There are a multitude of toys out there for building and creating. One new favorite of mine, and the kiddos I work with, is magnetic blocks or magna-tiles. These blocks have been around since the late-1990s and have seemed to gain popularity in the last 2-3 years as STEM and STEAM become more prevalent in our lives. I love magna-tiles because they are designed to hold a child’s interest and attention, build critical developmental skills and promote imaginative play and creativity. All the makings of a great Playing With Purpose activity!

Top 5 Tips for PWP with Magna-tiles:

1. Work on basic concepts while playing with your magnetic blocks. Magna-tiles come in many sizes, shapes, and color so you can teach these concepts during play. Get down on the floor with your child and take out a variety of tiles. Then, have your child sort or match the tiles by color or shape or size. You can add and model language during this activity to highlight the basic concepts. Try using sentences such as, “I see you found a yellow block” or “Look, that tile is a triangle.” You can also model sentences to compare and contrast which is another important concept for children to understand. Say “This blue block is large and this yellow block is small.”

2. Encourage cooperative play and social skills while building a shared structure with a group of 2 or more children. Start by giving one of the children just the triangular magna-tiles and the other child a box with all the remaining pieces. One child will have to initiate with their peer to get the parts he needs to build their block building. You can also work on making comments after a friend has asked for an item. Modeling phrases is an excellent tool to help your child if they are having trouble commenting. You could say, “I see Jack used the blue magna-tiles as the roof.” If your child imitates your words, then be sure to praise him for using a great sentence. Maybe on their next turn, they will use the phrase on their own.

3. Build while targeting following multi-step directions. Give your child a few magna-tiles to start and place a bunch of parts on the floor in front of her. Decide how many directions your child can follow at a time and give them a task. You could start by asking, “Put the red block on top of the blue block,” or “Put the yellow tile behind the green.” A more complicated direction might sound like, “Before you put the yellow tile behind the green, put the red block on top of the blue block.” Take it up one more notch and have your child give you the directions. They will love having the tables turned and getting to be in charge!

4. Play a barrier game to teach descriptive concepts and location words. For this activity, it is crucial that you and your child have the same set of blocks. You don’t need to have many (i.e., 5-10) in most cases but be sure you have the same size, shape, color of each piece. The next step is to set up a barrier between you two, so you cannot see each others’ work. Then build or create a pattern with your magna-tiles and describe what it looks like for your child. After she builds, then you compare and see if they match. This is why it’s necessary to have the same pieces in your set. I suggest you, as the adult, go first to model the expected behavior. Then let your child take a turn. Highlight location words, AKA prepositions, such as on, under, next to, in front, behind, top, bottom, on, off, and between as well as descriptive concepts, AKA adjectives, such as colors, size, and shape.

5. Use magnetic blocks as a reinforcer game to play with children working to improve their speech sounds. If you’re struggling with your child to complete their speech therapy homework, this will be a fun idea! Take your magnetic blocks and write, with dry erase marker or on pieces of tape, different numbers on each block. Just put one number on each block. I stick with primarily 2 through 5 written on each block with a few zingers like numbers 7-10 and a fun FREE block. Use your provided word list to practice the speech sounds in words, phrases, or sentences as you create. For example, if your child draws a block with the four, then they practice 4 words or sentences.

Magna-tiles are not just for building; they are for building speech and language skills. Time to get out and start Playing With Purpose!

Want to learn more strategies using magna-tiles or blocks when you play?

Start Playing With Purpose

Learn how to purposefully and intentionally interact with your child during play and help them increase opportunities for speech and language development with our Playing with Purpose book!

Playing with Purpose Book

Learn how to purposefully and intentionally interact with your child during play and help them increase opportunities for speech and language development!