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Pass the Blocks, Say Child Care Experts

April 19, 2011

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Pass the blocks, say child care experts. Two recent studies confirm that playing with objects like blocks, which can be used in various ways, is better than toys that have only one purpose. That was no surprise to Elsa Nunez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University, who says Eastern runs an early childhood teacher training program that includes an on-site child care center.

"And the children, it's very interesting how they direct each other to play with the toy. In other words, one discovers one thing and that leads the other one to look and discover something else, with no teacher."

She says students majoring in early childhood education at Eastern learn to be non-directive when working with pre-schoolers, because that approach provides the best learning opportunities.

According to Nunez, having an on-site child care center provides a learning laboratory for students.

"So in addition to learning the theory, they actually see the application of the theory, and that's what makes us, I think, very cutting-edge in terms of instruction, in undergraduate instruction, in early childhood education."

The studies in the journal Cognition are from MIT and UC-Berkeley. They support the idea that teaching cognitive skills to kids at younger and younger ages is not the best way for them to learn.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT