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Published: April 3, 2011

Building blocks

A basic pedagogical device for converting play into effective learning by preschool, kindergarten and many elementary school children. Swiss psychologist JEAN PIAGET was among the first to describe the connection between play and intellectual development in early childhood. In effect, play teaches, without children being aware that they are indeed being taught. Building blocks, especially unit blocks made up of small blocks and increasingly larger multiples thereof, are especially effective in encouraging individual creativity even as they teach the mathematical realities of how fractional parts make up a whole.
Unlike conventional toys, which are designed to entertain, building blocks are important as pedagogical devices because they engage the child’s direct rather than indirect participation. In so doing, they teach children gross muscular control and manual dexterity; intellectual, intuitive and aesthetic skills in planning, designing and building a structure; self-control and perseverance in planning and fulfilling what for preschoolers is a long-range project that postpones gratification until the task is complete.