One of the most common questions I get from parents is "which set of blocks to choose?". A good set of blocks is an investment that will last a long time, but it really comes down to personal preference. For me, it was about the large sizes, bright colours, velvety finish, and the variety of shapes of the Grimm's wooden toys range. But importantly, the blocks you choose should also be versatile enough to support the developmental stages of block play.
Here we show one of our favourite starter sets, the Grimm's Basic Blocks, for ages 0-5, and the creative way you can build with it.
Carrying. Babies at the youngest age can find a variety ways to play with blocks, typically through their senses - the texture of wood, the smell, how they taste (this is safe as Grimm’s are non-toxic)! They also carry them, bang them together, transfer blocks from hand to hand, learn the shapes, colours, sort them by categories and probably the ultimate favourite – knocking over block towers.
Stacking. The real building starts from toddler-hood. Toddlers repeated line blocks up in a row or haphazardly stack blocks in a tower until it tips over. This is where the velvety texture of Grimm’s blocks really make a difference… the friction increases the chance that the blocks remain stacked, no matter how seemingly carelessly kids build. The tower image below was built by me for Ethan, but it was inspired by William, who used to stack blocks on its side, which is rather clever, as it increases the surfaces area.
Bridging. William started building bridges at around 3yrs old, which is typical for when children's block play becomes more sophisticated. All the repetition of stacking and lining up blocks helps them master skills of balance and portion so that they can move onto more complex spatial skills needed for bridges. This involves connecting two blocks with a third, just the right distance to balance and support the bridge. There is usually a lot of frustration when mastering bridging, but once they do, it's such a game changer! So many cool things evolve from having learned this new skill.
Enclosures. This is another more advanced stage of block play, which I only started observing William master around 3.5 yrs. Naturally, with a car obsession, the first enclosures he made were related to cars. He initially made lots of parallel rows of blocks, like roads, then started enclosing them with just the right amount of blocks to create a garage or car parks. Then, the enclosures became walls or fences, which really complemented his imaginative play.
When William was practicing enclosures, I noticed there was a lot of planning involved. He decides on an idea, plans out the scenario and builds. There was also a bit of frustration as initially, he kept on running out of blocks to enclose the structure. But instead of adding more blocks, it is a good opportunity to learn to problem solve by adjusting and reorganising the blocks to make it work. Here’s an enclosure made for Ethan for his animals.
Patterns and Symmetry. I used to love buying puzzles for William until I switched to Grimm’s wooden toys. This Grimm’s basic block set comes in its own wooden storage tray, so when the kids are finished playing with them, packing up becomes another game of problem-solving. Putting the pieces back into the tray is a puzzle in itself! There are skills involved in learning how the shapes fit together (i.e. triangles), strategy for the order to complete it (i.e. the biggest pieces first) and how to rearrange the shapes to fit into the tray. How great is that! Now that we have more sets, there are even more endless options for how to pack up the blocks. This is also another reason why I love that many of our blocks, the basics, standard, and pyramid blocks, as they are all fractions of one another, so they complement perfectly.
Another game William and I play is matching and mirroring blocks. I would start with one and he would have to pick out the matching piece and put it in the opposite position, like this example of a block boy we made together.
Structures. Since learning skills of bridging and enclosures, we have been using block play to represent everyday structures. It started with simple things such as apartments and zoos, to more complicated things like rockets and castles. This is also the time kids start getting really creative and also very demanding that they need every single piece of block to build their idea and bring it to life!
...and another bonus, you can create words and numbers with the shapes from the Grimm's basic block set!
Here are our most popular building sets:
Hope you enjoyed this post and thank you so much for reading!