The Benefits of Construction Play

Spatial Reasoning

Structured block play, the sort of play we engage in when reproducing a structure from a model or blueprint, improvements mental rotation and how our brains process spatial information.  (Newman et al 2016)

Problem Solving

Kids who play with block toys perform better on divergent problem-solving, (the type of problems that can be solved in multiple ways), and show more creativity in their attempts to solve the problems.  (Pepler and Ross 1981)

Cognitive Flexibility

“Cognitive flexibility” is the ability to quickly shift your focus from one relevant stimulus to another. Kids who participate in structured block play show improvements in cognitive flexibility, and is especially true for children from families of lower socioeconomic status.  (Schmitt et al 2018)

Social Skills

Research suggests that kids become friendlier and more socially-savvy when they work on cooperative construction projects, and in studies of children with autism, kids who attended play group sessions with toy blocks made greater social improvements than kids who were coached in the social use of language.  (Legoff and Sherman 2006)  In addition, children without autism whom work on cooperative projects form higher-quality friendships.  (Roseth et al 2009)

Engineering Skills

Builders who create small-scale structures must cope with the same laws of physics that constrain the design of bridges, cathedrals and spacecraft. Students learn best about physical forces when they experience them first-hand  (Hayes and Kraemer 2017), such as when taught the principles of engineering through design and construction of earthquake-proof buildings.  (English et al 2017)

Mathematical Skills

Complex construction play during younger years has been linked with higher mathematics achievement in high school, even after controlling for a child’s IQ.  (Wolfgang et al 2001; 2003)

Further research has revealed links between a child’s ability to recreate specific structures and his/her mathematical skills.  (Verdine et al 2013; Oostermejier et al 2014; Richardson et al 2014)

Lastly, a study in the Netherlands found that students who spent more free time in construction play performed better on a test of mathematics word problems than their counterparts.  (Oostermejier et al 2014)


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