When it comes to children’s educational toys, sometimes simple is best. Flashing lights, moving parts, and electronic bells and whistles can be attention-grabbing, but old-fashioned, simple toys, like counting blocks, can be just as fun and even more educational. They are wooden cubes with numbers on the side, often sold in a set with a variety of other wooden shapes; for instance, sticks of 10 cubes and flat squares of 100 cubes.
Playing with these physical representations of numbers allows kids to work on their number recognition, by looking at the digits printed on the side of each cube, spatial reasoning, as they fit the cubes and bars together, and basic understanding of addition, subtraction and even multiplication, as the bars and cubes are rearranged into new combinations. The simplicity and effectiveness of these toys make them a great addition to any collection of educational toys, especially considering their long life and relatively low price.
These are somewhat similar to building blocks, another classic childrens toy, and kids will often play with them by constructing towers or stacks out of them. While this might not appear to be fulfilling the educational function of them, those playing in this way are still being exposed to numbers and improving their spatial reasoning. It’s important to allow, particularly younger children, to interact with them in a natural manner, without putting pressure on them to focus on the mathematical aspect.
They will expand their knowledge of numbers the more they interact, and the more they enjoy playing with them, the more often they will do this! Of course, as they grow in their mathematical understanding, the toys can be used by teachers or parents to illustrate new concepts. This will obviously be more structure, and much more like teaching than playing, another use for the toy which demonstrates its versatility.
There are downsides. The small cubes can be dangerous for young kids, particularly under the age of 3, as they can pose a chocking hazard. Also, the many small pieces can be easy to misplace, unless the set of blocks is always carefully stored and only taken out in a contained play area. These drawbacks aside, they have clear benefits, as they are both fun and educational. These affordable sets of wooden cubes can teach number skills, spatial reasoning, and mathematical concepts. They might be simple, but these toys are classics for a reason!