Ever wonder why you can speak well, or write well, or why reading is a pleasure especially poetry? Why are numbers easy for you and not for someone else? Ever wonder why home maintenance is a real chore, a hidden talent mostly hiding from you?
The answer comes in a box, and in today’s world looks like the most boring toy in creation. In fact, most parents don’t ever consider buying them, and most kids at age five don’t have a clue how to use them. The answer is blocks.
People who played with blocks or block like toys, who learned the four stages of building and practiced them have a quick understanding of things like word order and word construction. They read well and enjoy different combinations of words. They understand how numbers are grouped and work. They become the smart kids.
But what about the guy who’s a carpenter and who never reads? He’s the guy who stopped at building and never carried his ability through to completion. It’s as if he’s found his niche and is happy there.
And the guy who reads well but never played… there are all kinds of people and all kinds of successes, but those who played with blocks found the connections a lot easier and breezed through the things non builders always found a struggle.
There are four stages of building and each one has an age attached to it. At about a year, a child will begin to carry a toy around. He will not want to let it go. He will carry that toy around like it’s sewn on. This first stage of building is a recognition that a person is in contact with the world around him. That he is cognitive that there are possibilities other than him to do things, to explore things, to be a part of the world around him.
As he is picking up toys, so he is picking up words. He is saying single words and noticing single toys which he picks up and carries around. He notices sounds, faces, and foods – all single.
The second stage of building is tower building. Towers are stacks of things. He is discovering how when one thing is stacked on another, it actually rises off the ground – you can see it and I built it. This discovery is a breakthrough kids don’t want to let go of. They will stack anything whether it fits or not – yogurt cups, magazines, cans, boxes, clothes, cards, books, anything. Up, up, up as high as I can go. It occurs about 18 months and stays with a child until he’s in his twos. This is the time to buy blocks.
At the same time, children are stacking words to make sense. “Baby go.” “Mommy stay.” “Cat run.” It’s often a noun and a verb. It’s a primitive sentence that makes sense and it is functional. In the primitive world, a monkey might stack rocks high enough to fend off some rain, but he won’t say a word about it.
Towers are simple and useless. That’s what a child discovers. “Mommy stay,” but why? He discovers with his word towers that his communication is not complete. His feelings are not evident, and his building crashes down on his head. Something needs to be done.
So the little child begins to line up his toys in rows – third stage building. He lines up his cars, every can in the kitchen, every cereal box, every stuffed toy. He lines up his words which give more credibility to his meaning. He is beginning to really communicate. “Mommy stay; I miss you.” “Bird fly high.” “Pizza makes tummy feel good.” He’s nearing three.
At three a child begins to really take off building. It either topples from being too tall or it just goes out in a flat line. Mmmm, must be something more. And the child discovers the fourth stage of building – staggering. And staggering it is. If I leave a little space between two blocks, I can put one over the top and up and out I go, thinks the child. And his first castle wall is built right along with his ability to tell you in great detail what he has managed to accomplish and why.
A teacher can always tell what building level a child is on by his speech pattern. Many five year olds can’t manage blocks past the tower stage, and their speech pattern shows it. They miss every nuance, all the jokes, the reason, the directions, the goals, and they stand their awed by their friends who can take it all in and respond, and they barely babble, “Um, I, it, um.”
But teaching a child is not hard. Sitting with a child for an afternoon and showing him how to put things together should be a parent’s delight. It’s a lot like language development. The parent listens and encourages the child to speak in full descriptive sentences.
The best blocks for a four or five year old are Legos. They come in many sizes. For a four year old Lincoln Logs, and all kinds of toys labeled connects. For a three year old, basic wooden blocks that are both all the same and those that vary.
Sit down with your child and build something today. Building has a bonus – time building a relationship and watching your child’s language develop.