I came across this great article from ChildUp.com about how blocks make great tools to teach children about social studies.
I am a huge fan of blocks and we have two sets of different blocks that my 6 year old daughter got when she was about 2 years which she still plays with and is now being used by my 1 year old. I also wrote a post back in October about why I believe that blocks are a must have toy for any child.
The author Angela De Vincenzo a first grade teacher gives tips on how to incorporate blocks into the classroom. These tips can also be used by parents and caregivers.
A great place to start is by visiting places, or buildings that the child or children are studying or are interested in. It could be an important building in your city, like city hall or a sports arena, a fire station, or even a bridge. They can then take pictures or do drawings which they will use to help them when building with the blocks.
As the author writes "These visual images keep the building work focused, realistic and grounded as the children aim to represent what they have seen."
Block building will also encourage social interactions. It will get them to talk about what they are building, to communicate with others what they would like done, as well as to problem solve and to negotiate.
As well, it promotes imaginative play, specially if they have been to the real life building and know more about it. The children will be able to image themselves there and what kinds of things they would do there.
With my 6 year old daughter, she likes to use the blocks to build race tracks, especially after we took her to see the Honda Indy in Toronto last year. She has also used blocks to build houses and buildings that her stuffed animals can live in.
It's also great to provide other materials such as cardboard, plasticine, stickers or fabric that the child can use to add to the block building experience and encourage some creativity on what it could be. They can make furniture out of plasticine or decorate their buildings and make them more to their style. My daughter has added stickers to her blocks because to her stickers make things special.
There is no doubt that the play and teaching possibilities with blocks is quite extensive and so much fun for all. If you are wondering what toy to add to your child's toy collection take a look at all the great blocks available.