As parents will undoubtedly know, quickly after the helpless newborn stage a new baby soon becomes extremely curious with the world around. New senses are being tested and used for the first time. Even the most mundane experiences are brand new and exciting and luckily their little brains are perfectly wired for taking in everything.
One of the first things they will start to learn is cause and effect, that logically every action has a reaction. A lot of developmental milestones relating to this (in the early days) come relatively naturally in most cases.
So how young is too young to give them a boost with logic building exercises?
Personally, from day one there are a myriad of opportunities to build logic skills.
I’m going to list a few of the more common options here as a start and insight into the idea of logic building for children. I’ll go into more detail, expanding on these and listing a lot more in a future article.
1. Building Blocks
Building blocks are often overlooked for younger children, as they’re associated with their name – *Building* blocks.
Even from a very young age (using foam or soft material blocks) blocks can be used to teach senses for touch, causality, spatial awareness, patterns, methodical thinking, creativity not to mention physical ability. Also basic math, geometry and problem solving.
Wooden blocks are the next step up, stacking abilities and reasoning can vary in children so it’s hard to say at exactly what age they’ll do this. However as long as reasonable precautions are taken for younger babies, wooden blocks can be introduced. It’s important to note to always check the packaging and documentation for the products you are buying. One rule of thumb to see if something is too small for your baby is to try and fit it through a standard sized toilet roll tube. Which would make safe blocks 1.5″-1.75″ at a minimum. Painted blocks can also pose a slight risk if your baby is teething or likes to chew.
If you want feel like getting handy, a fun idea is to make your own cardboard blocks. It’s a cheap alternative and if your children are old enough they can join in the process.
Cardboard blocks can be made out of old cardboard boxes you have around the house, one suggestion is to cover them in masking tape or similar for uniformity. Read the full article on it here ->
Blocks that feature letters, numbers and colours are a good way to add skills and learning. This can be expanded on as skills develop and your baby gets older.
Blocks can be expanded into Duplo sets and waffle bricks, the only downside of this is some children can get a bit frustrated with the stickiness of the bricks. If this is the case, they can still do a lot with wooden bricks, for instance with the shape sets you can pretend to build towns and cities.
Involving other toys into wooden block play can boost the fun at playtime. Cars and figures can be used in all sorts of role play.
As your child’s skills grow and they get older, the stacking and formations of blocks will become more intricate and elaborate. Don’t forget to join in as well! Your baby is learning a lot of skills from watching their parents perform tasks. Build some blocks, knock them down, you’ll be having some fun and teaching at the same time.
When playtime is over, there’s a perfect opportunity to instil some good habits early on. Storing blocks and toys in toy boxes/chests, plastic containers and boxes is a great way to keep things tidy and this will also make it easier to show them how to place the toys they are finished with into the box. Sorting and tidying in this manner is great for developing skills. Plus you’ll have a little cleaning helper.
*Important:* – It’s important to teach early on not to throw blocks and toys during playtime for safety reasons, as well as discouraging climbing on blocks and block formations as this can become extremely dangerous. Somewhat less dire but still good to instil for manners sake, is to let them destroy their creations but to be respectful of things other people have made.
Unit blocks vs. Standard blocks
Just thought I would say a few words about Unit blocks. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, they are (usually) a higher grade of wood, so cost a bit more than standard toy blocks and come in varying sizes – “Unit blocks are based on a standard unit. The bigger blocks are multiples of the unit, and the smaller blocks are fractional sizes of the unit.”. This helps with uniformity, and personally I think it makes them look a lot better.
Some examples of blocks / Retailers
- novanatural.com/ – Natural Retailer
- jilliansdrawers.com – Retailer
- habausa.com/products/toddler-toys/handcrafted-wooden-toys/blocks.html – Well recommended Blocks
- ascoeducational.co.uk/index.php – When only school grade will do.
- plantoys.com/ – The green option, eco friendly toy company
- communityplaythings.co.uk/ – Nursery grade toys and furniture, also has a resource library of child/nursery related issues.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m not advocating any certain brand or retailer. The blocks I purchased for my sons were from a local charity shop or for a good deal at a local retailer. Remember it’s not the brand it’s the product!
2. Wiggle and Rub
An enjoyable logic building game for younger babies.
Play finger games and hand games, although they might not understand it, pat-a-cake can be enjoyable.
Whenever baby does something good or something you like move your fingers and hands
An example is to wiggle your fingers when they smile and rub their belly when they grab their feet. Obviously it’s up to you how you structure the game in terms of actions but you get the idea.
This is a good example of teaching logic, you’re showing that when one action occurs another follows, as cause and effect is a big developmental step, in this case a rubbed tummy when they smile.
3. The Beanbag Toss
I don’t think this is a commonly known logic building game. Mostly for the fact that beanbags are somewhat uncommon outside of playgroups and schools.
The beanbag toss is a good way to introduce a new skill – Catching.
It broadens the senses due to the unusual texture of the beanbag, new sounds and motor-skills to reach and catch and throw.
Hand eye co-ordination is being developed as well as spatial awareness and reasoning.
While there’s beanbags out here’s a quick exercise, which is fun for the kids.
Have them place, or you place, a beanbag on their head and get them to walk a line, make it more challenging by making little obstacles courses for them to transverse and things to pick up while keeping the beanbag on their head.
While the children are young and learning to throw and catch, very gentle throws should be used. As they get older increase this to hand and then head level. Once they’ve mastered their technique, introduce rhythm moves. For instance – Throw the beanbag, clap twice, catch the beanbag. You can add in pretty much any moves you like for wide variety. Older children can use just one hand for an extra challenge.
The Beanbag Relay – This is a large group activity. Have the children stand in a line one after the other. Place a pile of beanbags at the front of the line, and a large bucket at the back. The first person in line must grab, with both hands, a beanbag and pass it over their head to the person behind until it is dropped in the bucket. Time trials can be implemented and for particularly large groups, two team races. This will improve hand eye co-ordination, as well as bilateral coordination (both hands in conjunction). Not to mention great fun at gatherings, picnics, BBQs etc.
Cross the Mid line – This game encourages the child to cross the imaginary mid line of their body.
Have the child sit on the floor kneeling or cross-legged. Take their lead hand and throw the beanbag across their body to a wall or hoop. So for instance, a right handed child would throw the beanbag from the right across their body to the left towards the wall. If you have the time and want a project, a variety of cutouts, targets, faces with open mouths can be placed around the space for target practice.
Finally, Drill Sergeant/Police School (i prefer police school, because it makes me think of Kindergarten Cop)
As the name suggests, the child or children will need to follow commands and orders in this game. Ideally you’d want a nice large open space, such as a hall or garden or even the park. At one end of the playing space will be a pile of beanbags or piles depending on number of players and at the other buckets to match the number of piles. The object is simple, the child must grab a beanbag and run to the bucket, place it in and run back. One at a time. The twist however is the Sergeant, who will shout out a command that must be followed, such as Crawl! or Hop, Run, Skip, Jump etc. or even a crab walk with a beanbag on their tummy and a leopard crawl with the beanbag on their back. Ideally the orders would be changed semi-often to keep the fun and make it challenging. The game ends when all the beanbags are collected or a team collects all their beanbags.
There are many more activities, exercises and games to aid development. Which I will list in a future article.
©Mike J Lomax 2013