Explore our favorite block play activities for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Block activities support children’s creativity, learning, and physical development. I’ll share block activities and games you can introduce at home or in the classroom, along with tips to promote a block play environment.
What is a Block Play Activity?
Block play is an imaginative, open-ended learning activity where children use blocks to construct and investigate.
A block play activity or building block activity is when a child builds or explores blocks or other building toys. Block activities can look like stacking, lining up, constructing block structures, or filling and dumping, depending on the stage of block play the child is in.
Block Activities for Infants and Toddlers
Discover the joy of block exploration with our fun activities designed for infants. From sensory exploration to stacking and rolling blocks, there’s something for every curious baby.
Check out our list of infant-approved blocks below.
Block Clap & Rattle: Set out sound-making discovery blocks. Invite infants to grasp and shake the blocks. No discovery blocks? Explore clapping blocks together with your baby.
Tummy Time Towers: Introduce soft, lightweight blocks to babies during tummy time. Stack the blocks in a low tower within their line of sight, and encourage them to topple the tower.
Block Drop: Set out a bin and an assortment of blocks. Invite infants to drop blocks into the container. Place the bin on its side during tummy time and encourage infants to reach in and pull blocks out.
Block Roll and Chase: Show infants how to roll a soft block gently across the floor. Let them observe the block’s movement and encourage them to crawl or reach for it.
Always supervise block play activities and ensure the blocks are safe and free from choking hazards.
Block Activities for Toddlers
Engage toddlers with interactive block activities that capture their curiosity. These activities provide a perfect opportunity for learning while they develop their block play skills, enhance attention, and expand their imaginations.
Tape Challenge: Use masking tape to make lines on the floor and the wall at toddler-height. Invite children to line blocks up on the tape or try to stack blocks to reach the tape on the wall.
Shape Sorting Challenge: Provide a collection of blocks in different shapes, colors, or materials. Use masking tape to make a 2×2 square grid on the floor. Work with toddlers to sort the blocks based on their characteristics.
Block Fill & Dump: Add buckets to the block area and invite toddlers to fill the buckets with blocks.
Block Tower Knockdown: Build a tower with blocks and let toddlers take turns toppling the tower with a soft ball or bean bag.
Block Painting: Set out washable paint and paintbrushes. Invite toddlers to paint the blocks or to slide blocks through the paint. Follow this activity with a soapy water table to wash the blocks.
Always supervise block play activities and ensure the blocks are safe and free from choking hazards.
Block Area Activities for Preschoolers
Explore our favorite block area activities for preschoolers. These fun, interactive block play activities help preschoolers develop skills across all learning domains.
Light & Shadow Construction: Add flashlights, electric tealights, or rope lights to the block area. Turn down the lights in the room and invite children to build structures while exploring lights and shadows.
Storybook Building: Choose a favorite storybook and invite preschoolers to build structures or scenes related to the story.
Collaborative Building Challenge: Assign small groups of preschoolers to work together on a shared building project, such as a bridge or zoo. Then invite groups to present their creations to the class.
Block Printing: Dip blocks in washable paint to print on paper or fabric. Wrap blocks in yarn or bubble wrap to add new textures for print-making.
Animal Block Sanctuary: Add nature blocks, animal toys, and natural objects to the block center and encourage children to create animal sanctuaries.
Light Table Exploration: Use a light table and offer translucent blocks for children to explore light, color, and color mixing.
Block Orchestra: Encourage children to explore the different sounds of blocks by tapping, rubbing, rattling, and clapping them together. Challenge children to find all the ways they can make sounds from blocks.
Math Block Activities for Preschoolers
Explore emergent math with engaging block activities for preschoolers. Through shape-sorting challenges, pattern building, and block measurements, these activities promote mathematical concepts in a fun and interactive way.
Counting Towers: Encourage preschoolers to build towers or rows using various sizes and colors of blocks. While building, they can practice counting aloud, identifying quantities, and comparing sizes.
Shape Sorting Challenge: Provide a collection of blocks in different shapes, colors, or materials. Use masking tape to make a 2×2 square grid on the floor. Invite preschoolers to sort the blocks based on their characteristics.
Pattern Building: Introduce pattern concepts to preschoolers using blocks. Start a simple pattern sequence, such as red-blue-red-blue or triangle-rectangle-triangle-rectangle. Then encourage them to continue the pattern by adding blocks.
Block Measurements: Add rulers or measuring tapes to the block center and encourage preschoolers to measure the width and height of their block structures.
Addition and Subtraction Towers: Support basic math operations by assigning preschoolers addition and subtraction tasks using blocks. In addition, they can build two towers and combine them to find the total. For subtraction, they can remove blocks from a tower to find the difference.
Block Dominoes: Using blocks, create a set of “dominoes” by matching the number of dots on adjacent blocks. Children take turns placing a domino block next to another, matching the number of dots. The objective is to create a long chain.
Games with Blocks
Based on the stages of play theory, preschoolers are developmentally ready to play games with blocks. These block challenge games with simple rules are fun and promote preschoolers’ cognitive, social, and physical development.
Block Tower Challenge: Challenge children to take turns building the tallest block tower using a set of blocks. The rule is simple: Each player adds one block at a time, and the player with the tallest building wins.
Shape Race: Scatter blocks of various shapes and colors across the play area. Call out a shape, and children race to find and stack blocks of that shape. The first one to complete the stack correctly wins a point.
Block Balance Relay: Divide children into teams and provide each group with a set of blocks. Mark a starting line and a finishing line. One by one, each player balances a block on a spoon or carries it with tongs from the start line to the finish line. The first team to have all players cross the finish line wins.
Pattern Building Challenge: Provide preschoolers with a pattern card or sequence, such as red-blue-red-blue or square-triangle-square-triangle. Each player takes turns adding a block to the pattern, following the sequence correctly. The player who extends the pattern the furthest wins the challenge.
Types of Blocks
Types of Blocks for Babies & Toddlers
Blocks for Babies & Toddlers
At this stage of block play, infants and toddlers are exploring the properties of blocks and practicing how to stack or line up blocks.
- Sensory Blocks: These blocks engage multiple senses with features such as mirrors, rattles, textures, moving parts, or colorful translucent materials. These are sometimes called discovery blocks.
- Soft Blocks: These lightweight but sturdy blocks are made from fabric, foam, or silicone. They are easy to grip and squeeze.
- Unit Blocks: These traditional wooden blocks are solid and come in various sizes and shapes for easy stacking.
- Nesting Blocks: These blocks fit inside one another and can also be turned upside down to stack.
- Balance Blocks: These gemstone-like wood blocks are cut with unique angles to explore different ways to stack.
Types of Blocks for Preschoolers
Blocks for Preschoolers
Around age 3, children may be ready for more complex block play using the following types of blocks:
- Unit Blocks: These traditional wooden blocks are solid and come in various sizes and shapes. Add wooden ramps, arches, and tunnels to expand on a basic unit block set.
- Pattern Blocks: These geometric-shaped blocks come in 6 colors and shapes. Pattern blocks encourage children to explore symmetry and, well, patterns.
- Magnetic Blocks: These blocks, popularly known by the brand name Magnatiles, have magnets on the edges. The Tegu brand also has magnetic wooden blocks.
- LEGO® Bricks & Duplos: These small plastic “bricks” interlock and can be used to create large, detailed structures.
- Nature Blocks: These blocks are made of sliced tree branches or bamboo. Children can feel the natural wood textures while balancing different shapes.
- Scenery Blocks: These blocks can be mixed and matched to create different natural or urban landscapes.
Creating a Block Play Environment
With one or more of these strategies, you can create an incredible block play environment in your home or classroom.
Open-Ended Opportunities: Provide uninterrupted time for children to build with blocks. When children can play without being rushed, they have the chance to investigate and create. Only manage open-ended block play with simple boundaries, such as blocks are for building, not throwing.
Adult-Child Interactions: Adult participation helps children expand attention, build social skills, and be excited about block play. Encouragement and open-ended questions support more meaningful play. Join in block play from time to time to model new ways to use blocks or help problem-solve.
Preserving Children’s Creations: Create a special place to display and protect children’s block structures. This shows you value their creations and will foster children’s pride and accomplishment. It also helps everyone learn to respect others’ structures and keep them safe.
Variety of Blocks: Provide a variety of blocks for kids to play with. Consider having a set of stacking and a set of interlocking blocks. Each block type inspires new ideas and offers a different sensory experience for kids. Discover age-appropriate types of blocks above.
Rotating Materials: Regularly introduce new block sets and props to keep the block play environment fresh and engaging. This could include items like ramps, arches and tunnels, toy figures, or themed props.
Using these strategies, you can offer children a fantastic block play space at home or school. Give children plenty of time to build with a variety of blocks and props. Set minimal rules, such as blocks are for building, not throwing. Join in block play sometimes to show children new ideas and help them solve problems.
Showcasing Block Creations
Building Blocks Activity Benefits
So, how does block building benefit a child’s development? What does playing with blocks teach, after all?
Block play offers countless benefits for children’s learning and development. Kids can improve their problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, and math abilities by building with blocks. Block play promotes language development, communication, and storytelling. The social-emotional benefits of block play include cooperation, confidence, and self-expression. Manipulative play, such as block play, builds hand strength, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination.
Dig into how block play supports children’s learning in our post 10 Benefits of Block Play: Unlock the Power of Blocks.