One of the first toys we bought for our son even before he was born was a set of blocks. Every kid loves building things, right? What we didn’t realize at the time was that by providing him with the tools to engage in block play, we were promoting early STEM skills. Block play provides children with the opportunity gain a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and math concepts and skill sets that lays the foundation for a future in STEM learning.
Block Play Develops Spatial Skills
Spatial reasoning is what allows us to mentally picture the locations of objects, to find our way home and understand how objects relate to each other. Building structures with blocks allows kids to engage their special skills by mentally rotating and placing objects.
There’s strong evidence that developing spatial reasoning skills at pre-school age supports math learning later in life. In one study on the impact of block play, the spatial skills developed through pre-school block play were linked to kids’ ability to solve complex mathematical problems in middle and high school. There’s also evidence that exercising these foundational spatial reasoning skills strongly predicts which students who will choose STEM careers.
Exploring STEM Concepts
Block play introduces young children to the scientific concepts of gravity, stability, weight and balance. Building with blocks develops hand-eye coordination and the fine motor skills that kids will need in a future working with robotics and other technological devices.
Kids can use building blocks to replicate many of the engineering structures they see in their everyday lives, such as bridges. Experimenting with blocks of various sizes helps kids to understand why some designs work and others fall down and test their hypotheses.
Through structured block play, when kids are asked to recreate a structure by consulting a model, they exercise their problem-solving skills by analyzing what they see, examining the parts that makes up the whole and figuring out how each small part relates to each other and contributes to the bigger picture.
Even simple tasks such as sorting and matching blocks based on their similarities and differences help kids to understand basic math concepts.
Nurturing Skills Required for STEM Learning
Block play can help develop a wide variety of other skills that are essential for success not only in STEM subjects but for the future of work in any industry. These include social skills (working with others to build), literacy skills (naming buildings, verbalizing ideas), and problem solving skills. Building projects sharpen kids’ critical thinking abilities, stimulates their creativity and helps to build student’s self-esteem and sense of autonomy.
At Junior STEM Club, kids explore STEM subjects through mentored block play. Learn more about our programs here.