A staple for generations, one of the first toys we all end up with for our kiddos are wooden blocks. At Marley & Moose, we consistently preach the value of imaginative and open-ended play. These simple toys are the perfect developmental learning tool to let your kiddo’s imagination and problem-solving skills run wild as well as support fine motor development and coordination. Fine motor skills are the well…building blocks for being able to write and draw down the line. No more dad jokes, okay no promises, but here are 6 kid-approved and super fun games to get the most out of your blocks.
Castle Copy Build
What you need: Wooden blocks. That’s it! The only thing you need to make sure of is that you have at least two of every type of block.
How to play: This is a family favorite with our three-year-old. The rules are pretty simple. Each player has their own building zone and own set of blocks. Caregiver and child alternate who places a block on their building zone and the other person has to mirror what the other player has done. Thus creating mirror structures of one another. This is a great way to challenge and build spatial thinking and geometry. As well as a no-winners or losers turn-taking game. It’s sort of like leveling up the shape sorter game.
What you need: Wooden blocks! That’s it! Notice a theme here?
How to play: This is a great game for two and three-year-olds, or developmentally when the child is starting to really grasp shapes, colors, and/or numbers. For this game, simply grab a handful of blocks and ask the child to sort them in various ways. Ask to sort by shape, or color, or group them by 3 or 4 to help start to identify counting and numbers. Being able to count out four blocks is an early skill, looking at a pile of four blocks and being able to identify it as a “group of four” is a whole other skill! Leveling it up you can use this game to introduce basic math concepts of addition and subtraction. You can say something like, “If I have three blocks in this pile and I take away one block, how many blocks are left on the pile?”
What you need: You guessed it! Wooden blocks! For this game, it is helpful to have either cuts of paper or another shape surface to work on.
How to play: You don’t need actual tangrams to play tangrams, and there are countless ways to play!
Option 1: Start with a shape, either a piece of paper, cardboard from a recycled box, or even different shapes masking taped off on the floor, and identify the shape together “we are starting with this rectangle”. Next, have your child fill the shape leaving as little empty space as possible with the blocks. Just remember don’t color, I mean place blocks, outside the lines!
Option 2: Think of an animal, building, or any other type of object. Try to use the blocks you have to build that object. Be creative!
What you need: Wooden blocks!
How to play: We play this game with Jenga blocks. Simply build a maze using the blocks as walls. A fun way to traverse the maze is with toy cars or characters. A good technique on this game as well as all of the games in this article is to model building the maze yourself first, and then let your child build their own later.
Rube Goldberg / Marble Run
What you need: Whatever you can find around the house
How to play: The most basic form of this is a marble run. Build a castle and use some toilet paper and paper towel rolls for marbles to roll through. We sell a marble run for older children (and are even fun for adults), that can serve as part of the experiment. It’s probably far too advanced for younger kiddos, but there are plenty of options around the home. If you have some dominos and your kiddo has a little better fine motor skills, add some dominos.
Build a …. [castle, garage, airport, etc]
What you need: Wooden blocks! Also, throw in whatever else you have around to help encourage open-ended, creative play. We often combine matchbox cars, toy animals, or small characters.
How to play: This is an opportunity to let your child’s imagination run wild. There are no rules, no “good jobs” and no expectations here. You CAN encourage your child’s play by adding in a new toy. Have a toy airplane laying around? Add to it the play and see if your child builds a runway or airport or simply tosses that plane into a jungle! A great way to elicit creativity is to give open-ended prompts and ask questions about what they are building, but don’t be too prescriptive and don’t interfere with their imagination. You can also just try to build the tallest building possible without letting it fall down… and you know what’s super fun to do as a 2 or 3-year-old? Knocking down a giant wood castle!