Bricklaying for Kids. Invitation to Play.

Jul 13, 2014

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Here is a fun construction building invitation to play that I set out to occupy my toddler (currently aged 2.5). The main components for this easy set-up activity are simply playdough and blocks. Making the playdough a grey colour to simulate concrete and providing a couple of little construction tools all added to the scene but aren't necessary to still have a fun and creative activity for kids of all ages. My kids loved this little bricklaying activity.

We used this activity to further language skills, fine motor skills, building skills, knowledge of gravity, understanding of bricklaying, sensory development, imagination, role play and more.

Ages: 12 months+
(See the handy tips at the bottom for ideas to suit your child's needs)

Materials used:
  • Play concrete. AKA Playdough from our No-cook playdough recipe that I coloured grey. It's nice and soft so easy to spread.
  • Wooden blocks (we used some from our Spielgaben set)
  • Plastic knife
  • Plastic shovel/tools
  • Toy cars
  • Construction hat
  • Wooden road signs

I started off a little wall (mainly to check that it could be done but also because it was fun, haha) and then left it and the rest of the materials out on a table for my son to find.

 Without further instruction he got his builders hat on and dug right into his "concrete."

There was digging, scraping, cutting, spreading, squishing and more.

He followed the building prompt and continued to stack and build up towers and walls, simulating a similar method used by bricklayers. I took this opportunity to talk about how it's done and we looked at some examples of brick work to see the patterns and how the cement is used as a glue to hold all the bricks together. This discussion and further learning helped to consolidate understanding of the activity, process and what he was experiencing.

It was obvious by his enthusiasm and the length of time he spent on this activity, just how much he enjoyed it.

I marveled at his concentration and perseverance, even when his constructions were not going the way he wanted them to.

I couldn't help myself. I had to build a bigger wall.

When my son was done with the activity, I left it out. What do you think the first thing my 5.5 year old daughter wanted to do as soon as she got home from school and saw it all? Yes, play!

Handy Tips

Simplify this activity by providing fewer accessories and just a ball of playdough and some blocks. Encourage children to break small bits off the playdough and squish between blocks to make playdough sandwiches. Practice spreading the playdough onto a block with a plastic knife.

Extend this activity by:
  • Encouraging children to draw a design and then try to simulate it using blocks and playdough
  • Allow children to free play with their materials and then draw or write about their experience or what they constucted
  • Use as a beginning activity for some creative storywriting
  • Have children first make the playdough themselves
  • Challenge children to make two structures the same. One incorporating their pretend concrete (playdough) and one without. Which was easier/harder to build? Why? What differences did they notice?

Mix it up with different sizes and shapes of blocks and other building materials. Provide a variety of embellishments such as pipe-cleaners, craft sticks, etc. to add to their constructions.

- Use descriptive language that goes with this experience to help develop your child's vocabulary. Eg. "spread, concrete, construction, shape, squish" etc.

- Test that the playdough you use comes off the blocks easily without leaving any marks behind. Our no-cook playdough recipe came off without any effort and did not leave any marks behind. You can always use plastic blocks if you are concerned about it.

-  Playdough is a high use material at our place. Here are some other ways we've played with it. Click the  pictures to take you to the activities.

 Length, Measurement & Patterning with Playdough Snakes. Hands-on, Playful Maths for kids.          playdough activity, open ended, sensory activity  toddler, kids, activities for kids, fine motor skills, playdoh, pipe cleaners  play dough, kids activity, science 

Happy playing,
Debs :)

We like to play here as well. Come play with us :)
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  1. I really like this - did the play dough come back off the blocks?

    1. Thanks :) Yes, the playdough that we used (home recipe) all came off the blocks easily with no marks left behind.

  2. That looks so awesome. My nephew loves anything to do with building and so using playdough adds another dimension to how he can play. Was it a grey food colouring you used? AWESOME.

    1. Thanks, Kate :) Yes, I used some black food dye I had to make the playdough grey. It's a sugarflair colouring for cake decorating. I wonder how vegemite would go in it for a different greyish colour? haha

  3. Did u mean u can find the sugar flair in the supermarket ? I haven't hers of it I'm in the uk ???

  4. Debs, you read my mind!! I have been planning to do something very similar with my little guy...just keep forgetting to pick up salt for a fresh batch of playdough!
    Looks like your kiddos had a ton of fun. I love the props and your photos are fantastic! Now I'm even more excited for our own bricklaying invitation!

  5. You always have the coolest ideas :)

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