Building and construction is great for kids because of its fun play and learning potential. As children build they are using and developing;
Fine motor skills and hand eye co-ordination
Thinking skills, such as planning and problem solving
Creative thinking through constructing their own ideas
Understanding of mathematical concepts related to colour, number, size, sorting, patterning, symmetry and balance
Important life and learning skills, such as perseverance in the face of construction challenges
Duplo has to be one of the most widely loved construction toys for toddlers and preschoolers. Which is not surprising, given playing with Duplo provides children with plenty of opportunity to develop all of the skills listed above, whilst also being incredibly durable, versatile, and as the pieces from each set can be mixed and matched it is great for open ended, creative play, and it’s even easy to clean!
Here's five ideas for extending the learning potential of Duplo play. These ideas work well with preschoolers and even older children.
1. You Build, I Build Barrier Game This fun game is perfect for playing in pairs and it is fabulous for developing thinking, communication and co-operation skills. Begin by dividing your Duplo bricks so that each player has an identical set of 10-15 bricks. With each player sitting on opposite sides of a table, set up a large book, box or other barrier in the middle of the table – so that one player cannot see what the other is doing. Player One builds something using their small collection of bricks; make sure that Player Two isn’t peeking to see what is being made! Then Player One needs to give Player Two a series of verbal instructions, one at a time, so that Player Two can re-create the very same construction. Have fun comparing the results once the construction is done!!
2. What can you make with these 10 (or 15 or 20) bricks? This game works well with small groups of children. Begin by dividing the Duplo bricks so that each player has an identical set of 10 bricks – it works best if each set has a selection of different sized/shaped bricks. Have the children sit with their backs to each other and give them two minutes to construct something interesting with their bricks. Once time is up, turn around and compare results.
Alternatively, provide each child with a greater number of bricks and set a challenge to build something more specific – for example, what is the tallest construction you can make? Or make something symmetrical. Make something that moves. Make an animal. Make a tower with three openings. Your challenge can be as simple or as complicated as you like, depending upon the age and ability of your children.
3. Make a One-Difference Train I have previously shared a game for mathematical attribute learning using Uno cards, and it is easy to apply the same principles to a game with Duplo bricks. To make a one-difference train, each brick in the train must be different by just one attribute (colour, size, shape, pattern) than the brick preceding it. How long can you make your one-difference train? We used the Duplo Number Train, but any numbered blocks will work for this.
4. Early Measuring Duplo bricks can be a great resource for early measurement experiences. Simply set your child with the task of calculating the length of a series of common household objects using Duplo bricks as their measurement tool! It is best to use bricks that are all the same size (I recommend the smaller standard bricks). Join the bricks together to make a tower that resembles a ruler and use your tower as a measuring tool. Challenge older kids to estimate the length of the item in bricks before they actually try to measure it. They can also record their findings.
5. DUPLO Building on the Wall Take building to a whole new level with a change of perspective! Attach your Duplo base plate(s) to the wall (or an art easel) with removable 3m hook & loop strips. Create pictures or build towers on a vertical plane for some extra tricky planning and building.