Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Constructing buildings, constructing themselves - How kids build skills through building activities

To conclude my series of posts about building, I'd like to share some of the observations I've made about the positive effects of construction play on my children. As I've mentioned, building, like making stuff, has been and continues to be a popular activity in our home. Child psychology and development specialists have a lot to say about why building helps children develop a wide variety of skills. They often focus on playing with building blocks but many of the things they talk about can also be applied to building with other materials. 

lego plane
Self-designed Lego Plane

With my own children I've observed how building develops their problem solving skills, their capacity to learn through trial and error, their creativity, imagination and self-expression as well as their motor skills (fine and gross depending what they're building with) and their spatial awareness. 

Photo why building is important for kids
Building with Montessori materials

In the first case, problem solving skills, it might be at the planning stage - how do I make what I want with the materials I have? Or in the spur of the moment - how do I stop my tower from leaning over? How do I make my wall more solid? There are several ways they might find their way to their solutions all of which are interesting learning processes. Trial and error is probably the most common method. Although it might sometimes be frustrating in my experience it means the child really owns their solutions and doesn't forget them. 
Why building toya are great for kids
Building at the beach

Alternately, in our household, a sibling or parent might demonstrate something to them either directly because they are asked or inadvertently by modelling through their own construction techniques. Both these are interesting visual ways of learning. This kind of learning happens a lot here when our building sessions are cooperative and we try to construct things together be they block towns or Star Wars replicas. 

Why building is great for kids
An outdoor table and chairs

Lastly, my older kids also turn to books or the internet for inspiration - Noah recently had a lot of fun with a book of lego models we got out of the library and he also uses his favourite graphic novels to find models for airplanes, boats and space rockets that he builds out of lego. This is also a technique they've used for building cabins and other outdoor constructions.

Why building is great for kids
Kapla Towers

In terms of creativity and self-expression as I mentioned about the sandcastles last week, I can clearly see how the children are using this activity to process information they've received elsewhere and then express their own design ideas. Furthermore, we often build to play with. For example, Noah and Lotta might build some lego planes so they can play a mail delivery game or a cardboard island with stones for rocks and leaves for trees to play at Playmobil pirates. In this way the construction activity is a gateway to realising their creative vision, concretising their imaginary worlds. 

Why building is great for kids
Montessori COunting Rods and Steiner Rainbow Toy

Motor skills are put to work in many different ways as is spatial awareness, when placing blocks, when trying to have things balance, when working with tiny pieces of lego. In bigger outdoor projects, motor skills are further developed through tool use.

Why building is great for kids
Building with Montessori Materials 2

Of course a lot of this is happening without any of us really thinking about it or naming it at the time. Like the best of learning (speech, walking, etc) the children are doing it for themselves in a natural and fun way. Our job as parents is just to provide the materials and as much enthusiasm as we can. 

Why building is great for kids
Building a dry stone wall

*There is so much more I could say about why you should get building with your kids and why I'll continue to make it a priority here. This article on is a great place to go for more information and has a good set of tips for construction play with your kids.

Why building is great for kids
Building an obstacle course

Why building is great for kids
Building a Shelter

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