Blocks of various shapes, colors and styles were the main attraction for parents and children visiting the McPherson Family YMCA Tuesday.

Blocks of various shapes, colors and styles were the main attraction for parents and children visiting the McPherson Family YMCA Tuesday.
From 1 to 2 p.m., patrons could participate in BLOCK Fest, a program developed by the University of Idaho that helps kids learn math, science and social skills.
It also helps parents see the value of play in learning, said Anne Kirchner, director of United Way and a volunteer at the event.
“As a parent, you don't always think of play as educational,” Kirchner said.
Alana Murphy, chairwoman of the McPherson County Coalition for Children and Families, said the coalition was looking for an activity for young families to help kids grow socially and academically. LaNell Keeler, from Southeast of Saline Parents as Teachers, said a BLOCK Fest set had been brought to Salina from Manhattan, so they decided to see if other area communities would like to use it.
Keeler said there are nine BLOCK Fest sets, comprising a variety of blocks from simple wooden planks to large ones painted like bricks, spread throughout Kansas. She said the blocks help children learn about science and math, as well as balance, creativity and cooperation.
Murphy said learning is the focus of BLOCK Fest.
“That's it's purpose,” Murphy said. “Basically, it's play that builds the foundations for science and math.”
The event included several groups of blocks
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children could play with. Children were to build structures or arrange blocks by groups or patterns.
While the children moved to different groups every so often, Keeler said the idea was to let them do what they wanted.
“They need that free feeling, to direct their own play,” Keeler said.
Parents and volunteers helped supervise the children while they played. Alison Kroeker, mother of 2-year-old Karis Kroeker and a former preschool teacher, said she thought the activity was a good way for her daughter to interact with others and learn to communicate.
“It helps them develop problem solving and interact so they know how to share and process conflict,” Kroeker said. “While she's still an only child, it's good for her to be around other children.”
Keeler said the appeal of BLOCK Fest isn't limited to small children. She said children as old as 11 enjoyed themselves at the event in Salina.
“Those sixth graders are mesmerized for hours,” Keeler said. “They're just more sophisticated.”
She said parents also have had a good time at the event.
“Parents in Salina told us maybe they had more fun than the kids,” Keeler said.
Keeler said she hopes BLOCK Fest will encourage parents to play with their children more and that BLOCK Fest will return to McPherson in the future.
“I believe, and I think there's a lot of research, that simple blocks are the best toys for kids,” Keeler said.

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