Is your child one of those many kids who have difficulty dealing with math at school or home? If so, you may like to let them play a little more, that is play with blocks. New research suggests that kids playing with blocks tend to have better math skills.
The story on Counsel & Heal about the latest research on math skills of children in relation to playing with blocks informs that play activity using blocks boosts various spatial skills in kids, including science, technology, engineering, and math – collectively expressed in the acronym STEM.
According to the details of the new research, the study was led by Brian N. Verdine at the University of Delaware and the findings were published in the September/October 2013 issue of the journal Child Development. Verdine found that preschoolers, especially those from low-income backgrounds, tended to lag in spatial skills. However, as the researchers verified by using block-building tasks, children doing a better job on copying block structures also did better on early math skills.
On esciencenews, a post on the same study remarked that developing math in kids would thus require parents or guardians to let kids play with blocks instead of watching videos or playing videogames like Wii.
The uniqueness of blocks in relation to spatial skills seems to be grounded in the close connection between mental mapping and arrangement of geometrical figures like blocks. It essentially implies creativity fostered by new design ideas and interaction with blocks, of whatever design and spatial parameters.
In a recent interview about his invention of a new block design, Oregon-based innovator Will Petillo pointed to the weakness of video games in that they fail to develop the tactile sensation in children, not to mention the low potential for developing kids’ social skills. Blocks, on the other hand, stimulate both visual and tactical senses. Petillo’s new design of blocks takes the creative potential of blocks a step further by allowing kids to build structures in three dimensions – above, below, and sideways.
Interestingly, the recent study in question also found that children of lower income families, who often don’t get to play with blocks, also had parents who didn’t often speak spatially descriptive words, e.g., words like “below” and “above”. It follows that sparking the imagination to visualize and anticipate is deeply related to a child’s experience of verbal (as in language) and physical (as with bocks) interaction with spatial units.
Earlier studies have revealed a lot about the unique advantages of toy blocks in boosting children’s creative and academic skills. Parenting Science published an article that kids playing with blocks scored higher on a number of intellectual skills including, but not limited to, math, creative problem solving, language (grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension), and spatial skills. One study, according to the article, by Janie Heisner combined block play with story-time and found that it enabled kids better develop ideas for building things. Another study found playing with blocks leads to better potential for cooperative building projects.
Verdine’s study on the relation between playing with blocks and math skills of children draws attention to an important and fairly cost-effective solution to poor math skills of many young school starters.
Making block structures is fun and learning combined in one single activity that kids have loved over generations. Now, there is ever more reason to plant this activity in preschoolers.
About the Author
Edward Lakatis writes for Idea Design Studio, an invention development company. He is passionate about topics related to innovation and design, as well as helping designers realize their products potential. More of Edward’s writing can be found at Idea Design Studio. If you have the next great design idea, Idea Design Studio can be reached for assistance via their website http://ideadesignstudio.com.