Put on your building cap. It's time to get creative!
Building toys are keys that open up imaginations. When kids see the multitude of colorful pieces their little brains automatically start visualizing potential creations and story lines that go along with them.
They also serve as tools to develop and practice fundamental early learning skills. Observe a child building and you will see them using fine motor skills, color and shape sorting and identification, as well as numeracy.
But perhaps more importantly, building materials lend themselves perfectly for practicing social skills!
All of these skills can be facilitated by an adult with non-invasive verbal or gestural prompts if needed. We never want to create dependence on adult interference but it’s important to observe and see if these skills are developing. Always meet a child where they are at and go from there.
Here are five favorite building toys perfect for social & play skills.
1. Brain Flakes: These small, interconnecting plastic discs are super sturdy so once together, they won’t fall over and others can’t
“accidentally” destroy it. They come in vibrant colors but all the pieces have the same shape and size. This can be convenient with larger groups to avoid situations when kids want very specific types of pieces.
2. Squigz: A very original idea, Squidz are suction building cups that come in different shapes and sizes. My students have discovered they stick to the walls, the floor, and even your forehead if you try hard enough! They come in different forms which causes children to try lots of different ways to put them together. Not that many come in the single package so prepare to buy a couple if your kids enjoy them.
3. Magna Tiles: I love these because they are extremely durable and do not require strong fine motor skills to stick them together. The creations made can break apart easily but that just gives more opportunities to re-strategize and build again. These are on the pricier side but well worth the investment.
4. PlayMais: Although these look like colored packing peanuts, they are naturally made out of corn. You just gently press the pieces on a wet cloth for them to stick to each other. Made in Germany, they are an environmentally friendly alternative from the typical plastic building toys. Although they are technically, single use, I have discovered that if you are careful, sometimes you can pull them apart to use again. If not, save the creations and use for imaginary play schemes.
Think Lincoln Logs but smaller and more colorful. These sticks interlock but only when pressed a certain way, giving the child the option of assessing what they’ve built before deciding to “lock” the pieces into shape and play with what they made. They are color coded by length so kids learn the patterns of which colors equal which length. This can make building easier and more reinforcing.
Instead of having the same materials out every group, vary the toys to avoid satiation on any one item. When playing with the kids, encourage the kids to show off what they are building. There is no right or wrong way to play imaginatively.
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