Play and Learn

Children learn things when they play, many things that we don’t even realise because we take them for granted. They learn about life and about their own abilities and limitations while playing games and playing with various toys.

Climbing helps to develop large muscles

Climbing helps to develop large muscles

While they are playing, they are also developing essential skills that will help them both at school and outside the classroom. Through physical activity they develop their muscles and muscle control, they play with balls and develop their coordination. When they play with more fiddly toys they develop what is called fine motor skills – the ability to hold and manipulate small objects.

Parents want the best for their children and we strive to do this by giving them a variety of toys and play options. All of these are important and help to in the child’s development, but I believe there is one type of toy that every child should have.

Every child should have building toys to help develop important functions of their intellect. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important types of toy that helps to develop a child’s intellectual abilities. There are many reports available that support this idea.

Building toys may help to develop abilities such as:

  • Hand-eye coordination and motor skills
  • Responsibility and discipline
  • Creative and inventive thinking
  • Spatial skills
  • Teamwork and social skills

Hand-eye coordination and motor skills

Putting Lego pieces together can be fiddly work

Putting Lego pieces together can be fiddly work

Just like physical activity develops the larger muscles in the body, playing with certain types of toys may help develop the smaller muscles in the hands and fingers. It is quite easy to see the link between playing with building toys and developing hand-eye coordination and motor skills. The parts that the child is playing with are often small and need the child to pick them up, line them up in the place they must go and push them together. The more fiddly little blocks need the child to have good finger control. Then there are also the skills needed to pull them apart again.

Responsibility and discipline

Building sets have to be looked after if they are going to last and give repeated hours of play. This is an ideal opportunity to help a child to develop the discipline of packing away when they stop playing and to keep things organised. It is much easier to start a new building project if you know where all the pieces are and you don’t have to go searching for them. With some block sets you are unable to complete the model if there is even just one important piece missing.

Creative and inventive thinking

Many of the bigger block sets come with some instructions to build a variety of models using those blocks. As the children build these models they develop their own ideas about changing these models, or building completely different ones. They experiment with other designs and learn what works and what doesn’t. Soon they are inventing their own new creations and developing that essential skill of creative thinking. Once they have built some models they also find different ways to play with them. Sometimes this will be fantasy play or role play, all of which contribute to developing a healthy and active mind.

Spatial Skills

The models that children build are 3-dimensional and the instructions that they use are pictures on paper (2-dimensional). They have to visualise the picture in 3-D to be able to successfully build the model. Spatial ability is the capacity to visualise objects in three dimensions. These abilities are developed as they play and build.

Teamwork and Social Skills

When children work together to build models they have to learn to cooperate with one another to be able to successfully complete the project. They have to communicate with each other throughout the process. This helps to develop teamwork and communication skills that they will use elsewhere. Building sets have even been used in corporate training to develop teamwork skills and negotiation skills.


When a child successfully builds a model, this is an achievement for them. As they build more models they are developing their confidence in their abilities to build models following instructions and to build their own creations. Soon they have the confidence to tackle larger, more complex projects. These, in turn, boost their confidence more.

As you will see from the rather summarised list above, there are many benefits that a child gains from playing with building toys. This is why these are at the top of my list of good toys to buy for my kids. Not only does it help with their development, but it also gives them hours of playtime.

There are many different options available and I will be discussing these in different articles. Hopefully these will help you to choose the building toys or sets that are most suited to your child.

Take a look at some of the options that I have already written about like the biggest Lego City sets, the biggest K’Nex set or sets that teach engineering.

Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question below.

12 thoughts on “Play and Learn

  1. Jared

    As a parent of two small children it is important for me that my kids get some amount of play time doing these things. I know it is much easier to just sit them in front of a screen and that can certainly help develop spatial relationships and hand eye coordination too, but you are definitely missing the tactile component and the satisfaction of creating something tangible when you don’t play with things like legos.

    1. Lesley Post author

      That is very true, Jared. Some parents won’t let their kids watch TV without playing with some building toys at the same time. That way the TV time is not idle time.

  2. Lureita Worth

    I just have to tell you, I dearly love your website. Great topic and very informational. I myself have always wondered how do you know what goes with what. I wasn’t sure what I should buy for my Granddaughter because of so many different sets.

    1. Lesley Post author

      Some of the sets can be quite tricky and people have often been caught out by buying sets that don’t fit with others of the same make. I hope the info on my site will help you to avoid this trap and that your Granddaughter will be happy with what you get for he. If there are any specific products that you want me to review for you, please feel free to ask.

  3. Adrian

    These are certainly good reasons to choose building toys as a must-have item for the household and agree with the usefulness of having these toys. I remember the fun times I had playing with blocks and legos and not only was it fun but it also allowed me to think about how to be more creative and learn about what can go where.

    1. Lesley Post author

      Building toys are definitely an important part of developing creativity and imagination. I think it is very sad that many children around the world do not have access to these types of toys. I can’t imagine my childhood without them. even today I find older people who have no kids in the house have a box of Lego that they have kept for children to play with when families are visiting them.

  4. Ana

    I agree, building toys are great for them. My son is seven and he has been playing with Legos since he was very young. In the beginning he would just build with the instructions, now he creates his own models and plays with them. The other day he built a transformer and a super speed car they were pretty good and imaginative. He was so proud of himself and we took pictures too. Now I like offering Legos to little kids.

    1. Lesley Post author

      Lego sets are definitely one of the building toy brands that have stood the test of time. It’s great that your son has got to creating his own models. The kids learn so much more that way than following instructions to get to a specific end result. We have had some weird and wonderful things develop from Lego pieces in our house as well.

  5. Cathy

    Hi Lesley,

    I noticed that young children are developing a new motor skill called touch – thanks to all the early introduction to tablets. That really speed up their cognitive power I think and they tend to pick up other motor skills faster than expected.

    The more difficult thing to teach kid these days, in my opinion, is discipline. Modern children are spoiled with too many choices and they think they could just do with whatever they want. This could potentially manifest in bad behaviors that we often see in teenagers.

    Whatever it is, I think it’s important to teach children all these abilities in their first 5 years through a lot of play as this is the period where they learn to remember the most.

    1. Lesley Post author

      Hi Cathy,

      I agree with you on the importance of teaching important skills like discipline in the early years. Most of a childs character is developed in this time. In my opinion many modern parents do not spend enough time playing and interacting with their children. This is when they have the opportunity to intervene and teach those important lessons. I don’t think it stops at that early age though. We need to keep spending quality time with our children as they grow older. Having toys and games that are fun for both children and adults makes it a lot easier to spend time together.

  6. Amber

    My 5-year-old son loves Lego right now. He is really into Nexo Knights sets at the moment. In fact, this weekend he finally saved up enough of his allowance to go buy “The Ultimate Clay” He was thrilled to bits when he came home with it and started building it right away.
    I love at this point he can follow the instructions himself ( for simple sets) and put the whole thing together himself – He is so proud when he is successful! I love that after he is doing playing with the set as it comes he switches on his imagination and build something all by himself!

    1. Lesley Post author

      Hi Amber.

      I also love how these types of toys build confidence and self esteem in the children. Just like your son has that sense of achievement when he is successful, it makes him realize that he is capable and will tackle more difficult problems. And that is besides all the other educational benefits that he gets without even knowing it. Having fun and developing essential skills is just great.


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