Saturday, November 11, 2006

Playing with BLOKS

MEGA Brands recently commissioned a study on the effect of their blocks on language acquisition, attention and television viewing. The study participants were divided into two groups, one of which received two sets of MEGA BLOKS as well as suggestions of ways the parent and child could play with the blocks together. The other group received nothing. After two months the children's language development and attention were assessed. The children who received the blocks had a higher score on the language development test than those who did not. MEGA naturally attributes this difference to their blocks. I would suggest that it probably has more to do with the fact that the parents were encouraged to play with their children. Playing with someone involves communicating with them and so it seems natural that a child who spends more time playing with an adult would have better communication skills than one who doesn't. I bet they could have done this study with any type of toy that allows for collaborative play and would have gotten the same results.

Another interesting finding was that the children who were given the blocks were 80% less likely to watch TV on any given day than the children who were not. This is important given some of the concerns with TV that I mentioned in a previous post. But I wonder whether the children who received the blocks still spent less time in front of the TV after the study was over and the novelty of their new toys wore off. Some of the children who weren't given blocks as part of the study already had blocks of their own, so it would be interesting to compare the language development and TV time of the kids who already had blocks with those who were given blocks to see if the results are just due to the way the study was carried out rather than to having blocks to play with.

Despite the possible limitations of the study (and I haven't seen the whole study, just MEGA's press release), it is clearly beneficial for kids to engage in imaginative play. And blocks of any brand are great for that. In a study on the importance of play the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes "the benefits of 'true toys,' such as blocks and dolls, in which children use their imagination fully, over passive toys that require limited imagination."

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