up the toys, "Clean up, Clean up, Everybody every where, Clean up, Clean up." Yes, I would help them a little bit to show them this is a teamwork job.

 

Building block play time builds coordination, stimulates creativity, develops planning skills, expands their imagination, promotes problem sloving, builds self confidence

 

Child playing with Blocks
 Just handling blocks is beneficial for very young children to develop muscle control

Infants:

The very young child can enjoy smelling, looking, touching, picking up, holding, putting them in their mouth, moving them, carrying them around, banging them together (making a sound thus hearing), putting them in or out of a storage box or basket, and even throwing them. Infants are not likely to use blocks for construction but they are a sensory toy for the very young child. Infants playing with small blocks they can get their  tiny hands around can help them develop good muscle control. You do not want any block small enough to swallow.

 

2 & 3 Year Old Toddlers:

Add to the activities of infants (above) toddlers can begin to start building simple structures, they will observe how they feel, how heavy they are. They can explore the sound the blocks make when they fall or are banged together. They can enjoy filling, and dumping, stacking, and knocking down the blocks. At this age they mostly make rows, either horizontal on the floor or verticle. They may lay them side by side and start sorting by size, shape, or color. Block playing can help the toddler develop self confidence when stacking blocks successfully giving them a sense of accomplishment. Three year olds may start bridging blocks together with a space between them connected by a third block. At this age they begin pretend playing. They may start to build enclosures that resemble zoos, farms, roads, and castles.

 

Block play stimulates learning in all domains of development, intellectual, physical, and social-emotional and language.

 

4 & 5 Year Olds Pre-Schoolers:

Pre schoolers can build more complex structures because they are more experienced, developed, balanced, coordinated, and organized.  They can discover patterns, identify colors, shapes, or sizes. They may start arranging the blocks in patterns with symmetry. They can start counting and begin to learn number recognition. They may use block accessories such as cars, people, or animals to engage in imaginary pretend play. They are learning more complex patterns, classifying, sequencing, counting, fractions, and problem solving.  As they discover the forces of gravity, compression, and tension between materials and successful design to achieve balance, stability, and even aesthetic sensibility, they learn basic understanding of structural engineering.  Science is also being learned through block play as children make predictions, comparisons, experimenting with cause and effect, stability and balance. By age five their structures will begin to resemble actual structures the children may remember from real life or from picture story books. At age five they have a strong impulse for role playing around their structures.

 

School aged Children:

Even school aged children can enjoy playing with blocks up to the teen years. Of course their structures will be much more complex. By periodically added different types of blocks to their orginal set you can encourge new ideas and more playtime with the blocks.

 


Puzzle Blocks Are Great For The Mind

Puzzle block are great exercise for the mind. I used 12 blocks to create a puzzle by painting a scene on the face of the blocks, a different scene on the back sides, and on the two sides numbers. One side had dots arranged as you would find them on sets of dominos and the opposite side had the corresponding numerical numbers.

 


 

 

 

Video Tutorial

on how to paint

Puzzle Blocks

 

 Puzzle Block Set  Puzzle Block Set
 Painted Scene
Disassembled Puzzle Blocks
 Puzzle Block Set  Puzzle Block Set
Each block has a part of the picture Turtle Puzzle Blocks
 Puzzle Block Set  Puzzle Block Set
Disassembled Puzzle Blocks African Sunset Puzzle Blocks
 Puzzle Block Set  Puzzle Block Set
Sunset Puzzle Blocks Disassembled Puzzle Blocks

You can paint whatever scene you like on your blocks.  The second scene needs to have a different color theme on it for less confusion. If you paint an additional scene on the reverse side be sure to mix up the blocks. You do not want them to simply flip it over and the puzzle is already assembled. The idea is to challenge their brain and let them solve the puzzle themselves.

 

I have plans to make Bible Building Puzzle Blocks with larger square blocks. Each block has six sides. I will paint a Bible scene on each of the six sides. So with these blocks you can introduce your children to Bible Stories. I will post photos when I complete them.


 

Developing Critical Thinking Skills


With older children learn to ask open ended questions to help the children think, consider, and predict the possibilities, experiment with his theory, and conclude from the outcome of his actions.

Questions to Ask to Help Children Learn From Block Playing

  • What would happen if . . . ?
  • Why do you think . . . ?
  • What if we take out this block  . . . ?
  • What if I placed this block here what would happen . . . ?

 


 

Wood Sealants Wood Sealant Linseed Oil
Shellac Wood Sealant
Linseed Oil Wood Sealant

A Word About Paints, Stains and Sealants

Most people today have become aware of harmful toxins in our world so they are much more conscientious about avoiding harmful toxins that may be found in paints or sealants. You can leave the blocks all natural with no paint, stains or sealants. If you use a variety of wood types the different grains, different fragrances of the natural wood offers a sensory element in and of itself. 

Various Wood Stains Various Wood Stains
Various Wood Stains for Variety 
Various Wood Stains for Variety

When I was making blocks for my daughter's son she requested to have various wood stains and some left completly natural for a variety in colors so I wanted to seal the wood blocks. There are natural ways you can stain blocks with food coloring for example. I am just not sure how durable that is because I have not yet tried it. Plus I also wanted a seal on the painted blocks.

 

When staining wood protect your work surface from drips or spills. I always save the brown paper grocery sacks for all my painting, staining, or messy projects. I also have a special workshop where I do all my staining projects to avoid the smells in the house.

All Natural Building Blocks Set
Various Wood Stains
Natural Wood Unstained
Various Wood Stains for Variety

Of course you can just leave the wood blocks all natural whatever color the natural wood is. Be sure that your blocks are sanded smooth. After you have used the finest grade sand paper (the highest number) you can also go over them one more time with steel wool for an even smoother finish. Wipe the blocks clean so there is no steel wool fibers left on the blocks. Use protective gloves when handling the steel wool.

Sanding with Steel Wool
Sealing Building Blocks
 Sanding with Steel Wool Sealing Building Blocks with Linseed Oil

Why seal the wood? Natural wood unsealed can get dirtier faster and they will not be protected if they get wet. If baby has stained hands from eating strawberries the red coloring could stain the blocks. Some wood types will swell or warp when they get wet changing the once smooth finish.  Some natural non toxic, chemical free sealants that can be used for children's toys are: Beeswax, Tung Oil, Almond Oil, Walnut Oil, Mineral Oil, Linseed Oil, or Shellac.  I chose to use Linseed Oil which is made from flax seeds. It dries slow if you buy the pure Linseed Oil. It seemd to take 2 -3  days for the linseed oil to penetrate the blocks. Do not use boiled Linseed Oil because it includes petroleum solvents and metallic drying agents that make it dry faster. I did try Shellac on the painted blocks but did not like how it yellowed the paint. The Linseed Oil will yellow slightly as well but not nearly as much as the Shellac does.  Do your own research to learn more about those products, their ingredients, and how they are made before you decide upon a sealant especially if you have a child with any type of allergies.


My Grandson with his blocksEvery home with children should have a set of wood building blocks to grow up with. A well made and well cared for set of blocks can outlast decades of children, an endearing toy that can be passed from generation to generation. Why not make a set of hand made blocks for your child or grandchild to pass along an heirloom toy that is a worthwhile keepsake.

 

If you don't have the time or tools to make your own I am willing to make a set for you. The price will depend on how many, type of wood, and what features you would like your set to have. Just contact me and tell me what type of blocks you would like based on the information on this page and I will work up an estimate of your set.

See below for Set Ideas

CONTACT ME

 

 

 

Types of Block Sets

  • Baby Blocks (Cubes 1 1/2" x 1 1/2"x 1 1/2" Sets of 9, 12, 25, 50, 100)
  • Tower Blocks (1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 3" Sets of 10, 20, 30)
  • Tall Tower Blocks (1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 5" Sets of 6, 12, 18, 20)
  • Puzzle Blocks (Cut from 2" x 3" Set of 12 blocks, one or two scenes) Numers & dots extra
  • Gradiant Blocks (Set of 8 cubes, six colors)
  • Geometric Blocks ( triangles, cubes, rectangles, circles, cylinders 4 of each) painted extra 20 blocks
  • Variety Blocks (various sizes & shapes cubes, triangles, squares, tower blocks, cylinders 4, 6, 8, 12 of each) 20 - 60 blocks
  • Painted Blocks ( any of the sets above painted a variety of colors)
  • Bible Building Blocks (puzzle blocks) not yet available

 



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