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Think Inside the Box! Block and Box Play Activities Aid Child Development

Photo by Sally Anscombe / Stocksy / 1875980
Photo by Sally Anscombe / Stocksy

By Rachel Ward

Honk, honk! All aboooaaard…the learning train! From buses and cars to ship captains and pilots, there are so many vehicles and transportation jobs to explore—and the concepts of speed and construction are fascinating for kids. (But you probably already knew that by watching your own little runner and builder in action.) That’s one of the reasons we devote a whole two weeks to learning all about things that go and the people that make them go!

One of the best ways to help kids retain what they learn about the world? Role-play—which is why we have plenty of activities that feature toys, props, costumes, and building materials.

“By pretending to be pilots, bus drivers, or even construction workers creating roads, children are able to process what they’ve learned, put themselves in someone else’s shoes (which develops empathy skills), and build the ability for critical thinking as they begin to look for problems to solve and potential solutions to those problems,” says Taunya Banta from KinderCare’s Education team.

For one of our favorite activities, we set kids up with just blocks and boxes and let them explore the possibilities, whether that’s turning a box into a car or airplane or transforming blocks into roadways. Take a look at our Pre-K kids in action!

Blocks and Boxes Rev Up Child Development

As kids set up the area to happily zoom, whoosh, and rev their way along imaginary highways or through puffy white clouds, they’re also working on another crucial skill set that will set them up for success in school and beyond.

“The interesting thing about this activity is that all the materials children can use are open-ended, as opposed to close-ended. For example, a toy fire truck or airplane has only one purpose—but the options for a box or blocks are only limited by the child’s creativity! Using open-ended toys like these encourage innovation and problem-solving skills, which are vital components of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills,” explains Banta.

Kick your child’s learning into high gear at home with these fun, DIY building ideas! (Just bring some blocks and boxes—no prep time required.)

Build Everything and Anything! How to Use Blocks and Boxes to Extend Your Child’s Dramatic Play

1. Have no fear, the fire truck’s here!

Your little hero can save the day with this fun scenario. Will they make a fire truck from a box or set up a fire station with a whole bunch of boxes? Maybe they’ll use blocks to craft houses and towers in dire need of a firefighter. Whatever their mind constructs, it’ll be fun to watch!

Photo by Alicia Brown / Stocksy / 1952329
Photo by Alicia Brown / Stocksy

2. Build a city from the ground up

What kind of town will your child dream up? Your mini mayor can craft a whole city with boxes and blocks, from highways and houses to stores and gardens.

3. Set up a grocery store and get stocking

Encourage your little builder to run their own store! Maybe they’ll use blocks to set up rows of aisles or to serve as products—perhaps they’ll move boxes to stock their store, or use them to craft the store itself.

4. Take care of a house and garden

How would your child run their own homestead? Blocks and boxes can transform into a two story house with a nice little walkway out back, or maybe into an apartment building!

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