Unlocking the Building Blocks of Childhood: The 7 Stages of Block Play

Unlocking the Building Blocks of Childhood: The 7 Stages of Block Play

Unlocking the Building Blocks of Childhood: The 7 Stages of Block Play

Block play, a time-tested childhood pastime, isn't merely about stacking bricks and creating structures; it's a multifaceted journey of learning and development for children. Dr. Harriet M. Johnson, a pioneer in early childhood education, identified seven distinct stages of block play that mark a child's growth and maturation. Understanding these stages and the benefits they offer can guide parents and educators in supporting children's play and learning. Let's delve into these stages and explore how to encourage children at each developmental level.


 Stage 1: Exploration (Ages 1-2Yrs.)

At this stage, children begin their block journey by exploring shapes, sizes, and colors. They grasp, drop, and examine blocks with curiosity. Encourage this exploration by offering a variety of sensory-rich blocks that are safe for mouthing. These early interactions with blocks lay the foundation for fine motor skills, sensory development, and basic problem-solving abilities.

Stage 2: Manipulation (Ages 2-3Yrs.)

Children begin to explore shapes, sizes, and colors through tactile experiences with blocks. This fosters sensory development, fine motor skills, and basic problem-solving.

Stage 3: Pattern Building (Ages 3-4Yrs.)

Preschoolers begin creating basic patterns and structures, fostering logical thinking, problem-solving, and mathematical concepts like symmetry and sequencing. Encourage pattern building by offering blocks in diverse shapes and colors.

Stage 4: Enclosures (Ages 4-5Yrs.)

Children seek balance and alignment in their block creations, enhancing spatial reasoning, creativity. Introduce mirrors to inspire symmetrical designs.

Stage 5: Complex Structures (Ages 5-6Yrs.)

This phase fosters creativity and storytelling abilities as children build more complex structures. Offer advanced building materials to stimulate their imagination.

Stage 6: Naming Structures (Ages 6-7Yrs.)

Children collaborate and build together, enhancing teamwork, communication, interpersonal skills, and conflict resolution. Children name their own structures according to their functions.

 Stage 7: Advanced Building (Ages 7Yrs. and beyond)

Children may develop sophisticated creations which challenge their creativity and problem-solving skills. They can discover a passion for architecture and engineering, laying the groundwork for exciting future careers.



The Benefits of Block Play at Every Stage:

  • Fine and Gross Motor Skills: Playing with blocks sharpens both fine and gross motor skills, improving hand-eye coordination and physical dexterity.
  • Cognitive Development: Block play sparks cognitive growth, enhancing problem-solving, spatial awareness, and mathematical concepts.
  • Imagination & Creativity: Blocks become a canvas for children's imagination, fostering creativity and innovation.
  • Social and Communication Skills: Children develop essential social skills, including cooperation, communication, and conflict resolution.
  • Preparation for Future Careers: Advanced block play stages can inspire interests in hobbies and occupations.


Block play isn’t just child's play; it's a fundamental part of childhood development. By recognizing the seven stages and encouraging children at each level, parents provide an environment where children flourish and grow holistically. As Dr. Harriet M. Johnson understood, building with blocks is a profound journey of learning that spans a lifetime.

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