Wooden blocks were one of the few toys Maria Montessori advocated for in the home environment. My children have gone through cycles of playing with wooden blocks however we always have blocks out and they are frequently played with. If you haven't read it I highly recommend Teaching Numeracy, Language and Literacy with Blocks - it is a fantastic resource on doing more with blocks.
My children are now four and seven years old. They have spent years playing with wooden blocks, they are looking for challenges with their building, they are creating more and higher - taking more risks. They incorporate people, animals, landscapes, vehicles. They are wanting blocks that do more. I can see the engagement, the deeper level of thinking, the critical analysis increase with magnetic, interlocking and other construction blocks. So much so that I feel these blocks have re-engaged my children with block play. Here are some of our favourites. I have included many Australian and US resources.
Magnetic, Interconnecting, Interlocking blocks allow construction, engineering that standard wooden blocks do not allow for. Blocks can join at different angles and in many cases will stay together and can be moved or picked up. In many cases for the child (and adult) the blocks require some experimentation to see what is going to work. This really develops their critical thinking! I love how many block sets contain images that the child can try to replicate or to be free to build their own.
Why have I included wooden marble runs? Once we started using our marble run I realised how it really is a sophisticated block structure. We have number 9 and the wooden block pieces actually connect into each other - it's simply made up of blocks with holes in them (and some pathways). And sophisticated as it isn't aways clear which way the marble will run through it. It requires some complex thinking.
We have some of these block sets. Many of them have come as gifts and they are all rotated. Block sets are perfect to put on wish lists for Christmas and birthdays (especially good as ideas for Grandparents). Some of our block sets are out of rotation for a couple of months - which makes them like new to the children when they are reintroduced. If your children no longer show interest in their blocks I would try some extension ideas (add interest with model animals, people, model street signs, match box cars, play silks etc whatever might appeal) and if that doesn't attract their attention - put the blocks in storage for a couple of weeks or more and then reintroduce. Although it is not generally the case here, I also think it's totally ok to mix block sets. Also I have found it hard to predict age ranges for some of these blocks - each of my children have their preferences. I love blocks which make the child think differently, that challenge the child, blocks that take their building and play further!
1. Texto (US here). 2. Interlocking Blocks (Similar US here). 3. Connecting Blocks (Caspar using them here). 4. Wooden Construction Set. 5. Magnetic Blocks (Tegu looks great!). 6. Rainbow Wooden Blocks (US here). 7. The Happy Architect Coloured (Similar US here) (Otis using it in the natural finish here). 8. Marble Run (If I lived in the US I would have ordered this one). 9. Marble Run (Otis using here) (US here).10. City Blocks (I wish these came in individual sets!).