Not all learning takes place in the classroom. Throughout the history of evolution, the single biggest factor of learning has always been play. Play is the most natural way in which children come to understand the world, and to develop the motor and cognitive skills needed to function within it. Most learning takes place in the realm where imagination and fun, meets physical interaction with objects.
Many of us will be able to relate to how our early experiences with childhood toys and games, came to shape how we think, and perhaps even our aspirations or interests. Tiffany Tseng, an engineer at MIT Media Lab, recalls her days as a young girl, and the hours she spent with construction set toys. “Putting things together and taking them apart got me interested in the way things work, and by the time I was an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to be an engineer.” She also mentions that “maths and physics are built into every Lego project.”
Construction set toys are among the most educational of toys available on the market, and there are a multitude of benefits for any child. Time will tell whether your child will apply these benefits to engineering, or to a different area, but generally speaking it's improvements all round. Toys like Click-A-Brick™, improve imagination, spatial reasoning, cognitive ability, and motor skills.
Construction Sets - The Engineering Of Play
When it comes to engineering, it is not difficult to see the similarities between play and the real thing. The very concepts of structure and form, geometry, physics, and maths, are all locked into every construction-based game that your child plays.
In structured block play, where instructions (a blueprint!) are followed in order to recreate a design, the child must be able to analyze what they see, and how the different pieces relate to each other. They have to be able to think in multiple ways to break a unit down into several parts, rotate objects in their mind, and understand structural integrity, design, and practical geometry. Sound familiar?
Structured block play is a play-time version of creating a building from a design.
This isn't always easy for a child who has had no experience. A study by Brian Verdine et al (2013) revealed that only around 40% of children out of a sample of over 100 three-year-olds, could recreate a simple three-block design first time, where only 10% could manage a more complex design. All of this improves with experience. It is not only an inspiration for engineering that construction set toys can encourage, but also a dramatic improvement in the skills necessary to succeed.
Of course, when your child has finished with the designs that are specific to the instructions, you must know what comes next? They will look for ways to create their own models. They will want to use their own minds to come up with an original design. The young engineers begin to learn the design aspect of their trade!
So Do Construction Toys Really Make The Engineers Of The Future?
Obviously, not every child who regularly plays with a construction toy will become an engineer. We have not created a brainwashing tool! Those who are inspired will follow that spark, and may re-realize their love for construction later in life.
Needless to say, everyone will learn, and everyone will have fun!