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Tips for choosing building blocks that your child loves
Playing and having fun are healthy parts of childhood. How can building blocks benefit a child s development versus other kinds of entertainment? For one thing, they re interactive. Unlike television programs and toys where lights and sounds trigger automatically, building blocks require some effort on the child s part, boosting imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills. It also gives children a sense of satisfaction and self-worth when they finish their newfound creations.
Here are a few other reasons building blocks rock:
- Improved motor control and grasping abilities in babies and toddlers
- Easy to clean up afterwards
- Bright colors and shapes boost vocabulary
- Teaches patience
It s smart to tailor different building blocks styles to the appropriate age group to match your child s developing strengths and abilities, and also to keep your child safe.
Age 1-2 (12-24 months): At this age, babies like bright colors and blocks that let them practice grasping, pushing and pulling. They can play safely with wood blocks and oversized building blocks with smooth edges, as long as they re too big for babies to fit into their mouths.
Age 2-3: This is when kids start to become interested in interactions between different objects. Blocks that stack, click together, fit into shape cutouts or slide into slots are a big hit. Plastic waffle blocks, for example, are soft and safely large, but can also be used to build boxes, walls and art with small hands.
Age 3-5: As children s creativity really starts to take off, focus on blocks that give them free reign to unleash their imaginations. Progressively smaller blocks are fine because choking isn t typically a danger after age 3.
Age 5+: At this age and beyond, kids can start to tackle fairly complex building projects using both their imaginations and pictures. Some sets recommend ages of 7 and up for especially complex instructions which might involve good reading skills but there are no safety considerations to worry about. In fact, higher-difficulty projects can be a great opportunity for parents and children to have fun together.
Building blocks have the same positive effects on both boys and girls of wildly different personalities. That doesn t mean that every child has the same interests though. Catering to the things they like makes play time more exciting for kids and makes learning a lot more fun too.
Here are a few ways to discover what your kids like:
- Observe the cartoons and video games they get excited about
- Ask them directly about specific categories and see their reaction absolutely ecstatic is a good sign
- Look at their other hobbies, like playing dress-up, exploring or riding vehicles
Superheroes: These sets focus on the struggle between good and evil. Bricks and blocks sets are often themed according to famous superheroes from movies, cartoons and comic books. Kids get to build strongholds and secret hideouts, not to mention stop doomsday devices.
Star Wars characters: Movies, video games and cartoon series from the Star Wars universe feature epic heroes and villains like Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Yoda, Darth Vader, General Grievous and Boba Fett. Building projects range from fighters and ships such as the Millennium Falcon to huge superweapons, all ready to display when finished.
Fashion and decor: If your child is more into combining outfits or designing dollhouses than saving the world, there are tons of block sets that focus on interior decorating to suit individual tastes. Children can create everything from office buildings to apartments, and then fill them up with artwork, appliances and plants to their liking.
Construction: Bags or boxes filled with tons of blocks or bricks anywhere from 100 to 500 or more aren t focused on specific projects as much as letting your kids create buildings any way they want. Skyscrapers, houses or entire cities are within reach.
Creatures: Metal building sets let kids create frameworks that stackable blocks usually can t touch. Dinosaurs, massive robots and larger-than-life animals are easy to build but usually require specific instructions and special included tools.
Vehicles: Model motorcycles, sports cars and airplanes look realistic with both blocks and metal pieces. Some battery-powered models even turn into remote-controlled racing vehicles that zoom around the house or outside.
Electric and electronic: Beyond remote-controlled cars, there are also building-block sets featuring bright LED lights for added excitement. Programmable robots either through an interface, remote control or smartphone app make a huge impact on younger kids, and they teach older kids the basics of creating computer programs.