Where does the name Stacking Blocks come from? The CDC has a list of developmental milestones that are commonly used as reference when gauging a child’s growth and development. Pediatricians will typically also have lists that may be a bit more comprehensive to go over at a child’s routine checkups.
Developmental Guidelines, Not Laws
Using these lists as guidelines while your child is growing up can be a really helpful way to see if your child is on track compared to typical peers. It’s sometimes fun to look ahead at these developmental milestones and see upcoming items and realize your child is already proficient at some of them. On the flip side, it can be terrifying when some of the bullet points aren’t met with 100% accuracy.
This can be an exhausting mindset to exist in. These guidelines are just that – guidelines for a child’s development. They are not meant to be a measure of absolutes. A typically developing child will exhibit the milestones in their development. If a couple items aren’t mastered here and there it’s really not a cause for major concern right away. As a new parent, it’s hard not to dwell sometimes.
This seems like a good spot to take a brief pause and shout out a PSA. If you ever have any cause for concern with your child’s development, talk with their pediatrician right away. Don’t worry about being a paranoid, over protective parent, just do it. Bring up anything and everything, do it regularly and repeatedly, if you feel it’s necessary. You know your child best.
When D was littler, one of the items on the developmental list from our pediatrician was the ability to stack two or more blocks on top of each other. We always liked going over these lists and checking off items that he had mastered. Some of the items like “shows interest in toys” he never did. We explained this away as D just being advanced and not having an interest in baby toys. Stacking blocks came up in a few of these lists along the way and eventually we decided to really see if D could do it.
When we first began trying, he just showed no interest in participating in any sort of structured activity. He was really good at taking all the blocks out and scattering them on the floor but the interest stopped there.
We would try modeling the actions for him. Mom would take a block and place it on another block. Dad would do the same.
Again. And again. And again, for hours over the course of weeks we would try. Nothing.
We would try hand over hand. We would manipulate D’s hands with ours and stack blocks that way with the same result: Nothing.
Hours and hours. Days and weeks.
We didn’t know what else to try. Was he just doing things in a very D-like fashion? Totally on his own timeline and on his terms? Were we failing as parents? Were we just terrible at teaching our toddler how to play with blocks? How did other parents do it so easily? There were many more questions than there were answers.
Well, as D continued to grow, he gradually missed more and more of these milestones. These included fine motor, verbal and imaginative development. We began to put all these pieces together on top of each other and through my wife’s instinct and a referral from family, decided to get D evaluated and screened.
The disinterest and inability to stack blocks was one of the first blatant indicators to us that something was going on with our son. It was a very identifiable, tangible piece of data that we could definitively say, “No, D is definitely not doing this” that struck us upside the head.
Over the last couple years one of D’s OT goals has been to stack blocks. The process was so slow going, almost painfully slow at first. He has put in so much hard work and now he is able to stack seven to eight blocks totally by himself. He can even get in to the twenties with assistance!
We gained some incredible perspective a little while back when S, D’s younger brother by two years, started building towers. He just…did it. By himself. It was born out of curiosity and play. We have seen him DO so many things that D just wasn’t wired to do. They’ve all been a series of “Aha!” moments that have lent validation to us as parents.
When S stacked two and three and four blocks all by himself, out of the blue, I remember thinking back to our hours of trying to get his older brother to do the same. If we would have known then…but we didn’t, of course… We may have been saved from a whole lot of frustration, exasperation and heartache, but we couldn’t have known. D was our first child and we just didn’t have any basis for comparison.
The symbolism of stacking blocks is obvious, I won’t delve in to that too much, but I do find it important to share the evolution of focus as D has gone through his journey to become a block stacking master.
Initially, the goal in trying to get him to stack blocks was to build his fine motor, increase his hand-eye coordination and give him the beginnings of a base of functional play. Even before that, though, we had to break through a barrier that made the actual activity of stacking blocks basically repulsive to D.
His occupational therapist would begin the job of stacking blocks and D would cry. Then he’d cry harder and our 45 minute OT sessions would be filled with 35-40 minutes of crying, kicking and screaming just to get him to tolerate holding a block.
Over time this got better. D became okay with handling blocks. He became okay with manipulating blocks. We’d occasionally take breaks from this activity and focus elsewhere for several weeks. When we’d return to the blocks he’d be more comfortable.
Hand over hand was the only means of getting him to actually stack for quite some time. Then, one day, he just did it. He stacked four blocks! I was certain it was a fluke. Then, he did it again. And again. And all of the sudden, he was getting enjoyment and satisfaction out of it. You could see his eyes and face just light up.
The current focus with this particular activity is D’s wrist posture when making his towers higher. He has a tendency to not twist and pivot his hand when he’s reaching and this will cause him to reach for the top of the tower to place another block and knock it over. This, of course, makes him angry and trying again sometimes doesn’t go too well.
Our focus went from simply tolerating the presence of a damn block without breaking down in to a fit of inconsolable sobbing to turning his hand a matter of a few degrees while he’s independently building a tower 8, 9, 10 blocks high.
That, to me, is astonishing.
“Stacking blocks – one at a time”
It’s not just a phrase that I slapped on the top of this site that seems fitting and seems like it may be meaningful and sounds good.
It is so apt and suited to D’s development. That little boy has come such a long way in the past couple years and a good part of his journey has been incremental steps forward that have all built upon each other to take us to where we are today.
I remind myself all the time that he is still so young. He’s just turned four years old and has already attended fairly intensive early intervention services for almost three quarters of his life. We have spent all this time building a foundation upon which we can create so many skills and abilities. That foundation, much like any other, is crucial and its integrity cannot be compromised. That’s why it has been such a big focus.
He’s got a long way to go and we don’t know exactly what the future holds but we are confident that whatever it is, he will continue to blow us away.