Playing with the building blocks of math and science

Published: Sep. 18, 2017 at 11:13 AM EDT
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Stacking blocks to build a tunnel, snapping together legos to create a fort, and sending toy cars through and around and inside those structures is a lot of fun. But, those simple toys and the words we use to guide kids could be building skills that lead to math and science success.

Words like "on top", and "over", and "beside" help children understand where objects are in relation to something else.

"Putting things together. Rotating them. Moving them. We actually use more spatial terms than we do when we’re just sitting at dinner or when we’re reading a book," said Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist at Temple University.

Child psychologists from Child Trends studied more than 100 three-year-olds from all socio-economic backgrounds to understand how a parent’s communication during play relates to a child’s math ability. They found that children who were better at copying block structures, were also better at early math skills, like counting. When it comes to teaching those relational words, blocks may be the perfect toy.

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