Sometimes the simplest activity is the most effective.
Child development scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. found that playing with simple building blocks can help children learn the basic principles of math and science.
“When children are figuring out how to put blocks together they really have to estimate and calculate the relative size of things and the number of things they need, and so it’s a very concrete math experience,” said Jim Elicker, a child development scientists at Purdue.
While playing with the blocks, children use their imaginations to design and build their projects while getting hands-on experience with measuring, counting, organizing and problem solving.
Tricia Tort, a mother whose son plays with blocks said, “Sometimes he might just start stacking some very small blocks together and they tumble pretty quickly. So then he learns that he’s got to start with… a stronger foundation.”
Playing with smaller blocks help kids develop fine motor skills, like improving movements in their fingers; larger blocks help them understand structure and stability.
“There were benefits in terms of their understanding of basic physics concepts having to do with gravity and balance,” said Elicker.
And parents benefit too.
“You know as an adult sometimes it’s nice to focus on a simple activity, and it's fun, of course, to play with your child,” said Tort.
A simple tried and true pastime goes a long way toward expanding young minds.
Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV. She has produced over 600 video news segments on science, technology, engineering and math in the past 13 years for Inside Science TV and its predecessor, Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science.
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James Elicker, Purdue University