Objective: To test the hypotheses that block play improves language acquisition and attention.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Pediatric clinic.
Participants: Children aged 1(1/2) to 2(1/2) years.
Intervention: Distribution of 2 sets of building blocks.
Main outcome measures: Scores on the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories, television viewing based on diary data, and the hyperactivity domain of the Child Behavior Checklist.
Results: Of 220 families approached in the clinic waiting room, 175 (80%) agreed to participate in the study. At least 1 diary was returned from 92 of the 175 families (53%). A total of 140 families (80%) completed exit interviews. Of the children in the intervention group, 52 (59%) had block play reported in their diaries compared with 11 (13%) in the control group (P<.01). The linear regression results for language acquisition were as follows: entire sample--raw score, 7.52 (P=.07); percentile, 8.4 (P=.15); low-income sample--raw score, 12.40 (P=.01); percentile, 14.94 (P=.03). For attention the results were as follows: entire sample--odds ratio, 0.49 (P=.29); low-income sample--odds ratio, 0.48 (P=.26) There were no statistically significant differences with respect to hyperactivity scores.
Conclusions: Distribution of blocks can lead to improved language development in middle- and low-income children. Further research is warranted.