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Educational benefits of building blocks and sets

April 12, 2015 | Marie-Elaine Leduc, conseillère pédagogique à l’éducation préscolaire, CSDM.

Building blocks and setscan help children develop important skills and competencies. The information in this document was compiled by Marie-Élaine Dupont, an early childhood education consultant, to illustrate the “potential contribution [of such play] to the development of the target competencies of the Quebec Education Program for the preschool level.”


There is a regrettable tendency to eliminate certain toys and activities, such as building blocks and sand and water play, from preschool classrooms. The reasons are rational enough: too noisy, too messy. And yet these activities offer many educational benefits for children ages 4 and 5. In fact, their versatility and transdisciplinary nature make them a good fit with the target competencies of Quebec’s preschool education program.

Educational benefits of playing with building blocks and sets, as linked to the target competencies of the Quebec Education Program (preschool education)

Competency 1: To perform sensorimotor actions effectively in different contexts

Competency 2: To affirm his/her personality

Competency 3: To interact harmoniously with others

Competency 4: To communicate using the resources of language

Competency 5: To construct his/her understanding of the world

Visual art

Science and technology

Representational ability


Competency 6: To complete an activity or project


A recent study (Verdine, Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, and Newcombe 2013) found that children of lower socioeconomic status (SES) had relatively few opportunities to play with building blocks and sets, and therefore had less developed spatial skills. The study also found that lower-SES parents reported using significantly fewer spatial words with their children. The researchers highlighted the vital importance of including spatial play in the preschool curriculum for children age 4, and encouraged preschool teachers to use spatial vocabulary with their students.

Content based on the work of Anne Gillain-Mauffette, a retired educator from the Outaouais region of Quebec.

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