by Alix Tonsgard

A toy with no blinking lights? No microchip? Nothing that wiggles, twinkles, or giggles? Why would kids want to play with something like that? And yet, they do. They play with blocks. Plain, wooden blocks. Many early childhood educators say wooden Unit Blocks are the one piece of play equipment they wouldn’t do without.

A good set of blocks and another child or an adult to enjoy them with is an unbeatable combination. Here’s why: When kids are constructing something with blocks, they’re also constructing knowledge. The result? An increased understanding of language, science, math, and much more.

Watch a small group of children building a barn for toy horses. As with most construction projects, problems arise:

“We don’t have enough of this size to finish the stall.”

“We need a place for our horses to get a drink. It’s called a trough. I saw a real one once.”

“Yeah, horses need stalls, and troughs, and a slanty-thing to walk on.”

Talking about their structures stretches children’s language abilities. New words, like “trough” and “stall” are tossed back and forth with ease. And because it’s necessary, they find words to describe problems. They listen to each other’s suggestions. Clearly, conversation thrives in the block corner.

But talking isn’t the only way that blocks encourage language development and in addition to language skills, children who are building with blocks are also building a foundation for understanding science and math. To learn more, read my full blog at

What are your experiences with block play? I would love to hear about them.  Comment on our social media outlets and be sure to use the hashtag #PlayIQwithDCM so I can see it and respond!

Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.