5 Ways to Build Reading Skills While Playing With Blocks

Use these tips to help your child build towers, railroad tracks, castles and literacy skills, too!

By Christie Burnett
Jan 15, 2018



Jan 15, 2018

Both of my children love to build. Over the years they've altered their preferred construction material—from wooden blocks to Duplos to Magna-Tiles to Legos—all while continuing to enjoy the challenge of building, whichever set they're using. I love that block building is such a great outlet for creativity and helps children develop an understanding of mathematical relationships and scientific concepts. For example, cause and effect and problem-solving come into play with block building. Plus, children develop skills like patience and perseverance when they see their ideas come to fruition.

Blocks are also great for promoting literacy skills related to speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Here are five ideas for making the most of literacy learning as your children build.

1. Use Paper & Pencil in Block Play

Preschoolers will enjoy this integration of pretend play, literacy, and block play. Set your little one up with a play hard hat, vest, and clipboard, complete with paper and a pencil for your child to use with a favorite construction set. Encourage him to plan a project on paper before building, or to draw what he's built after construction. He can also label the completed drawing. This is a good way for your child to understand the purpose and usefulness of recording ideas on paper, and it's a useful first step towards communicating ideas through drawing and writing.

2. Play "You Build, I Build" Game

This building game encourages your child to really think about how best to communicate her ideas to others. To begin, two players sit on opposite sides of the table with a visual barrier placed in between (such as a box or picture book propped open). Each player needs a small, identical set of bricks or blocks.

Player 1 builds something from his collection of bricks out of sight of Player 2. Then, Player 1 provides Player 2 with a series of verbal instructions so that Player 2 can attempt to create the very same construction from her set of blocks. Once the second construction is complete, the barrier can be removed so that the results can be compared — it’s trickier than it sounds! 

3. Create Your Own Alphabet Blocks

Use a marker to add single letters of the alphabet to the sides of individual wooden blocks or Duplo bricks. Your preschooler can identify the letters of the alphabet as he builds, and might even enjoy the challenge of trying to arrange the letters in alphabetical order. Early readers can stack the blocks or bricks to make simple three- or four-letter words or sight words.

4. Make a Set of Building Challenge Cards

For independent readers, add a set of Building Challenge Cards to your child's favorite construction set. (You’ll find an example of my family's Lego Challenge Cards here.) For other construction sets, use small index cards and a pen or marker to make a simple set of construction challenge cards of your very own that will be a prompt your child will read.

5. Add Books to Construction Play

Books can be a great tool for inspiring construction projects with blocks or even recycled materials. Your child can get started with these five great titles:

Enriching block play is simple to do. Plus, it makes literacy skill-building so much easier when your child is engaged and enjoying himself. So, next time the blocks or bricks come out, use one of these tips to have fun building — and learning — together.

Featured Photo Credit: © Weekend Images Inc./iStockphoto

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