These seemingly simple toys help in early learning development. How does stacking/nesting improve fine motor and language skills? Here’s how you can play to learn with these classic toys:
FINE MOTOR SKILLS
For young children, picking items up and putting them in place helps them learn the important skill of intentional grasp and release, as well as how to control and position their fingers. They use their entire hands to explore, hold, release, and place objects. Have your toddler start with the biggest pieces, progressing to the smaller pieces. Since these have a smaller circumference, they require a finer, more controlled grasp..
VISUAL AND SPATIAL PERCEPTION
Stacking/nesting also works on hand-eye coordination, and understanding where your body is in space. As you put each piece on top of the other, you have to visually gauge where to place each piece both in relation to yourself, and in relation to the other pieces. For younger children, nesting toys are easier to start with. Since the pieces lock into the other pieces, their design is more forgiving and offers more guidance in the early stages of visual perception. Traditional (non-nesting) building blocks build upon this skill for older children. These sets require graded control and pressure as you balance pieces on top of each other so they don’t fall over.
BALANCE and TRUNK CONTROL
Starting at about the age of 6 months and up, babies start gaining postural stability to be able to sit up by themselves. They’re also working on coordinating their movements. Sitting up while stacking allows babies to get used to stabilizing their core as they move about and use their hands. This early multi-tasking activity also gives them the opportunity to let their body make adjustments to maintain balance.
Crossing midline is the ability for the right hand to cross over the center of the body to function in the left hemisphere, and vice versa. This is an important skill for handwriting, cutting with scissors, reading, eating, and anything that requires the hand to move from left to right or right to left.
When it comes to working on language skills, stacking toys helps to a large extent. Before you start, let kids knock all of the pieces over or dump them out of the box. Kids love to dump. They usually don’t get to, so you’ll immediately catch their attention. They have to clean it up when they’re done, but they can dump and make a mess until then. Now that you’ve lured them in:
- Use the different sizes to work on comparisons. Put the smallest and the largest pieces next to each other to teach big versus small. Throw another piece into the mix to work on big, bigger, biggest.
- Stack three pieces together to start working on the concept of sequencing and what comes next. If the child is having trouble with visual perception skills, focus on just two at a time. Put the smallest piece on top of the biggest one first, as these two are the most visually different. Then stack a set, but with one of the pieces missing. Have the child identify where the missing link in the sequence is.
- Use this as an opportunity to work on colors/matching, top/bottom, counting, etc.
Kids naturally think outside of the box, so encourage them to look for alternative uses for whatever is at hand. Have them make up a game with the various pieces, let them create a story around whatever they’ve built, etc. This exploratory activity will foster their creativity and problem solving skills.
Toys are indeed a great educational tool as long as they are used appropriately. This is where parents come into picture. You can direct your child’s playing style if you play with him. For example, engaging in pretend play sessions helps your child develop a more complex way of thinking. This in turn leads to advanced intellectual growth.
Playing with toys is an introductory phase of your child’s academic life. Being a parent, you must keep in mind that these toys are truly beneficial only when they appeal to your child and match his abilities.
Please post your thoughts in the Comments section.