Building strong math and language skills one block at a time

In all things, trends have seasons and cycles, but it often takes coming back ‘round a time or two, to establish timeless, enduring value. And so it is with those most-humble of children’s toys:  blocks. In a world of go-go-go and e-frenzy, building blocks prove extremely valuable to children’s play time and their academic futures.

In 2011, the New York Times published an article titled, “With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics.” It noted that “Studies dating to the 1940s indicate that blocks help children absorb basic math concepts.” It cited a study published in 2001 the Journal of Research in Childhood Education that “tracked 37 preschoolers and found that those who had more sophisticated block play got better math grades and standardized test scores in high school.”

That study controlled for factors such as socioeconomic status, gender, and IQ. Researchers Charles H. Wolfgang, Laura L. Stannard, and Ithel Jones, published “Block Play Performance as a Predictor of Later School Achievement.” When separating out other factors as well, their findings still suggested that “preschool age participants who demonstrated high levels of performance with block building were developing the basic underlying cognitive structures that would permit them to perform well in higher abstract mathematics, such as geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.”

The NYT article by Kyle Spencer, which noted the trend of “block consultants” and “block-building workshops” for parents and kids, also called out a 2007 study by Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which “found that those with block experience scored significantly better on language acquisition tests.”

Time and again, season after season, one generation after another, simple building blocks prove to be really important building blocks for a wide range of skills and abilities. Some of the coolest blocks around are Groovie Math Blocks from Uncle Goose. Designed for ages 2 and up, they come with a play activity booklet to help moms and dads get max mileage from them. Use them to help teach children sorting, ordering, opposites, and patterns. This set, made from sustainable Michigan basswood, contains 28 grooved blocks with debossed numbers, math symbols, geometric shapes corresponding to the number on the opposite side.

Go to www.schoolzone.com to find details for entering by October 17 to win these great blocks, plus a collection of math workbooks, flash cards, and software from School Zone.