What makes a great first block set?
Choosing the right block set to introduce your child to can be overwhelming. There are so many choices on the market. We often want to introduce block sets with a wide variety of shapes or colours, without considering the level of skill that our small children may have.
The best block set to introduce your child to first is a block set with rectangle shapes, in a set that is not too big or overwhelming. If you want to invest in a large block set so that there are more blocks for later years or to share amongst other children, it can be a good idea to remove some of the blocks and put them in a small basket to present to your young child. This means they won’t be overwhelmed, and they’ll be able to focus on manipulating the blocks and trying to stack them.
Promoting Fine Motor Skills
Block play is great for promoting fine motor skills, but you do not want to jump to presenting blocks with different shapes and small angles just yet.
Fine motor skills start as “large” skills, meaning that a child will grasp things with their whole hand first, and then refine the grip so that they are just gripping with their fingertips over time. This will take years to develop, which means that block play will be quite simple to begin with, often just stacking blocks on top of each other.
These skills are important for building strength in the hands of young children, to promote the fine motor skills needed for writing in later years.
Choosing a block set that can be easily grasped in small hands and stacked up will promote and increase strength in the hand and wrist, which will help with the ability to grip and move more things as well as aid overall gross motor skills.
The size of the blocks is important, you don’t want blocks that are too small because young children won’t have the fine motor skills required to manipulate these blocks yet, they can also be a choking hazard for children that are still mouthing. You also don’t want blocks that are too big because they can be too heavy for the wrists and hands of small children.
If you want to invest in a block set that has more large pieces, it’s best to make sure that you offer the smaller sized blocks to your child first. This will encourage building and stacking with the size that is right for your child and build strength gradually. Of course, every child is different, and some children will have no problem lifting the bigger blocks even as a young 12 month old.
A common block set given to small children is one that consists only of cubes, blocks that are typically the smallest blocks in a set. While this can seem like a great option because it removes the chance that a child could overexert themselves, it also means that the child is only exposed to one size of block.
If you wanted to get a small block set for your young child, it is worth finding one that has a good mixture of sizes. This can provide early opportunities to understand recognise size differences as well as present different challenges on stacking and building the blocks.
Stacking and knocking down is important
When we think of block play as an adult we might imagine elaborate builds, with multiple layers or a complicated ball run. The truth is that small children are going to stack and knock down for quite a while, and that is important to their development! The stacking and falling (or deliberate knocking down) is all part of learning about cause and effect, as well having a sense of control over their environment. Stacking blocks and watching them fall also promotes spatial awareness, which is a huge benefit to block play that will present in many ways over the years. Spatial awareness is an important foundation for learning more complicated mathematical concepts.
With all this in mind, if you will struggle to see dints on your blocks, it is might be worth investing in a block set that won’t dint as easily when it is knocked over or falls down, like a hardwood block set.
The benefits to block play are so great, and blocks present a challenge that children are excited to take part in. The earlier you introduce blocks to your child the more benefits they will receive from block play. Blocks are a great present for young children, for birthdays or Christmas, and investing in a great block set can last through their whole childhood.