Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Summer is speeding by and we have our latest post ready and waiting here at
Our Grand Lives!
When we created this blog several months ago
our primary goals were to embrace those moments shared with our grandkids…
our precious Littles,
and to share thoughts and ideas, based on our experiences
as retired kindergarten teachers!
We also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE spending time with our families,
including, of course, our grown children…
known affectionately here as our Middles!
Celebrating life together brings us such JOY as we go about
IF YOU ARE A GRAND LIKE US,
and are learning how to navigate this special role in life,
if you are a MAMA, a daddy or a caregiver who spends your days with Littles,
infants through elementary age,
we are here for YOU!
This summer, our blog posts have focused on themes each week
that you can use and adapt
as you enjoy special times with your Littles…
perhaps while caring for them while parents are at work
during an evening or weekend visit
even when on a FaceTime call with those sweet faces!
So far, as part of our Summer with the Grands! series,
we’ve shared activities and adventures focused on the these themes:
And now… onto this week’s theme!
If your Littles are into cars and trucks,
tools and building things or engineering,
this post will definitely be a hit!
There’s nothing quite like it…
the feeling of creating something out of nothing!
That is precisely what makes construction toys,
from trucks to hard hats to tools to building blocks,
so engaging and empowering for our Littles!
Research shows that when given a choice of free play activities, constructive play is chosen more that 50% of the time by preschool Littles! As Littles work to put blocks, bricks, or other construction materials together in new and creative ways, they often learn to think outside the box and they learn, through experience, how to test their own ideas! Playing with construction toys provides the following benefits…
🚧 Our Littles Develop Essential Physical and Cognitive skills!
Construction toys, by their very nature, encourage hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning in our Littles… all important readiness skills!
🚧 Our Littles Practice Important Social Skills!
Often, constructive play can be a solitary activity which has its merits, teaching our Littles how to be comfortable on their own. At the same time, when working with others to build with a construction toy together, Littles can practice patience, cooperation and compromise!
🚧 Our Littles Flex Their Imaginations!
While construction play can be logical and analytical, we can’t lose sight of the importance of creativity! Our Littles use their imaginations and grow in their willingness to take risks and invent when they are given opportunities to create and fantasize. It’s so fun to see what our Littles can concoct using their imaginations and the building materials in front of them!
Yes, playing with construction toys is powerful…
let alone SO MUCH FUN!
Our Grand Tips to Encourage Successful Constructive Play!
#1 - Play with Your Littles!
Demonstrating and modeling (without telling) helps our Littles, especially our younger ones, discover different ways of doing things! You’ll also show them how to cooperate and share with others! PLUS, your Littles will love having you join in the fun!
#2 - Add Other Characters & Accessories!
Additional toys, like play people and vehicles, provide more new ideas for creations and encourages pretend play that mimics real life situations! Don’t forget to combine different materials, too! Your Littles will love mixing blocks with Legos or cubes as they create!
#3 - Story Time Fun!
Pick up a few fun construction stories from the library to enjoy together during a quiet moment! After reading stories, Littles will be even more excited to get going as they build! (Here’s a few titles from Homeschool Preschool to get you started in your search.)
NOTE - While we always prefer holding books and reading directly to our Littles, we also know that isn’t always possible. So, you could also search titles on Youtube and watch 1-2 as you snuggle together!
#4 - Challenge Your Littles!
While free play is very important for our Littles, many of them (especially our older Littles) will be excited by the challenge presented when given a specific task or asked to use a diagram to create a structure! Think about how fun it would be to see what your Little creates when challenged to build the tallest structure possible OR to build something using only 10 or 20 construction pieces! Providing these specific guidelines helps our Littles problem solve in new and exciting ways!
There are many wonderful manufactured construction toys widely available - Legos, Bristle Blocks, Tinker Toys, Magna Tiles and Lincoln Logs are some of our favorites!
A Grand Tip!
As we all know, constructive play sets can be quite expensive!
We often have our Littles bring their own set(s) from home
we’ve also purchased a set from thrift stores or at a garage sale!
Did you know that Once Upon a Child has a Grandparent Discount?
In our neck of the woods it’s each Wednesday! 😊
Another wonderful option is to find building materials around your own home… You’d be surprised by how many simple and inexpensive materials are found in our homes that Littles will eagerly use in their desire to build, design, stack, assemble and create! Read on for some of our ideas!
Infants & Constructive Play… Setting the Stage!
Prior to 15-16 months old, our Littles will not yet be developmentally ready to play with construction toys. HOWEVER, at these younger ages, we can provide LOTS of experiences to strengthen those little muscles with simple fine motor activities that include reaching, grasping and manipulating objects! These skills also involve tracking with eyes, often referred to as hand-eye coordination!
When Littles are very young (0-6 months)
you can support fine motor development by doing the following:
Grab That Rattle! To help strengthen your Little’s arms, offer him/her a rattle to grab onto. Gently, pull on it! With practice, you’ll be able to feel your Little holding on to the rattle more firmly! You can do this with shaky toys, too… or simply move them in front of your Little as you watch his/her eyes track the toy!
Tummy Time! Prop your Little up on a rolled up towel so his/her hands can reach out for toys nearby. Place fun objects in front of your Little! Such a great way to exercise core muscles, too!
Follow, Follow! Use a toy, a stuffed animal or a small object and slowly move it around the space between you and your Little. Watch your Little track the object! You can also play the classic game, Peek-a-Boo with babies! Your Little is bound to giggle in delight!
Each of these following activities is fun to do
with Littles who can sit up on their own!
Putting pom poms (or cotton balls) in a wire whisk
and then letting your Little pull them out!
Making your own DIY Tugging Toy with ribbon tied on both ends,
strung through a cardboard box!
Pulling painter’s tape off the wall!
NOTE: In each instance, watch your Little carefully
so that small objects don’t find their way into your Little’s mouth!
And who could forget these favorite ideas from past posts…
Colander Fun… with feathers, flowers, pipe cleaners or more!
Popsicle Stick Push… make it more difficult as Littles get older!
A Tower of Post It Notes… simple and easy to create!
A Q-Tip Jar… definitely builds hand-eye coordination!
Threading Fruit Loops… excellent fine motor practice... and yummy, too!
Popsicle Stick Drop… such fun and can be easily adapted, using other materials!
Each of these activities uses mostly common household items and will help your Littles strengthen skills - fine motor and hand-eye - that will then lead to successful play experiences (and school readiness!) in the future!
And here’s One More Idea for those little Littles,
specific to our Construction Zone theme!
Give your Little toy construction vehicles to hold and explore with their hands!
(Again... be sure to watch your Littles carefully
so they don't put any dangerous parts in their mouths)
As you introduce each truck, sing this song:
(sung to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?”)
Where’s the dump truck? Where’s the dump truck?
Here I am! Here I am!
How are you today, sir? Very well I thank you.
Drive away. Drive away.
(Repeat with other trucks: bulldozer, front loader, etc)
Toddlers & Constructive Play… Transitioning Ideas!
Once Littles can stack three or more blocks on top of each other, they are ready to be introduced to construction toys! Here are some suggestions to try with these Littles!
👷 Block Towers!
Beginning at floor level, put a few strips of painter’s tape up on the wall at varying lengths to mark how tall each tower should be. Challenge your Littles to use blocks to build a tower to match each strip of tape!
NOTE: Little L was a little young to do this activity independently, but she sure had fun adding to the towers! And… we found that the stacking toys worked very well at her age and were a great way to adapt this activity!
👷 Building with Disposable Cups & Index Cards!
You don’t have to have blocks or other constructive play materials in order to build structures with your Littles! We rounded up whatever paper/plastic cups we had left over from past events and also provided index cards and, before we knew it, the creating began! Now… granted, Little L at 18 months old, was much more interested in knocking the structures down but we still had loads of fun on multiple occasions!
👷 Construction Zone Rice Bin!
Take out that rice bin again and fill it with some construction vehicles and blocks. Encourage your Little to move the blocks around with their cars and trucks!
If you don’t have rice available, use other items easily found around your home… dry beans, pom poms or cotton balls, sand and rocks, paper shreds, noodles or sticks and stones are all possibilities! Better still, switch it up from time to time!
👷 Vroom… Vroom… Painting!
Put out some washable paint and a few construction vehicles and let your child paint away! Roll the wheels in the paint and “drive” across the paper.
When you are done, run your cars and trucks through the car wash after to clean them all up! (Check out our recent post, Splish! Splash! Summer Camp with the Grands for ideas about setting this up!)
👷 Recycled Buildings!
No wooden or plastic boxes around your house? Just gather a collection of boxes from your recycling bins! How fun, building and creating with different shapes and sizes!
This Idea is Perfect for Any Age!
Here in Minnesota, we refer to summer as Construction Season! You can almost always see trucks and builders somewhere around your neighborhood. There is nothing more fascinating for a young child than to watch real-life trucks and workers! Scope out the area and take a walk with your Little.. Bring a blanket and just sit and watch the action. When you get home, lay out some toy trucks and blocks, and watch your child’s imagination go wild!
Keep in mind that many preschool Littles (and even older kiddos)
will enjoy many of the constructive play activities
previously outlined in this post!
Older Littles & Constructive Play… Creativity Soars!
Once our Littles turn three, their block play becomes even more creative and imaginative. They may start building a variety of things - houses, skyscrapers, bridges, tunnels, and more! They will also start to add roads and more details to their projects, often including patterns! They may even tell a story about what they are building! Developmentally, a lot is going on!
Even older Littles - school age kids and tweens - benefit from playing with blocks! They have lasting appeal and are a perfect activity for Littles of varying ages! Check out a few favorite activities described below!
⚒️ Stack ‘Em High!
Oh, how kindergartners love to play this game! Sit in a circle with each Little holding a cube. Go around the circle and each person stacks their cube on the tower. Their faces as the tower gets taller and taller and the tension that mounts are priceless! This was always a good time to talk about sportsmanship and how to react when the tower would ultimately tip over! This game is also very easy to play with 2 players. Each player gets a pile of cubes and you go back and forth adding them. Keep a running record as you go!. Can you beat your best tower?
NOTE: Don't have cubes readily available? Try substituting blocks, sugar cubes or sponges that you've cut into cube shapes!
⚒️ Construction Zone… Dramatic Play Center!
In last week’s post, we shared how we set up a dramatic play center at home. In that post we focused on stuffed animals by creating an Animal Hospital! A Construction Zone dramatic play center could offer hours of fun, as well! Items to put in this play center might include toy tools (hammers, screwdrivers, screws, saws), toy construction hats and vests, safety goggles, a variety of blocks and building materials, safety cones, "keep out" tape, measuring tape, foam pieces or cardboard boxes and toy construction vehicles! Your Littles will get to work very quickly building with the blocks, measuring their concoctions and working together!
A Grand Tip! Add some golf tees and foam, cardboard or styrofoam pieces to your center... your older Littles (3 years old and older) will love to pound the nails into the wood!
NOTE: We had styrofoam on hand and it was a bit messy, so be prepared! 😳
⚒️ Graph Paper Blueprints!
Give your older Littles (third grade and up) some old fashioned graph paper (you can also print it on your computer) and encourage them to design a house or building on it! Your Littles will love it if you create a blueprint alongside them, too!
⚒️ Nothing Beats Free Play!
Sometimes free play is simply best of all! Give your Little(s) the time, space and materials to use their imaginations and just watch to see what they (and those wonderful imaginations) create!
Additional Resources to Explore!
We’ve found and bookmarked a few resources for us and for you!
Each offer unique ideas, especially for older Littles
as they build, create and construct!
From Frugal Fun 4 Boys
Move over expensive building sets! These simple materials will be a big hit with your Littles!
From Hands On Teaching Ideas
Save up your empty paper towel rolls and get ready for your Littles to take on this special challenge!
From Frugal Fun 4 Boys
Grab a pack of index cards and a roll of tape, and set the Littles to work building and designing castles.
There’s a reason why blocks and other construction materials
have been around for as long as they have been…
they offer countless benefits and hours of joy for our Littles!
Thanks for stopping by once again!
We so appreciate your ongoing support!
If you know of any other Grands who might enjoy our content,
please share our blog post(s) with them!
(You can tap the “Facebook Share” button at the top of our home page to do so quickly!)
We’ll be back next week with a new post in our series,
Summer with the Grands!
Next week our focus will be Games Galore!
We can’t wait to share some favorite games we play with our own Littles
as well as a few recommendations for age specific board games.
In the meantime, be sure to stop by
We’re sharing lots of additional content there each and every day!
Stay cool and...
❤️ We are delighted to join these link up parties and blog hops this week: