Thanks to Ms. Rama (Mother of Zera, Serenity) for sharing her experience of learning through play with connector toys!
Connector materials/ toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes, structures and age appropriateness. They are essentially a part of constructive free play and can start as early as 6 months, going all the way upto being fun for adults too 😊! It helps children deeply understand structures and how things come together.
We happened to experiment with a basic set of straw connectors, which was sparingly used over the last year or so when we first got it, but during the lockdown both the kids, Z (5.5 yrs) and J (3 yrs) rekindled their interest in working with this basic set. Once they got very comfortable with the straw connectors, we then moved to stick connectors which are sturdier and more versatile in use, although they offer slightly lesser flexibility in movement.
This was one of the things that really worked for us as the children could sit at it for hours in a day and still are going strong with it at 5 months+. Often, their creative builds and our reality would clash, where what they called a dinosaur would definitely not look like one! But it was amazing to see their attempts to replicate objects around us and create some new ones of their own.
There are several known benefits to connector play, just highlighting a few which we noticed for sure:
- Excellent boost to fine motor skills esp. for the younger kids, as they grasp and attempt to mould and exert pressure to make the connections
- Imagination and creativity, allowing to make with their hands whatever their minds imagine and create lovely stories around the objects made
- Basic geometry and spatial sense – Mind thinks of a structure and pattern and tries to replicate that using the tools available
- Problem-solving, tinkering and experimenting – It gives the child immediate feedback on the work and an opportunity to self-correct with minimal guidance
- Works great for individual as well as group play (in our case siblings)
One of the big advantages of connectors are they facilitate a high degree of movement of the things that the child makes, which allows them to explore more ideas than modular building blocks (while they are great too!). Initially, doing this together with the child and starting with basic forms (something simple like shapes) can also be a great way to encourage the child and give them confidence.
Building their own versions of different objects and forming structures can be so much fun for children and hearing stories around them has definitely been fun for us too.
As we navigate long-distance learning, we invite parents to email us articles/thoughts/any fun ideas that your children have responded well to. We will regularly feature these in our newsletters and blog, as we believe the entire Anthea community benefits from our collective experiences.