FAIRFAX, VA — Play-based learning is a concept that became overlooked in recent years but is once again finding traction in U.S. early childhood learning. Recent strides in Scandanavian countries — where shorter school days, more play, and greater results are commonplace — are gaining attention at home. Our model of introducing classroom structure to children at younger and younger ages has increasingly left parents (and even instructors) to wonder whether early childhood learning should be kept to what’s fun and rudimentary first.
Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at good ole’ fashioned wooden building blocks for kids. Under the right guidance, any child will be drawn to them. Playing with them is not only easy but also highly educational. Engagement is greater than with more structured activities. A variety of skill sets can be exercised. Put simply, play can mean the difference between reaching an early learner or missing him/her entirely.
The Origin of Wooden Building Blocks for Kids
Toy blocks are an excellent tool for developing spacial and mechanical relationships in young minds. Their history is well-documented. For being such a basic tool, adoption of building blocks came at a later date than you might imagine. They initially evolved from alphabet blocks, with the first reference coming from the noted philosopher John Locke. In the 17th century (1693 to be exact), he wrote of “dice and play-things, with letters on them to teach children the alphabet by playing.”
The most significant endorsement may have come from Maria Montessori, the founder of Montessori schools. She best appreciated both the intricate detail and basic joy derived from wooden building blocks for kids. She wrote, “Our sensory material, in fact, analyzes and represents the attributes of things: dimensions, forms, colors, smoothness or roughness of surface, weight, temperature, flavor, noise, and sounds. It is the qualities of the object, not the objects themselves, which are important.”
Before industrial times, building blocks were constructed exclusively from materials found in nature. This is long before the era of plastic Lego brand and mega toy stores. There is something inviting about wooden building blocks. They’re not only durable, but they have also a beautiful texture. Some have a pleasant smell to them (e.g. cedar wood). Many wooden building blocks for kids are valued beyond just the toy of the month. They’re heirloom quality and can be passed down between generations. The best command attention on the vintage market.
“Tabby Cube,” one of the sets of wooden building blocks for kids from Tabula Raisa
The Educational Value of Wooden Building Blocks for Kids — and Beyond
Children are drawn to building as a means of testing the inner workings of the physical world. Blocks invite children to stack, knock down, fill spaces — to bridge from one object or area to another. They lay the foundation for greater mathematical acuity. What starts with wooden building blocks for kids can later blossom into a college diploma in architecture, mechanical engineering, or a related field of study. For more in-depth analysis and helpful tips on toy blocks, try this Parenting Science resource.
Keep in mind that building blocks are more than academic for children. They’re also working on core skills like balance and dexterity. Children learn to lift, squeeze, hold, place, and revise. It’s natural and instinctual to grasp at and find a special place for objects.
“It is the qualities of the object, not the objects themselves, which are important.”
— Maria Montessori
The Psychological and Social Benefits
Time spent alone with these toys is great for developing independence and building self esteem. While some sets come with instructions, others are deliberately made to be elementary. This way, discovery and expression happen more readily. It’s never about THE solution. Any and all expression should be encouraged. When one child wants a piece from another child (and perhaps a tantrum ensues), this becomes an excellent opportunity to teach on sharing. Group play and collaboration at such a young age is wonderful. Of course, with an inexpensive tool like wooden building blocks for kids, each child can have his or her own set for exploration.
Not Just for Children
While they made be tagged as wooden building blocks for kids, parents can certainly join in the fun as well. Like the current trend in puzzles and coloring books, building blocks are a healthy challenge for adult minds. They have been shown to relieve stress. They are great for keeping senior minds sharp. The part that sneaks up on you is that it’s only natural to become nostalgic about these toys. You’ll pause to remember a simpler time in your life, and you’ll smile.
Our Line of Wooden Building Blocks for Kids
Tabula Raisa offers a line of wooden educational toys. We understand the vital need for a variety of tools in any balanced educational program. You need books and games. You need learning facts as well as solving problems. You need verbal vs. visual aids. All of our products are handmade in the USA, Thailand, and other international craft shops. It’s a truly multicultural endeavor. We’re searching for timeless and rediscovered blocks from all corners of the globe that our customers will adore.
Of particular note are our “Heart of Tabby” tangram and “Tabby Cube” wooden building blocks for kids. These are attractive as completed puzzles but also intriguing conversation starters as individual components scattered across a coffee table or work desk. The pieces can be jumbled and reformed into a myriad of architectural or animal shapes. There is plenty of room to be creative. Come up with your own solutions!
Always Be Exploring!
While we provide instructions as a guide, this is by no means the best way to play with building blocks. Encourage children to explore on their own. That is the real value in an exercise like this. You’re introducing new concepts that will at first seem foreign but will come to be accepted because the challenge is inviting. Not to mention, the exercise is fun for adults and children!
If you’re a home schooler in search of a new educational tool, or an early learning center who appreciates durability, or a parent who wants a fun thing to do with your child on a rainy day, then you’ll enjoy Tabula Raisa’s exceptional wooden building blocks for kids.