It's universal, and it's powerful: Toy blocks and other construction toys can change the way kids think. Building projects stimulate creativity&innovation and sharpen & bulid up crucial skills.
As developmental psychologist Rachel Keen notes, parents and teachers "need to design environments that encourage and enhance problem solving from a young age" (Keen 2011). And construction toys seem ideally suited to the purpose. Studies suggest they can help kids develop intelligence
motor skills and hand-eye coordination,
a capacity for creative, divergent thinking,
social skills, and
Moreover, children can integrate their own constructions into pretend play scenarios. There is also evidence that complex block-play is linked with advanced math skills in later life.
Here I review the cognitive benefits of playing with toy blocks. I also offer tips for making block-play more stimulating and rewarding. For more evidence-based information, see my article about construction and STEM skills, and this Parenting Science guide to educational toys and games.