A set of blocks is a simple toy with complex benefits! In our article about why blocks are the ultimate toy you can read about how block play contributes to virtually every area of your little one’s development.
As your child grows, he can play with the same set of blocks in increasingly sophisticated ways. This starts with basic movements like grasping and exploring a block, and builds to arranging blocks to make simple structures. During each stage, he’s fine-tuning his motor, cognitive, language, and social skills.
Here’s how block play evolves for babies and toddlers:
Your infant will begin learning how to grasp and hold onto blocks around the 2-month mark. Right now, if you placed a block firmly in his hand, he’ll grasp onto it. He’ll probably also move his arm and hand around to look at the block from all directions. This seemingly simple step is actually doing a lot: He’s interacting with the block in his own way and forming an interest in it! By 3 months, he may try to put the blocks you give him in his mouth, so make sure they’re large blocks with no small or sharp pieces.
By 7 months, your baby may use a raking motion with his hands to bring blocks on the floor closer to him, but it will be closer to 10 months before he can pick up blocks on his own with more control using the pincer grasp. Also at the 10-month mark, he may study blocks a little closer to learn about their properties. You may find him banging blocks together to hear their noise or running his fingers along the tops to feel their bumps.
During your toddler’s second year, you’ll see him become more interactive with blocks. He may carry them around as he’s learning to walk, toss them, or fill up and dump out containers with them. These acts are the building blocks of experimenting, which targets his cognitive skills, including problem-solving, early math, early science, and attention.
Your toddler will spend most of his time with blocks thinking: “What if…?” and “Why?” For example, he might try to put two different types of blocks together and wonder why they don’t fit. Offer him a variety of blocks and let his curiosity guide him as he explores.
By 18 months, he can build towers of three to four blocks and may begin to use them more purposely, like building a “garage” for his toy cars. By 21 months, his towers will grow to six blocks, and by 23 months, he may have enough control in his fingers to manipulate smaller blocks.
Your now 2-year-old is ready to start building upon everything he’s learned so far with blocks. Around 25 months, he’ll begin to use symbolic problem solving to figure out different ways to use blocks. For example, he might continue to move blocks around and piece them together until he learns to make a square. He might also start to experiment with using other materials to build, like sticks or stacking cubes. By 27 months, your toddler will probably be able to build block towers with six or more blocks.
Around the 28-month mark, he’ll work with simple structures, like cars and houses, building them in a way that’s recognizable to you. They may only contain a few blocks, but the basics will be there. He’ll also be able to take apart his structures to rebuild them into the same object or something new.
Blocks are oh-so-fun for babies and toddlers of all ages and stages. That’s why they show up in so many of the activities in our BabySparks program!