Home » News » Playing with Blocks Builds Foundation for STEM Classes

Playing with Blocks Builds Foundation for STEM Classes

Playing with Blocks Builds Foundation for STEM ClassesEncouraging preschoolers to play with blocks helps the kids develop skills to support later learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

Researchers at the University of Delaware and Temple University discovered that block play also helps low-income preschoolers who may be behind in spatial skills.

The study is published in the journal Child Development.

Researchers followed more than a hundred 3-year-olds of various socioeconomic levels. They discovered that children who were better at copying block structures were also better at early math.

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 spatial skills, 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 toddlers reported using significantly fewer words such as “above” and “below” with their children.

The use of blocks to improve foundation skills for math and science is an ancient technique. 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 educational outcomes, 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 mathematical problem solving in middle and high school,” said Brian N. Verdine,  Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Delaware and one of the study’s authors.

“This is the first research to demonstrate a similar relationship in preschoolers.”

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Building blocks photo by shutterstock.

Playing with Blocks Builds Foundation for STEM Classes

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Playing with Blocks Builds Foundation for STEM Classes. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.