This Old School Toy Can Boost Your Child’s Learning

old school toys
Alan Gottlieb, Compositive Staff

If you want to develop your child’s executive functioning skills, ditch the high-tech toys and go old school.

Parents are inundated with an endless stream of product pitches to give their young children a leg-up in school and life. This or that whiz-bang new tech gizmo will be just the ticket to help little Sally or Johnny develop the skills and capacities to succeed.

Now, a research study out of Purdue University suggests a highly effective toy to boost executive functioning and math skills. And that wondrous new toy is: Good old-fashioned building blocks.

You know the kind you, your parents, and heck, even your grandparents probably played with as youngsters.

Why blocks? According to the study, a “semi-structured block play intervention” for children ages 3-6 from socio-economically diverse preschools yielded “greater gains in three mathematics skills (numeracy, shape recognition, and mathematical language) and two indicators of executive functioning (cognitive flexibility and a measure of global executive functioning) compared to children in a control group.”

According to an article in Quartz, block-play was especially helpful to children whose parents had low educational attainment:

In fact, they conclusively showed that children whose parents’ education level was lower than “some college” benefited more from participating in the intervention in measurable ways, including with improved numeracy skills, cognitive flexibility, and global executive function than their peers.

Why is block play so beneficial? Here’s what the Quartz article concluded:

Engaging with blocks helps children understand concepts of space and the physical properties of object. Because it is often a shared activity, it also gives kids a chance to practice complex language interactions and teamwork. Block play is especially beneficial to children in settings where an adult can help tie the blocks in a child’s brain to specific skills. That’s what’s called guided play.

You can pick up a set of wooden building blocks for about $50. Cardboard blocks come in at closer top $30, but are less likely to last a lifetime.

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