by Anne Oxenreider

If you have a young child, you

need a set of blocks. It’s really that simple.

Why are blocks a must? Blocks allow for concrete learning and tap into your preschooler’s need for repetition.

Young children will stack and knock down blocks over and over again because of the sensory rewards – the sight of the blocks falling is breathtaking and the sound is awesome.

Block play is a rich parent/child activity, filled with touch, sight, sound, repetition, and imagination. If you don’t have wooden blocks, you can make your
own blocks out of lightweight cardboard boxes (tissue boxes, cereal boxes, oatmeal canisters). For added weight, pack them with newspaper and tape them shut. Making cardboard boxes together and talking about their size and shape and what you would like to build with them is a great way to begin your math and play sessions.

The sense of curiosity – the desire to know – is the most prized school- readiness skill and so easy to build.

Try these tactile learning activities to lead your child into a curiosity for the world of mathematics.

  • Lay out block pattern with three or four blocks (triangle, circle, triangle, square) and ask your preschooler
    to match or continue the pattern. Recognizing and predicting patterns is an important logic and math skill
  • Select eight to ten blocks and ask your child to “Make something really cool.” No matter what they build, give lots of praise and ask open- ended questions like, “ What will people do in this building?” or “ Why doesn’t your tower fall down?”
  • Name the different block shapes and point out similar shapes around the room such as the rectangular window or circle rug. By doing this, you

introduce the concept of mathematical shapes as structures.

• Encourage your child to sort the blocks by size. Also, reinforce the use of comparison words with concrete objects by asking your child to stack the small block on the big block and the big block on the small block.

Stacking blocks of different sizes (and letting them fall) fosters the spatial reasoning needed in geometry and offers hands-on problem solving skills.

• Get out a tape measure and note specific differences in the sizes of the blocks. By using a tape measure, you introduce units of measure and fine tune comparisons. Leave lots of time for this activity because both of you will want to measure everything— including each other.