The Hottest 'New' Toy of the Season Is Also the Oldest

blocksDid you see the recent story in The New York Times about how the hot new thing in early childhood education is ... blocks? Yes, those big, chunky hunks of wood -- of varying shapes and sizes -- that kids love to stack and knock down and stack again; those humble playthings that allow kids to create all sorts of imaginary places; those most basic of prekindergarten staples are back in vogue with a vengeance among the New York education set.

High-toned private schools with a cloistered clientele are apparently hard at work building "comprehensive block programs," hiring "block consultants," and sending teachers to "block workshops."

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And although the blocks are being hailed as a renewed commitment to play in the classroom, writer Kyle Spencer notes in the piece that they also help kids in the areas of math, science, architecture, and aesthetics. "But perhaps the hottest pitch of late, particularly to high-stress, high-strung New York City parents," he writes, "is that blocks can build the 21st-century skills essential to success in corporate America."

Oh, good lord. Blocks the hot new toy, eh? I must have missed the memo that they'd gone out of style. But isn't it funny how these things come in and out of vogue? What's next, "Balls are back!"? "Chalk, taking this season's classrooms by storm"? "Pencils, this year's must-have item for kids"?

On the other hand, despite the fact that it is being embraced by wealthy parents on their well-heeled children's behalf, there's something wonderfully democratic about this particularly early-childhood education trend. Blocks are something all kids can play with. Maybe not those big, fancy blonde-wood jobbers that have long had their own dedicated corners in nursery schools throughout the land, but pretty much any kid can stack their own found-around-the-house items -- like books or cereal boxes or cans scrounged from the kitchen pantry -- and create their own worlds. This year's hot new item may be something nearly all kids have access to. And that detail definitely stacks up in blocks' favor.

Are you noticing a trend toward more block-play in your kid's classroom?

 

Image via Elizabeth/Table4Five/Flickr

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