School Literacy & Culture’s 2016 Gift Guide: Blocks for All Ages

Blocks: A Gift That Spans the Ages

Welcome to the 2016 SLC Holiday Gift Guide! We’re excited to share our top gift picks with you as you start your shopping treks either around the city or online. You’ll notice this year’s gift guide is organized differently than the last couple of years’. Rather than focus on gifts for one particular age group, we’ve decided instead to center our attention on one type of play and specific, developmentally appropriate materials to support the play throughout the early childhood years.

Block play is fundamental in the early years both in classrooms and at home. School Literacy and Culture so values block play that we have an entire workshop devoted to the topic (“The Building Blocks of Building Blocks”). Blocks make an appearance in nearly every presentation we do for teachers and parents alike, and this year we featured blocks and loose parts construction in our first annual fall conference, “The Critical Importance of Play.” Blocks, as you can see, is one of our very favorite topics! We believe they are integral to a young child’s development and, therefore, should be at the very top of your holiday shopping list.

Wondering what exactly blocks do for a young child and why they are essential for little ones? They’re versatile and purposeful. Block play stimulates learning in all domains of development: cognitive, intellectual, physical, social-emotional and language. Opportunities for hand-eye coordination, visual perception, spatial awareness and balance are provided as children explore with blocks. Not to mention blocks provide great occasion to explore math and science concepts, too. Maybe most importantly, block play stimulates young children’s imaginations which in turn inspires creativity, a skill that is oft undervalued in today’s classrooms. Our futures quite literally depend on the creative thinkers we are growing and building up in our homes and classrooms!

Blocks are a wise gift investment because they can grow with children. While we categorize our suggested gift picks below by age, children will play with any and all kinds of blocks no matter their age. In fact, some of the best learning opportunities happen when various types of blocks are combined. Imagine the possibilities when the giant Melissa & Doug Jumbo Cardboard Blocks (suggested for toddlers) come together on the same playroom floor as Tegu Blocks (suggested for preschool) or Dr. Drew’s Discovery Blocks (suggested for early elementary)!

Should you decide to invest in blocks for the young children in your life, you will observe their block play change over time. At first, young toddlers will love to push a block tower over again and again. Then they will begin to stack the blocks on their own and eventually they will begin creating structures used for purposeful play like castles, roadways, grocery stores and more. Fabulous additions for block play can be found online or in stores, like plastic animals or story characters. Add them to your child’s block baskets and work with them to create a zoo, a pet shop, a castle, whatever their minds can dream up! Now come on, let’s get shopping!

Happy holidays to all of you! We wish you a joyful season.

Block Suggestions for Infants and Toddlers (0 to 2 year olds):

  1. First Years Stacking Cups
  2. B. Toys Plastic Cube Blocks
  3. Jumbo Building Blocks
  4. Melissa & Doug Jumbo Cardboard Blocks
  5. LEGO Duplo Blocks

Block Suggestions for Preschoolers (3 & 4 year olds):

  1. Foam Blocks
  2. Battat Bristle Blocks
  3. Lincoln Logs
  4. Melissa & Doug Wooden Unit Blocks
  5. Tegu Blocks

Block Suggestions for Early Elementary (5 & 6 year olds):

  1. MagnaTiles
  2. Tree Blocks
  3. LEGO Classic Blocks
  4. Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks
  5. Dr. Drew’s Discovery Blocks

Interested in viewing our past gift guides? Find them at the links below!

Authored by Jordan Khadam-Hir, Rice University School Literacy and Culture

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