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Simple Ways to Play and Learn with Your Child: Blocks

Lab News

The following activity is part of a series of fun and easy ways to build your child’s brain power by using one simple toy (or an object that you already have at home). Making the most out of everyday moments with what you already have on hand may be easier than you think!

Fun and Learning with Blocks

Building with blocks lets children discover math, physics, and problem-solving. Support your child’s efforts to transform into an architect, builder, engineer, and critical thinker.

No blocks? No problem. Empty boxes, milk cartons, or any stackable item can be a block.

Click on your child’s age and stage below to see how to use this simple toy to help them practice and learn new skills. Need something easier or more challenging? Then try again using the prompts for a different age and stage.

Blocks activities

Infants

(birth–9 months)
1

Explore what interests your child:

Hand your infant two small blocks to hold. See if they can hold one in each hand. Offer a third and see what they do. This builds problem-solving skills, baby style.

2

Love and guide:

Give baby eye contact as you speak. Babies watch your eyes and mouth to learn verbal and nonverbal communication. It also lets them know how important they are to you.

3

Go back and forth:

Verbalize what you are doing. Imitate the infant’s sounds as if you two were having a real conversation. This builds baby’s understanding of social interactions and encourages them to make more sounds.

4

Read, sing, and tell stories:

Point to blocks in baby books and say, “Here’s a block just like your block.” This is a way to naturally build understanding that pictures represent things in our environment.

Blocks activities

Crawlers & Walkers

(10–17 months)
1

Explore what interests your child:

Build a simple tower of three to five blocks. Encourage turn-taking as you build it and knock it down. Little ones love this type of cause and effect play – I do this and this happens; I do that and that happens.

2

Love and guide:

Use child’s name. “Look what ____ built. Wow!” Using your child’s name helps develop a positive sense of self.

3

Go back and forth:

Talk about the blocks – use words like more, big, small, many, few, etc. Ask if they want to build more and wait to see. Waiting gives them time to think and process new information.

4

Read, sing, and tell stories:

Make up a song about building using your child’s name. Change parts of the song based on what your child is building.

Blocks activities

Toddlers

(18–30 months)
1

Explore what interests your child:

When your child stacks or lines up blocks, mirror what they build and add new blocks in different arrangements—in circles or other shapes—next to them. This helps challenge children’s thinking and builds problem-solving skills.

2

Love and guide:

If your toddler starts throwing blocks, then get a pot, basket, or other large container and make a game of throwing the blocks into the container. Redirecting the toddler to what they can do helps them know what is expected.

3

Go back and forth:

Ask your child what color the block is. If they say red, respond with a little more detail, “Yes, that is a bright red ABC block.” Keep expanding on anything the child says.

4

Read, sing, and tell stories:

Tell a familiar story using the blocks. Example: Each block stands for one of the pigs in the Three Little Pigs. See if your child can add details. What should come next in the story?

Blocks activities

Preschoolers

(2.5–5 years)
1

Explore what interests your child:

Start building blocks with your preschooler and add some variation by adding ramps and bridges (you can use a cereal box or anything with a flat surface). Slide blocks down the ramp and ask which one will land first. You just used the scientific method, preschool style!

2

Love and guide:

Ask your child to explain how they made the structure and how they knew what to add where—this builds a sense of mastery!

3

Go back and forth:

Ask open-ended questions about what the child is building: How, What if, Why? Wait five seconds so they have time to think and respond.

4

Read, sing, and tell stories:

After playing with blocks, ask your child to draw a picture or take a photo of their structure and ask them to tell you something about what they made. Write what they say down. This is a great way to have them let you know how they’re thinking and make the connection between written and spoken words.

To learn more, check out the Early Learning Lab’s four simple strategies that parents and caregivers can use to support young children and make the most out of everyday moments.