Why Your Child Should Be Playing With Blocks

These "basic" toys are anything but

Baby boy spelling WWW with blocks

Jamie Grill / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Blocks are perhaps the most basic kinds of toys, but they're anything but boring. Blocks are universally entertaining, but while your little one discovers the joys of building and stacking, they're also learning a lot. In addition to improving motor skills, playing with blocks also enhances problem-solving abilities. This is one toy that's been around for centuries, and it's definitely something your child should have in their toy box.

Benefits of Blocks:

Even the simplest set of blocks contains the seeds of imagination, creation, and destruction. Your toddler will enjoy stacking a tower of blocks as high as possible and then watching what happens when they knock them down. This is one way that toddlers develop fine motor skills and explore concepts like early math, geometry, problem-solving, and cause and effect. After they figure out the blocks' properties - size, weight, shape, and stability level - it won't be long before they're building cities complete with roadways and bridges.

Types of Block Play:

  • Tote and Carry: A 2-year-old might not have the ability to build impressive architectural structures just yet, but they can make block piles and move blocks around, which teaches them about weight and balance. Little ones quickly learn the concept of gravity by knocking over a stack of blocks.
  • Stack and Row: Your child will likely be able to stack two blocks at 15-17 months of age, 8 blocks between 24 and 29 months, and 10 blocks between 30 and 36 months. The simple structures your little one builds are patterns that tie in a bit of introductory math, like fractions: two square-shaped blocks next to one another are the same size and shape as a more substantial rectangular block.
  • Bridging: This is the stage where your preschool-aged child will begin constructing their structures by putting two blocks on the ground and forming a bridge overtop with another. Like the tote and carry method, it teaches balance. It also introduces symmetry and organization.

Choosing the Right Blocks:

The best blocks to start with are open-ended rather than those that come in sets that must be used to construct a specific object. Large foam blocks in different shapes, sizes, and colors are the safest for young toddlers who are learning to throw things. Older toddlers will enjoy a set of wooden blocks. Cardboard bricks are also always a hit, and you can make them yourself. As your child grows, consider more complex sets like Duplo and Waffle Blocks, but remember: these can be limiting and frustrating as beginner sets.

Block Storage:

Blocks can be tossed into a large container or stacked neatly on a shelf. If you have different shaped blocks, you can use a construction paper guide to help your child stack them at clean-up time. Keep cars, dolls, ​and other toys nearby, and you'll have the perfect setting to encourage your toddler to try dramatic play.

Rules for Blocks:

Your toddler's large, foam blocks will soon become Legos that become a scourge to the soles of parents' feet. The issue with blocks is that there are just so many of them. Early on, assist your child with proper clean-up and insist that blocks be put away based on your house rules, whether that rule is to clean them up before getting another toy out or that all toys must be picked up at the end of the day.

An exception to this rule might be if your toddler is in the middle of an ongoing project or has trouble dismantling a creation. In this case, allow the work to stand so they can continue to manipulate and admire it. Don't worry: they'll soon grow bored, move on, and the blocks can be put away.

You may also want to establish a rule of not allowing your toddler to stack blocks higher than their head. They might be tempted to stand on a chair to stack the blocks even higher or could be injured if heavier blocks fall onto them. You can relax the rules as your child gets better at stacking and knowing how to get out of the way of falling blocks.

Other Tips:

  • Discourage your toddler from throwing blocks.
  • Make sure your toddler doesn't climb onto possibly unstable block structures.
  • Don't discourage your child from knocking down her creations - it's part of the learning process, but make sure that they learn to respect others' creations.
4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Ten Things Children Learn From Block Play.

  2. CHOC Children's. Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Developmental Milestones: Fine Motor Skills and Visual Motor Skills.

  3. Spokane County Library District. 7 stages of block play: Building and early learning.

  4. Lawrence M, Curtis D. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Look, Listen, Learn. “We Are Power Rangers!” Learning from Children’s Dramatic Play.

By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.