Blocks are open-ended materials that stimulate young imaginations, provide choices for discovery and invention, and promote the development of problem-solving skills. One day a block may be an airplane. The next day that same block in the hands of the same child can be a sofa for the house he is building.

Building with blocks helps develop young children’s eye-hand coordination, visual perception, and large and small motor skills. It builds self-confidence and provides opportunities for creativity and dramatic play. These things occur naturally when children play with blocks.

We also find that working with blocks often deepens children’s engagement with literature and literacy. A child may be inspired, say, to construct the three bears’ beds and chairs, a pirate boat, or an enchanted castle.

We sometimes take photographs of children’s block creations and invite the children to caption the photos. We also encourage girls and boys to make their own signs for their creations. In these activities, children are exposed to print in meaningful ways.

Inviting children to reconstruct buildings and other things they have seen on field trips is one way we encourage their thinking in relation to social studies. They work with the concepts behind maps and models, and as they build block cities, farms, and factories, they work out their own understanding of these complex sites and communities. Children also develop mathematical and scientific concepts, such as balance and gravity, as they work with blocks.

Blocks are engrossing and fun for young children, of course. They are also invaluable tools for promoting children’s development on many fronts.