How to Use Blocks: Important Developmental Toys

Blocks, the book Block Play, and Jingle in My Pocket CD by Sharon MacDonald

Sharon MacDonald, an early childhood development expert and author of Block Playexplains that blocks are a developmental toy that are a favorite for children from infancy through grammar school. In her book, the author provides tons of activities to use with children to encourage gross- and fine-motor skills, social skills, language, math, and science.

Click here to see a handout from Sharon MacDonald’s workshop for teachers of young children called How Blocks Stack Up. Check out page six on the handout for songs and activities to use with children while they play with blocks that can be found in Sharon MacDonald’s CD Jingle in My Pocket CD Songs that Teach

See the links below to purchase Block Play by Sharon MacDonald, her CD Jingle in My Pocket CD Songs that Teachand where to find some of our favorite blocks.

Here are Block Play Stages:
Reference: How Blocks Stack Up Handout and Block Play

Stage One (Ages 2-3): This stage consists of children moving, touching, holding feeling and hauling the blocks around. There is little or no building. This is a time for exploring the properties of blocks. Placing wagons for hauling, baskets for carrying, and suitcases for packing with the blocks encourages children at this stage of block play.

Stage Two (Age 3): This stage can be called “stack and row” because children stack blocks vertically or lay them horizontally, repeating the same designs over and over. Putting pattern cards, cars and road signs, and floor mats with the blocks encourages stack-and-row play.

Stage Three (Ages 3-4): During this stage of development, children begin building structures, especially bridges. At first, children will set up two blocks, leave a space between them, and place a block between to span the space. As the child masters the bridge concept, the bridges become more elaborate. Bridge building can be facilitated by putting pictures and architectural drawings of bridges in the block corner. You might also want to add a large piece of blue cloth for water, cake decorating columns, and boats.

Stage Four (Age 4): Children begin to develop problem-solving skills by making enclosed structures during this stage of block play. In order to make an enclosed structure, children must plan carefully. After they have mastered enclosures with the blocks lying flat, they will move on to vertical enclosures. Block enclosure play can be encouraged by putting farm or zoo animals as well as play fruits and vegetables alongside the blocks.

Stage Five (Ages 5-6): During this stage of play, elaborate, decorative structures as well as symmetrical patterns begin to appear and children begin to name their structures. The name rarely relates to the function of the building. For example, a child might have a bath tub, store, farm yard, and swing all in the same structure. Encourage this stage of block play by providing task cards, pictures of skyscrapers, blank paper for signs, and roofing materials.

Stage Six (Ages 5-6): Children work cooperatively to build a common structure. They will decide before they start what they are going to build, and assign each other specific roles. Children will want to keep the structure up for several days to continue working and to start dramatic play around the structure.

You can offer props that go with the topic of the block structure to facilitate dramatic play. A variety of accessories might include hats and clothes, measuring tools, task cards, candles with no wicks, and bean bag figures.

1. Block Playby Sharon MacDonald
2. How Blocks Stack Up workshop handout by Sharon MacDonald
3. Jingle in My Pocket CD Songs that Teachand corresponding book Jingle in my Pocket Book…Interactive Songs, Poems, Charts, and Games…PreK through 2nd Grade


  1. I'm amazed by all the great books listed and resources posted on this website. It's great. I see that Sharon MacDonald's website is really great too. I don't say it enough so wanted to just mention how helpful this newsletter is for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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

%d bloggers like this: