Playing with blocks may help children's spatial and math thinking

September 24, 2013, Society for Research in Child Development

Playing with blocks may help preschoolers develop the kinds of skills that support later learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), according to a new study by researchers at the University of Delaware and Temple University. And for low-income preschoolers, who lag in spatial skills, such play may be especially important.

The study is published in the journal Child Development.

More than a hundred 3-year-olds of various socioeconomic levels took part in the study. Children who were better at copying block structures were also better at early math, the study found. Among the skills tested were whether children could figure out that a block belongs above or below another block and whether they aligned the pieces.

The study also found that by age 3, children from lower-income families were already falling behind in , likely as a result of more limited experience with blocks and other toys and materials that facilitate the development of such skills. And parents of low-income reported using significantly fewer words such as "above" and "below" with their children.

Blocks are affordable and enjoyable, and they're easily used in preschool settings. Giving children—especially those from low-income families—such toys to play with can help them develop skills that will have long-lasting effects on later STEM-related , the researchers suggest.

The children's spatial skills were assessed using a block-building task. Math skills were examined using a measure developed for 3-year-olds that focuses on a wide range of skills, from simple counting to complex operations like adding and subtracting.

"Research in the science of learning has shown that experiences like block building and puzzle play can improve children's spatial skills and that these skills support complex solving in middle and high school," explains Brian N. Verdine, a at the University of Delaware and one of the study's authors. "This is the first research to demonstrate a similar relationship in preschoolers."

Explore further: Autistic children with better motor skills more adept at socializing

Related Stories

Autistic children with better motor skills more adept at socializing

September 11, 2013
In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating.

Preschoolers' counting abilities relate to future math performance, researcher says

November 8, 2012
Along with reciting the days of the week and the alphabet, adults often practice reciting numbers with young children. Now, new research from the University of Missouri suggests reciting numbers is not enough to prepare children ...

Poor planning skills found to contribute to income-achievement gap

July 2, 2013
Children from low-income families tend to do worse at school than their better-off peers. Now a new study of a large ethnically and socioeconomically diverse group of children from across the United States has identified ...

Puzzle play may help boost learning math-related skills

February 16, 2012
Children who play with puzzles between ages 2 and 4 later develop better spatial skills, a study by University of Chicago researchers has found. Puzzle play was found to be a significant predictor of cognition after controlling ...

Kids with autism outperformed others on math test, study found

August 16, 2013
(HealthDay)—Children with autism and average IQs consistently did better on math tests than non-autistic children in the same IQ range, according to a small new study.

Early learning about spatial relationships boosts understanding of numbers

June 13, 2012
Children who are skilled in understanding how shapes fit together to make recognizable objects also have an advantage when it comes to learning the number line and solving math problems, research at the University of Chicago ...

Recommended for you

Suicide risk in abused teen girls linked to mother-daughter conflict

October 18, 2018
Teenage girls who were maltreated as children are more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts if the relationship with their mother is poor and the degree of conflict between the two of them high.

Study shows how bias can influence people estimating the ages of other people

October 17, 2018
A trio of researchers from the University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University has discovered some of the factors involved when people make errors in estimating the ages of other people. In their paper published ...

Infants are more likely to learn when with a peer

October 16, 2018
Infants are more likely to learn from on-screen instruction when paired with another infant as opposed to viewing the lesson alone, according to a new study.

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.