Brick And Spool Blocks

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I was fiddling around with some Loose Parts here at the Explorations Early Learning Intergalactic Headquarters Lab the other day when I stumbled upon a combination I really enjoyed: brick pavers and thread spools.

Blocks don’t have to be expensive or fancy. As I write this, concrete pavers like the ones in the image are selling for 58 cents each at the local big box store and spools can be had for free with a bit of hunting. So, for less than $20 you can put together a set of 30 bricks and dozens of spools.

Reasons To Love Them

There are reasons beyond cost to like this block combination, here are few of them:


This block set can be used outside all year long. It can be used with water, sand, mud, and whatever sensory play concoctions you dare to create. Try that with an expensive set of hardwood blocks. Sure, the spools might be hard to find in the snow, but they’ll be there ready to play when it melts.


The difference in weight between the bricks and spools will force a lot of kids to be more tuned-in while building, more focused on the task at hand. They’ll need to be more aware of how they manipulate the blocks. Such a weight difference doesn’t exist in most block sets so it’ll be a novel experience.


Speaking of novel, the uniqueness of this set is a selling point too. Kids are drawn to new and interesting things in their environment. They want to check them out, get to know them, understand them, figure them out.


There’s a chance that a brick could pinch a little finger or toe during the course of play. That’s a good thing. It’s a chance to remember to be careful. A chance to survive some discomfort. A chance to persevere. Children learn to manage and assess risk by taking risks—these blocks offer up an opportunity to practice.


Like any good loose part, these materials will be used in all kinds of ways in all kinds of play. Don’t be surprised if the bricks become gold bars or dinosaur eggs and the spools become breakfast cereal or projectiles.


These simple materials are a great way to enhance block play and all the attendant learning. If you give it a go, share your experiences and photos in the comments.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.