Toy blocks build language skills

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 19th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When toddlers play with toy blocks, they build more than towers and walls. They also build language skills.

Researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle found that toddlers aged one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half who played with blocks for six months improved their language skills when compared to a matched group of children who were block-less.

The study involved one-hundred-seventy-five children. Half received two sets of free plastic blocks in the mail along with two newsletters offering parents ideas on how to help their little ones play with the blocks… for example, sort the blocks by color. These parents also kept a four-day diary of their children’s block-playing activities.

The other children received no blocks. Their parents… told that the study was about how children use their time… kept diaries of their toddlers’ activities during two twenty-four-hour periods. Six months after the study’s start, both groups of parents were surveyed by phone about their children’s language and attention skills.

The results? The children who received blocks scored fifteen percent higher in language assessment than children who didn’t receive blocks. There was no difference in attention scores between the groups.

Researchers believe unstructured block-playing stimulates memory, thinking and physical mastery of objects at a time when a child’s brain is growing quickly. They also think the skills used to manipulate blocks are precursors to thought and language. Plus, block-playing may replace less stimulating activities like watching T-V.

No matter how they stack ’em, children who play with blocks build learning skills.