You can't beat building blocks!

They may be old-fashioned, but traditional toy blocks could help your child’s language development. Research suggests that playing with blocks – whether it’s building them up or knocking them down – is associated with significantly higher language scores

“Playing together remains the best way parents can help foster their young children’s development,” said Dr. Dimitri A Christakis, who led the research. “Our findings point to a pragmatic and fun way to improve language acquisition. Though many toy manufacturers claim their products improve children’s cognitive abilities, few such claims are substantiated by research.”

The study looked at 175 toddlers aged between 18 months and two and a half. Some children were sent free building blocks to play with and others were not. The ones who did receive the toys also received suggestions of how parents could use them, such as sorting by colour. Activities were tracked in diaries and questionnaires which looked at language abilities such as vocabulary and grammar.

On average, children who received blocks scored 15 percent higher in their language than those who didn’t.  One explanation for this is that playing with the blocks replaced other time that did not encourage language development, such as watching television. Dr Christakis, of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research institute and the University of Washington, is well known for his research into the negative effects of television and DVDs on children’s development.

Early childhood is seen as a critical time for the development of a child’s brain, as it triples in size from birth to age two. Working out which activities promote development at this time, and which don’t, is a huge field of research. Playing with blocks may promote imaginary play and stimulate thinking and memory. It could also promote concentration.

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Read out blogger, Ian, on how his kids play with their building blocks!

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The new research is published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

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