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The developmental importance and stages of playing with blocks

Wooden blocks are probably not on every parent's baby gift wish list, but these deceptively simple toys offer so much in terms of physical and cognitive development that we decided to include them in our playboxes early on.

Playing with blocks requires fine and gross motor skills, and although your baby is not ready to build superstructures yet, exploring the properties of blocks is very important. In time, blocks will enhance your baby's problem-solving skills and even their language skills as you work together to build something or they start to describe their creation. Construction games build self-esteem by giving your baby feelings of success and the satisfaction of completing a task.

Blocks also allow for open-ended play. Eventually, your baby or toddler will follow their plan and create something they dreamed up. For now, your baby will benefit from engaging and testing his motor abilities, so keep your set on the shelf for easy access.

Some babies might be able to attempt or successfully stack two blocks around the 10-month mark, but here's what you can expect from now to age four. You might find that your baby moves through these stages quickly, move back and forth between stages or spend a lot of time in one stage. There is no right or wrong way, but increased exposure to blocks and block play will always be beneficial.

Carrying: exploring blocks (10 months to 3 years)

Around this age, babies and toddlers love to carry, move, touch, bang, drop and feel the blocks. They are exploring their properties.

Ways to play: Provide containers for your baby to pack, repack or haul blocks around. Allow them to knock over small towers you build or bang blocks together or on the floor.

Stacking: rows and Towers (2 - 4 years)

Your toddler will start lining blocks up vertically and horizontally. These 2-dimensional patterns will eventually become 3-dimensional structures.

Ways to play: Show your baby that you can line the blocks up horizontally to make a bridge for a toy car or help them build a tower they can knock over themselves before attempting to rebuild it.

Bridging: bridges and passageways (3 - 4 years)

Toddlers will start leaving spaces between two blocks and bridge the gap with a third block. They will build these higher or with more complex passageways.

Ways to play: Provide rectangular blocks and square blocks and show your toddler how objects can move under bridges or through passages.

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