From construction toys, to puzzle building to reading and writing, children need to be able need to master the skill of putting together and taking apart. This morning I chat to Leigh-Anne Williams on SABC3’s Expresso about this important skill.
From birth, babies are learning how to master little movements like controlling their neck, back, legs and arms so that they can combine these movements in order to sit up and crawl, for example.
In just the same way, a baby will learn individual sounds, a toddler will then start putting the sounds together to form words and will soon be stringing two words, then three words and more together to form sentences. When strung together in the correct sequence we have speech and communication.
From six months of age to around two years, little ones are in the deconstruction phase where they pull things apart rather than putting them together, such as with building blocks. They will knock down a tower you have built rather than building it constructively. They are working out how gravity works and finding the parts that make a whole.
From two years onwards, they start becoming more constructive. With encouragement, they will build 2 – 4 piece puzzles and start putting things together in their building efforts.
How does this ability to put together and take apart translate into reading and writing?
Toddlers should be encouraged to scribble on large pieces of paper. Amazingly, when you look at their scribbles you can isolate about 20 different lines and curves that they will eventually use when they start writing. In other words, their scribbles allow them to practise pre-writing skills.
These lines eventually translate into letters. Letters are then combined to create meaningful words. Words are combined together to create sentences, and sentences into paragraphs. A lovely illustration of together and apart.
Building puzzles and playing with construction toys helps them to practice the very same skill.
Analysis and synthesis
The proper term for what I call together and apart is actually ‘analysis and synthesis’. Children need to master this skill for school readiness – to be able to break something up into its constituent parts and put the parts together to create a meaningful whole. This is important for every subject, from maths, to languages as well as history, geography, biology etc.
Just think of how we do this when we follow a recipe. We isolate the ingredients and then combine them to form something delicious that looks totally different to the individual ingredients we started with.
It’s the same with crafts and science experiments. Click here for some What2Play ideas.
Kinds of toys and games that teach children analysis and synthesis
- Construction toys such as building blocks, Lego, Bunchems, Squigz
- Games such as Make ‘n Break
- Lacing beads or shapes following pattern cards
- Card games such as Rummy
Together and apart is an essential concept in child development and is something that our children so automatically work through, not just daily but minute by minute! Your child’s information processor – his brain – automatically processes, sorts, categorises and connects bits of information on every level – from concrete, semi-concrete and abstract experiences – without having to be told to do so. It is in the moment of connection, when one dendrite in the brain talks to another, that understanding occurs.
Do join me at Toy Talk 2016 for more ideas about how to help your child learn through play. Click here for more info and to book your seat at the events taking place on 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 November 2016.