8-2 | Blocks, Bricks, and Planks


Blocks, Bricks, and Planks
Relationships between Affordance and Visuo-Spatial Constructive Play Objects

Daniel Ness and Stephen J. Farenga


The authors consider the strengths and weaknesses of three different visuo-spatial constructive play object (VCPO) types—blocks, bricks, and plank—and their impact on the development of creativity in spatial thinking and higher learning during free play. Each VCPO has its own set of attributes, they note, leading to different purposes, functions, aesthetic outcomes, and narratives. They argue that one key to understanding the impact of these toys is to determine, based on the diversity of their attributes, each VCPO’s level of affordance. The authors suggest that the specific qualities of some play materials may help establish the scientific, mathematical, and technological foundations required in such professional disciplines as architecture and engineering. In contrast, they argue that the use of VCPOs hobbled by formulaic, scripted play properties may have the opposite effect, that the use of products manufactured with specialized, commercialized themes runs the risk of impeding self-regulation and even creative ideation. They hope their findings serve as a starting point for future studies that examine the benefits and shortcomings of specific play objects on cognitive development and creativity. Key words: affordance; block play; brick play; child development; constructive play; plank play; spatial thinking; visuo-spatial constructive play objects