One of the most worthwhile toys I have ever bought when Raisin was young was a set of basic blocks, these ones from Melissa & Doug (affiliate link). Two sides have bright colors of letters and numbers, two sides have black-and-white outlines of letters and numbers, and the last two sides have black-and-white pictures, ostensibly to match with the various letters of the alphabet.
There are so many learning activities one can do with finding patterns among the blocks, even when a child is too young to recognize the letters! For my creative little toddler, the blocks provide plenty of time for creative play. Here a few some of the games we’ve enjoyed together. None of these are groundbreaking mew ways of playing with blocks, but all of them help parent and child interact in an enjoyable and educational way.
Matching surprise. As my daughter plays with the blocks, I will act “surprised” by the matching colors or pictures or letters I see. She will often express interest in finding another set of matches amongst the blocks. Even if her match is not really an obvious match, I try to find some way to connect the blocks. I don’t belabor the point, and I let her get back to playing, but the moment of interaction helps her recognize the patterns as she plays.
Tall Twin Towers. Together, we each build towers as high as we can go, counting the blocks as we go and adding blocks to the top at the same time. When the towers fall, we laugh and try again. Strawberry increasingly follows the counting, and let’s face it — the best part of blocks is watching them fall everywhere!
Can You Make It? For this, we select a small number of blocks (from 3 to 6) for each of us. Then, Strawberry must close her eyes while I make a mysterious structure. There is something delightful about closing eyes and anticipation that prompts Strawberry to giggle. When I’m done, I ask if she can make it. She takes her pile of blocks and gives it a try. It’s trickier than we may think to solve a small problem as simple as how to arrange the blocks. Strawberry practices logical thinking as we work together at building. The best part is that neither of us notices! She just looks forward to her turn to tell me to close my eyes while she creates!
Silly Sorts. Another way to play with the blocks is to sort the images, letters or numbers on them. We switch it up. I tell Strawberry that the tree is a food like the apple picture, or that the ice cream matches the violin because they are both animals. She laughs at mistakes and is quick to sort it correctly. For images she does not recognize, we categorize together. She likes to act out the animals, so we give them the ice cream blocks, etc. You know she has caught on to the “silly” part of the game when she categories wrong on purpose to see if we catch her!
Parallel Play. It may feel like a bother to sit on the floor and make towers and structures out of blocks when it appears that my toddler is playing happily by herself. Afterall, I have an older child to educate and floors to sweep. But parallel play is how kids are social at her age. I am pleasantly surprised to realize that, because I had made stairs steps with the blocks (for example), Strawberry now wants to take out her Little People to walk on blocks. Her playing time, and her imagination, multiplied into far more creativity because I took time to sit and play with her.
Strawberry loves one on one attention. Since Raisin is the one with the most structured learning time, she sometimes feels jealous that he gets to go school. She wants school too! Sitting and playing simple games with a basic toy of childhood should definitely be a priority for me, as her mother, as well!
Which are your favorite blocks to play with? How do you best like to play with your toddler?
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Unless otherwise noted, images on these posts are either taken by myself or are used under a no attribution required license from pixabay.com, Dollar Photo Club, depositphotos.com, or GraphicStock.com (affiliate links).