Magnetic Building Blocks Promote Creative Thinking and Problem Solving?
The preschool classroom is perfectly organized. Divided into math, language, sensorial, cultural and practical life areas, it is very similar to the multiage classroom that you used to teach in. Children are taught to only have one “work” out at a time, and to return that “work” to its proper place on the shelf when they are finished. Very orderly. Very inviting. Just the environment you would want for your first grandchild if he has to spend his days in a school setting instead of at home. It will give him the opportunity to interact with other children his age and to develop his fine motor skills at the same time. The language and math introductory materials are naturally colored and are arranged on the shelf in a specific order that moves from lower to higher thinking skills.
Although much of the room looks very familiar, one particular set of blocks catches your eye. It seems to have the children’s attention as well. As soon as one individual student or a pair of students returns the blocks to the shelf, they are quickly taken by someone else. Upon closer examination, you realize that unlike most of the other sensorial blocks on the shelves, these are magnetic building blocks. Not just differing in shape and length these blocks have another quality that attracts the children. With magnets on either end, these magnetic building blocks either attract or repel each other. The students love to build with them, but they also like to experiment with the ends that are either attracted to each other, or like opposing magnets, refuse to be near each other. If you could chose, these magnetic building toys are what you too would take from the shelf.
Educators have known for a long time that children benefit from unstructured play time that allows them to build and create. Studies show, for example, that three to six year olds should play with materials that allow them to practice solving problems. Puzzles, with from 12 to 20 or more pieces, as well as blocks that snap together promote this kind of intellectual play. Collections and other smaller objects that encourage children to sort by length, width, height, shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features also encourage problem solving and creativity.
As further evidence of the benefit of play with magnetic building blocks and other building toys, research by the retail group Argos found that over 60% of adults working in design-led jobs, such as architects and designers, enjoyed playing with building blocks as children. In fact, 66% of adults working in math-related roles, such as accountants and bankers, preferred to play with puzzles other thought provoking manipulative materials as children.
It is comforting to know that your grandchildren will be “playing” with such fascinating “work.”