If you've heard about construction play and need some construction play ideas, you've come to the right place.
I love watching my kids engage in construction play and I'm happy with all of the benefits they're reaping from it.
I've put together an explanation of what construction play is and the benefits of construction play, and I've also given some helpful construction play ideas towards the end of the post.
So, let's get to learning about this neat type of play.
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What is construction play in children?
When you think of construction play, you might think of a child playing with a toy workbench or hammering toys.
Of course, those are examples of imaginative play wherein a child pretends they are building something.
Construction play in children, also referred to sometimes as constructive play, is a type of play in which a child actually builds something, though.
This type of play is often easily recognizable, but it sometimes occurs in harder-to-identify ways.
I'll go over the different ways this play presents below.
Many, if not most, kids will naturally be drawn to construction play.
For the children who are not, some of the independent play tips I give can be helpful for getting them started.
Examples of construction play
If you're still unsure of exactly what construction play is, examples can be helpful.
- building with wooden blocks or LEGOs
- playing with magnetic tiles
- certain cooking activities
- playing with puzzles
These are just a few examples of construction play. Below, I'll give you plenty of play ideas that will provide further examples for you.
How does construction play help a child's development?
The benefits of construction play are numerous.
Here are many of the benefits:
Through the use of various building materials and toys, children are able to better understand spatial relationships between the items.
This can help kids visualize and construct 3D structures and will help them with future geometry.
When children engage in construction play, they must use the small muscles of their hands to grasp and manipulate the items.
This hand strength with help them with self-care tasks, future handwriting, playing an instrument, etc.
Not only can construction play help with geometry concepts, but it often involves other, more direct, math.
Children will sometimes need to count how many blocks will be needed for one leg of a tower, for example, to make it the same height as the other leg(s).
Division and multiplication also come into play, as well, as children have to use the set of materials they have on hand to create symmetrical structures.
The ability to solve problems is critical to success in life, no matter your definition of success.
Construction play requires children to figure out solutions to issues they encounter when their project isn't going how they expected.
Dealing with disappointment
In the same vein as problem-solving, construction play gives children plenty of opportunities to deal with setbacks and disappointment.
It has been very helpful for my middle child, who doesn't handle things not going how he wants them to go very gracefully.
Through building with random items or toys, kids get the chance to dream up a creation and make it come to life.
This is imaginative play at its finest.
Language and literacy development
Construction play benefits a child's language and literacy, as well, believe it or not.
Whether a child is building alone, with a sibling or friend, or alongside a parent or caregiver, they will use internal or audible dialogue.
They will often gain new language and practice words, phrases, and prepositions.
Also, children will often come up with a story to accompany their creation. This is an important literacy and logic skill.
9 Construction play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers
So, now that you know what construction play is and understand what the benefits of this type of play are, it's time to get some construction play ideas for your kids.
Of course, there are toys designed for construction play, but I'm going to focus primarily on construction play ideas that most people can set up for their kids without making any new purchases.
Loose parts play is one of the easiest types of play for parents and caregivers to set up. Often, there's no set-up at all.
Loose parts play is exactly what it sounds like. Kids are provided loose items, whether from a craft kit or spare parts bin.
They put these items together in creative ways to build structures, dolls, or anything else they can think of.
Loose parts play can happen outside in nature, as well, with sticks, leaves, acorns, etc.
Cooking & baking
You might overlook cooking and baking when coming up with construction play ideas.
This type of play happens naturally with these activities, though.
Think of the act of baking a cake. All of the ingredients are put together to construct a cake.
Sandwiches, kabobs, tacos, pizza, sushi, and lunch wraps are all easy construction-based cooking activities in which you can involve your kids.
One of the most basic and overlooked construction play idea is wooden block play.
Parents will often encourage wooden block play for their kids when they're very young, but then opt for more intricate (and expensive) construction play ideas as their kids get older.
The thing about wooden blocks is that they can be used to build more complex structures, but it takes more effort – effort should be at least part of what we want to see from our kids when they engage in construction play.
If you have LEGOs and Duplos, those are great for construction play, as well.
Cardboard boxes are perfect for construction play because they can be made into just about anything a child can imagine.
Before we recycle the cardboard in our home, my children like to use their Make-Do kit and create cars, dolls, tiny couches, etc.
Sometimes they even make several smaller boxes out of one large box.
Of course, you don't need a special kit to make things out of cardboard. Some tape and markers is usually enough.
When you think of construction play, puzzles probably aren't the first things that come to your mind.
They absolutely do count as construction play, though.
Spaghetti noodle building
If you have some spaghetti noodles that are likely to go stale before they're eaten, you can make a fun STEM challenge with them, as I wrote about on the Teaching Expertise website.
You'll need putty, play dough, or marshmallows to create the joints of the structure.
This idea is featured in the illustrated image atop this section if you need a visual on what I'm describing.
Gather some blankets and sheets and let your kids figure out a way to build a fort.
This is one of my kids' favorite construction play ideas, as they end up playing some really creative games with the new hideout they made.
Crocheting & sewing
If you've got some thread, a tattered shirt you can use for fabric, and a child-size needle, involving your child in a sewing project makes a great construction play activity.
If your child isn't quite ready for that, teaching them how to make a crochet chain on their finger could be a fun substitute.
Mud pies and sandcastles
If your child has a mud kitchen or if you have access to a yard with some loose dirt, turn your child loose with some utensils, a pitcher of water, and some plates and bowls.
They will build, create, get messy, and have a great time.
If you've got an ocean or a decent lake beach nearby, bring these items with you next time you go so your kids can get some construction play done while you're there.
Final thoughts on construction play
I just love seeing my kids build things out of smaller parts. It gives me insight into what's going on in their minds, their personalities, and their interests.
I hope your kids enjoy it as much as mine do. Was your child's favorite construction play activity mentioned here?
If not, leave a comment below and tell us about it.
Cheers and don't forget to subscribe!