Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Playing with Blocks: 10 New Ideas for You to Try with your Toddler

Most children do a very good job of discovering fun uses for their blocks and toys on their own. However, sometimes it can help if they have a parent around who can give them a few ideas for playing with their toys. Sometimes those ideas can take an old, dusty toy and fill it full of new life.

This is hard for me to do as a parent because I have to admit that I didn't spend a lot of time playing with blocks as a child. When I first brought home a set of unit blocks for Marcus, he looked at me expectantly like he was wondering, "What do we do with these?" And I remember thinking the same thing! What did we do with these? Obviously we could stack them. And yes...apparently it is very funny to throw them inside the house. But what was else?

So, for those of you like me who could use some ideas on a few fun games to incorporate more block play with your young toddlers, this list is for you!

Age Appropriateness:
Most young toddlers (around the ages of 1-2 years old) are not going to be into building large complex structures. Mostly they will be into transferring, gripping, stacking, and lining up their blocks. So, here are some fun games/ideas for you to try with your child next time you are playing with blocks. Many of these ideas could very easily be incorporated with your child's favorite books.

Required Reading for Mom:
The Benefits of Playing with Blocks
Stages of Block Play
(See Also Setting up a Block Center in your Home)

IDEA #1: Block Dump Truck
Materials Needed:
- Dump Truck
- Large container full of small Small Cube Blocks

Put a dump truck next to a can of small cube blocks. Encourage the child to fill the dump truck full of blocks and push it around the room. Most kids will enjoy loading and dumping the trucks loads of blocks over and over again.

IDEA #2: Building a Road
Materials Needed:
- Unit Blocks
- Small Cars

Start to put some blocks in a row. Experiment with both curved and straight blocks. Drive the car on the road made of blocks and see if your child will copy you. (Again, never force this. Allow them to play with the cars and blocks in their own way.)

IDEA #3: Building a Ramp
Materials Needed:
- Unit Blocks
- Small Cars
- Long board

Process: Build a low and sturdy ramp. Have fun rolling the cars down the ramp.

IDEA #4: Nesting Blocks
Materials Needed:
- Nesting Blocks

Bring out a set of nesting blocks. (For very young children, only start out with a 3-4 so they don't get overwhelmed.) Let the child take them apart and then show him how to turn them over and stack them. Talk about how the larger ones need to go on the bottom in order to build a sturdy tower.

Marcus learns about "big and little" playing with his nesting blocks.

IDEA #5: Make a Train
Materials Needed:
- Medium Sized Cubed Blocks

Show the child how to line up several blocks in a row and then push them around the room. Have fun making train sounds.

Marcus's Block Train

IDEA #6: People on a Bus
Materials Needed:
- Large Cardboard Blocks
- Large Wheel (a Paper Plate or Frisby works well)

Line up several large cardboard blocks in a row. Then, pretend that the row of blocks is a large bus. Siblings and mom and dad can sit on the back blocks to be the passengers. The person sitting on the front block can steer the bus using the wheel. Have fun singing The Wheels on the Bus go round and round.

IDEA # 7: Building a Wall & Playing House
Materials Needed:
- Large Cardboard Blocks

Help children make an enclosed space (one block high) with the blocks. Leave a gap for the door. Use other blocks for the chairs inside the house. Have fun going in and out of the house. "Knock" on the door and ask "Is anybody home?" and "Can I come in?" before entering the house. Read the story of the three little pigs. Reenact the story using the house that you just built.

Sophia in her "House"

IDEA #8: Building a Bridge

Materials Needed:
- Most any type of blocks (Unit Blocks, Bristle Blocks, Duplos, Mega Blocks, or Large Cardboard Blocks)

Process: Build a small bridge using three blocks. See if the child will try to copy them.

Marcus looking though his giant bridge

IDEA #9: Feelie Bag
Materials Needed:
- Small Table Blocks
- Bag

Place two different block shapes inside a bag. (Choose two that would be easy to tell apart such as a circle and a square.) Ask the child to reach in the bag and find the square.

IDEA #10: Build a zoo
Materials Needed:
- Small Zoo Animals
- Blocks

Bring out some small zoo animals. Use the blocks to build fences for different animals giving them a place to live. Then, visit a zoo or read a book about the zoo.

EXTRA CREDIT IDEA #11: Block Idea Book
OK, OK, I know. I said I was going to list 1o ideas for block play, not 11. But, this one is more an idea for the moms.
-3 Ring Binder with sheet protectors...or a fancy schmancy professionally printed book (like the ones available from shutterfly)

Process: Create a "Block Idea Book" for you child and keep it in their block area. The book will be a wonderful keepsake for you, and will also inspire hours and hours of playing as the child gets older.

To do this, keep a camera near your child's block area at all times. When you find them doing something especially creative with the blocks, snatch a picture for their book. Put the picture in one of the pages of the binder. OR...you can upload the pictures and create a nice, hardbound book to keep near your block area.


Wes & Rachel said...

You always have great ideas, Cathy! I especially love the extra-credit idea to take photos and keep them for the kids to look at again later. What a great sense of accomplishment and pride they feel from seeing their work and seeing how important it is! Thanks for the ideas!

Raising a Happy Child said...

Great post - I also sometimes wonder what to do with blocks. I just wish that I took more pictures of our completed block projects for that bonus activity :)


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