Friday, May 21, 2010

If you build...

There is ever delight to see a child fully absorbed in block building. Each block piece becomes endowed with possibilities. Each group of blocks begins to define worlds imbued with imagination, purpose, action, and ongoing creativity. To build is indeed motivating, giving a sense of industry and satisfaction with an intent fulfilled. Joyful and enterprising are apt descriptions.

A bit of history certainly speaks to the long established field of alphabet and building blocks. Here is a noted time line from 1693 to 2003.

1693: Alphabet Nursery Blocks were originally developed in 17th century England. The philosopher John Locke, in 1693, made the statement that "dice and playthings, with letters on them to teach children the alphabet by playing" would make learning to read a more enjoyable experience.[1]

1798: Witold Rybczynski has found that the earliest mention of building bricks for children appears in Maria and R.L. Edgeworth's Practical Education (1798). Called "rational toys," blocks were intended to teach children about gravity and physics, as well as spatial relationships that allow them to see how many different parts become a whole.[2]

1820: The first large-scale production of blocks was in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn by S. L. Hill, who patented "ornamenting wood" a patent related to painting or coloring a block surface prior to the embossing process and then adding another color after the embossing to have multi-colored blocks. [3]

1850: During the mid-nineteenth century, Henry Cole (under the pseudonym of Felix Summerly) wrote a series of children’s books. Cole's A book of stories from The Home Treasury included a box of terracotta toy blocks and, in the accompanying pamphlet "Architectural Pastime," actual blueprints.

2003: National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum, inducted ABC blocks into their collection, granting it the title of one of America's toys of national significance.[4]

History Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lots of Learning Going On

One must appreciate that a child learns best with 'hands on' activities that allow for exploration and discovery. A child is a growing, developing, unfolding, questing, being. Activities and experiences that offer physical, social, cognitive and creative benefits, most certainly are to be provided and encouraged. Block building provides for each of these named benefits.

Physical: Blocks build strength in a child’s fingers and hands. Manipulation improves judgment and dexterity and supports the development of eye-hand coordination.

Social: Block play encourages children to cooperate with their play mate(s). Interaction, imagination and creativity are encouraged and readily forthcoming.

Cognitive: The child is given an opportunity to 'live' the different shapes in a three dimensional context. Vocabulary is enhanced and developed as the child learns how to describe sizes, shapes, and positions. Math skills are developed as the child participates in counting, grouping and pairing of blocks. Principles of gravity and balance are learned as the child experiments with a building plan. Building towers provide a first hand experience on 'limits' and balancing.

Creative: The child gains a sense of power in the doing. Depending on the variety within the particular set(s) of blocks, a child needs only his/her imagination to create a myriad of arrangements.

Although there is a general association of such block building activity being suitable for a young student, I have found that teens enjoy block building and see it as an architect's first internship. Block sets are available for all ages. The possibilities of block building for learning and enjoyment are indeed real. Ready for a play date?

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