Kidaptive Blog

From tinkering to planning: Building executive functions

, September 20, 2014

Building sets that encourage free play, like Tinkertoy® pieces, are great tools for helping your child develop planning and sequencing skills, which are fundamental to completing daily tasks and solving complex problems. Research shows that early childhood is a critical time for developing these skills. Try this fun building activity to support your child’s growth! (Keep in mind that your role should be to observe and understand rather than intervene and improve.)

1. Set out a standard set of 50+ Tinkertoy® pieces or other building materials.
2. Invite your child to make whatever they want, and explain that you’re really interested in seeing what they do.
3. Encourage your child to work for at least five minutes on their construction, giving them enough time to tinker, form a plan of what they want to make, and carry out that plan to the point where they feel it’s finished.
4. Wait for your child to tell you they are done; if they look finished—if they haven’t built anything for a minute or if they seem to have lost interest—ask them if they are still working or if they are done. This will help them evaluate their process.
5. When they are done, ask them about what they made.

Here are some things to look for as your child is building:

  • Do they name their construction as they start building—an indication that they have initiated a goal for themselves? (For example, “It’s a boat!” or “See my house?)
  • Do they name their construction at the end—a sign that they have developed a goal or are willing to participate in more organized building?
  • Do they name their structure in the middle of building—suggesting that, even without a specific plan in mind, they have been monitoring the construction as a whole and recognized a familiar idea or object?
  • Did they announce when they were finished—a marker that they evaluated their building and actively decided that the process was complete?

Your child does a lot of planning in their free play already, and this activity gives you a chance to observe their developing skills to see what your learner is really capable of!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.