at home ideas
at home BUILDING adventures
Blocks and objects that stack or fit into one another are classic examples of open ended play materials that scaffold learning. Creativity is supported as children invent and reinvent endless building variations. From making and knocking down simple stacks, to figuring out how to build a row, to building structures that satisfy imaginative play, these simple materials provide opportunities for problem solving, planning, concept development, as well as whole body, gross and fine motor work.
- Soft blocks: Fabric or foam blocks are a good starting place with an infant. Sit with the baby and model stacking the blocks. Choose blocks a small enough size that your baby can grasp a hold of – softer blocks are also easier for young infants to get a good grip on. Sponges can be used as a soft block variation. Square sponges can be stacked and rearranged. Be sure to choose good sturdy, solid sponges that will hold together as the baby handles and mouths them.
- Kitchen blocks: Plastic storage containers are another practical building “toy.” Give your baby a set of containers that fit inside of one another--perfect for building a stacking tower. With the lids, your baby can easily stack one on top of the other. Without the lids, your child can also explore making the containers fit inside one another. Comment on your child’s activity. Use “comparison” words such as “bigger,” and “smaller” as well as prepositions such as “on”, “under”, “in.”
- Small boxes: Use old cardboard gift boxes or jewelry boxes for block play. Try putting some weight in a few to provide variations in weight. (You can fill a few with baby- safe items like rice or sand – just tape them securely closed to prevent spilling.) Providing “blocks” of different sizes and weights will challenge your baby both physically and cognitively.
- Medium Boxes: Tissue boxes, shoe boxes, cereal boxes and other medium size boxes also work well for both stacking and pushing. Tape the lids on to create “solid” blocks. The variation of box size and shape make for interesting construction options. Aim for more solid and heavier boxes.
- Big Boxes: For gross motor work, set out some big soft blocks (throw pillows can work, too!) for the baby to play with. Young babies enjoy realizing they can push these big objects across the floor or even lift them up. Children enjoy lifting , stacking and moving these “giants” around the room. It gives them a real sense of accomplishment. Toddlers, especially, want to show themselves and you what they are capable of. These types of big building explorations can also be done with furniture cushions or larger cardboard boxes.
- Wooden blocks: Smaller wooden blocks are also appealing to toddlers, encourage independent play, work well on a table or the floor and exercise your child’s fine motor skills and concept learning (bigger, taller, next to, etc.). Building and construction play, in general, also provides opportunities for the child to explore, set goals, and maintain focus and concentration—important skills for accomplishing a wide range of tasks both in and out of school.