Block activities for preschoolers provide a wide range of benefits. Children can play with them solo or as part of a group. When they play with them solo, they are developing critical cognitive skills such as learning cause and effect or developing problem solving abilities.
When they participate in collaborative play, they learn about teamwork, taking turns, and sharing. As your child matures, you will notice he or she moving from the stage of simply taking the blocks and stacking them in piles or towers to creating elaborate structures and towers.
Here’s 10 activities using blocks that will keep preschoolers entertained and engaged while they are exercising their fine motor skills and large motor skills, solving engineering problems, and exercising their imagination in pretend play.
1. Budding Architects
Provide a variety of blocks for the children to use to build cities, roads, tunnels, bridges, airports and so forth.
Tips: Keep paper, glue, safety scissors and pencils or crayons on hand so kids can make trees, signs and even people or animals to add to their creations. Other good additions to a block play area are paper tubes or round containers that have been cut in half. These make good tunnels or bridges.
You can also download this free printable paper city or helicopter and landing pad for them to use in their block play.
2. Carpentry Tools Play
Provide some child-safe carpentry tools such as plastic hammers, saws and so on for the children to use as they build with their blocks. For more fun and increased learning, bring in a carpenter’s level and let them check to see if their structures are level.
3. Color, Number or Shape Recognition
Make some homemade blocks (see instructions below). To teach color recognition, make two or three blocks of each color. Write the name of the color on each block. Say the name, point to the word on the block, and encourage the child to repeat.
Once they know the colors, you can teach them shapes and the numbers from one to ten using the same method. It’s important to point to the word as you say it to help them make the connection between the spoken word and the printed word. This helps them develop pre-reading readiness.
4. Music Makers
Cover blocks with sandpaper (make sure it is securely affixed to the blocks). Show kids how to rub the blocks together to make sounds. Let them tap two blocks together like rhythm sticks, use a block to light tap the top of an oatmeal box or other container, or use rhythm sticks to tap on various blocks. Ask them to compare the sounds: which are softer, which are louder?
5. Patterns and Sequences
Make a pattern or sequence with blocks and encourage your child to duplicate it. Next, let them make a pattern and you copy it.Talk about what color or number would come next in the sequence or which color or number would come first, second, third and so on.
6. Pretend Play
Keep a box of cars or other vehicles, plastic figures of people or animals, and other small objects near your block storage area. Your child can use these objects to populate his or her towns.
7. Reading Their Name
Print the letters of your child’s name on homemade blocks, and teach them to put the letters in the proper sequence. Point to the letters, say the letters and then say their name. You can also teach them other simple words like mommy, daddy, sister, brother and so forth with this method.
8. Tumbling Towers
Let them build up towers and then knock them over. Set up some guidelines first to keep them safe. For instance, towers cannot be any taller than a child’s chin. Only knock over your own blocks. This activity is much safer when done with cardboard, paper or blocks other than wooden blocks, but it can be done with wooden blocks if you supervise the activity carefully.
Tip: Take pictures of your child standing beside his or her creations to preserve the memories.
9. Using Blocks to Create Art
For this activity, you’ll need paper, non-toxic tempura paints, and wooden blocks with letters or shapes that are embossed (raised surfaces).
- Cover the work surface with newspapers and give your child a piece of paper.
- Pour a thin layer of paint onto a paper plate or into a disposable container.
- Demonstrate to them how to dip the block into the paint and then let the paint drip off the edges. Press the block onto the paper to make a print.
- They can move the block around the paper, use the edges like a paintbrush or use different colors to make designs.
10. Two Types of Homemade Blocks to Make
You can make inexpensive homemade blocks for your preschooler with some simple supplies. Here’s what you need and what you do to make paper bag or recycled box blocks:
Paper Blocks -What You Need
- Paper bags (any size will do but remember you’ll need to fill them with newspaper or scrap paper.)
- Newspaper or scrap paper
- Duct tape (or any type of sealing tape)
What You Do
Let your preschooler help you make these blocks.
- Simply crumple the newspaper into balls and use it to stuff the bags.
- You can shape the balls and then let your child put them in the bag.
- Once the bag starts to get full, pat and shape it into a block shape.
- Fold over the top and secure the ends with tape.
- Repeat until you have as many blocks as you want.
The benefit of these blocks over wooden blocks is they are lightweight and easier for preschoolers to manipulate and lift than wooden blocks are.
Being hit by a falling tower of paper bag blocks is not likely to injure a small child, but being hit by falling wooden blocks might cause an injury. Because the trees have already been cut down and used to make the paper bags, you just might be saving a few other trees by repurposing your bags.
Best of all, you don’t have to spend any money because you probably already have the supplies you need to make these blocks whereas you might have to purchase some wooden blocks if you don’t already have a set.
Recycled Box Blocks -What You Need
Save empty paper boxes and containers from foods you eat or products you buy. Tape the ends shut (if necessary) and let your child use them as blocks. Save items like:
- Appliance boxes
- Cereal boxes
- Egg cartons
- Gift boxes
- Oatmeal boxes
- Paper towel and toilet paper tubes
- Shipping boxes
- Shoe or other footwear boxes
Before you discard any box or container, think outside the “block” and examine it closely. Would it make a good addition to your child’s block inventory? What creative ways might he or she find to use it? After all, if an item doesn’t work out or your child doesn’t like playing with it, you aren’t throwing away money if you discard it.
Block activities for preschoolers are guaranteed kid pleasers. You can use them with your children at home or in centers or for small group activities at church or preschool. They are generally safe, easy to maintain, and fun for everyone.
Homemade blocks and Lincoln Logs fort images are property of Donna Cosmato. Copyright 2013 – all rights reserved
Wooden Blocks Image used by permission under royalty free image and provided by:
Ben Earwicker, Garisson Photography, Boise, ID