The Secrets of Construction Play

The Secrets of Construction Play

This has been a big part of the Wood themed classes this week. It’s really been fascinating to see how each child approached the blocks; both the perfect cubes and irregular pieces of wood.

There’s a lot (a LOT) to be learnt from construction play and it might not always be the most obvious. It’s a tool which teaches so much and provides skills to last a lifetime.

Let’s list out the main benefits before delving in;

Problem solving

Fine Motor Development

Understanding of shape and stability

Language development

The basics of structural engineering

Early scientific thinking; trying out ideas, making adjustments and continuing the cycle to allow children will begin to formulate ideas and build on them.

When children have the opportunity to explore construction it allows them the time to handle materials in different ways. Using their imagination and creativity is the start point for problem solving and a higher level of critical thinking later in life.

It was lovely to see all the different ways the wooden blocks were used throughout the week; a fairy kingdom, a birthday cake and simply a giant tower! The best part is that there really was no right or wrong answer (apart from when the adults guessed incorrectly as to what the structures were of course!) The dialogue used throughout the construction activity was rich and full variance and this really helps to open the world of language to a child.



The Process

When children are able to see a block, test its structural stability and adjust accordingly they’re beginning to think on a higher level.

Let’s break it down, first they must assess the shape, visualising where they want the piece to go. Then they must place the shape (which also requires some fine motor control) and then they see the outcome. Whether that block stayed up or fell down would then dictate the next actions. What a huge process for a child!


This all happens with very little conscious thought; holding the block, feeling its weight, looking at the angles of the base, adjusting to find a balance and waiting for that all important connection! WOW! These children are learning through pure movement. There’s no book or worksheet to tell them or ask them what to expect and how to proceed. The complex brain mechanisms whilst at play are incredible.



How to encourage construction play at home

Firstly, you’ll already be doing this I’m certain. Every parent is a child development expert, you might just not know it. You’ll have seen when your little one was very young (under 2) the wonderful schemas of learning at play (more on schemas in a later blog) connecting and disconnecting structures.

My son is in that latter phase, destruction! The most fun we have right now is when I build anything (literally, stack anything on top of anything) and see him whizz across the room to knock it down. I’m sure you’ll remember that same phase.

Children won’t be able to associate connecting blocks together unless they’ve first seen how it is disconnected and put back together.


So, play! Use your language to build, quite literally. Make observations about the blocks, questions around the process of building or even about the story. When you engage and use that rich language you’ll see the construction play will last much longer


“I see that block over there hasn’t been used”

“Look at these two blocks supporting the roof”

“I wonder how the walls are supported?”

“Have you thought about an extension?”

“Can we see any holes anywhere?”

“I wonder who lives here”

“Could this be a machine to make pancakes?”

“That looks like a great podium for the dog olympics!”



“What if my little one isn’t into construction play?”

Don’t worry, you’ll see they probably “construct” in different ways or perhaps just aren’t in that phase of learning at the moment.

Maybe they’re particularly into making roads for their cars or love tying string around things. Connecting things together can cover a whole range of different topics, not just construction with blocks.


Have fun this week and show me any structures you’ve created with your little one. Don’t forget to use the #steammsunday


Thanks again,




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.