At Block Fest, parents and children create all sorts of colorful structures and toppling towers.
It might look like play, but it’s also a chance for building vocabulary, math, science, and social skills.
Shawnee Mission Parents as Teachers (PAT) recently hosted this annual event. It has been offered for nearly a decade by the organization, which works to promote early development, learning, and health in children by supporting and engaging parents and caregivers.
At Block Fest, PAT educators help parents to explore a wide variety of ways they can help children learn while playing with blocks. Five stations, created to engage students who are 6 months to 3 years old, featured a variety of manipulatives and building materials to explore.
A key purpose for the event is to help parents understand the benefits of playing with blocks, because the toys can help strengthen early math and creativity skills. The research-based stations exhibit goals for developing early math and science learning and the development of social, emotional, language, fine and gross motor, and cognitive skills. It also provides a chance for children and parents to interact and meet other families.
Throughout the fest, parents are encouraged to guide their children to describe and name their building plan, process, product, and discoveries. Parents are prompted to use open-ended questions that facilitate wonder and exploration. For example, “I wonder what would happen if I put a small block on a big block?” or “I wonder if I can build a bridge?”
The event also sets parents and children up for success, offering tips and pointers as they continue playing and learning with blocks at home.