A few weeks ago we went to "Block Fest" - a traveling, interactive exhibit which teaches children (and parents) math and languages concepts through the use of blocks (sorting, counting, recognizing and repeating patterns, exploring the laws of gravity, identifying shapes and colors, etc). There were six stations each with a different type of block and different ideas for "play".
This was my favorite station - with the small colored cubes. I think my daughter loved it as well as she is very into patterns lately - they had a series of laminated cards with a pattern or picture that you were to replictae.
I remember we used to use these blocks in school to build a wall on top of our desk so that no one would cheat - I like the above pictured use a lot better. These blocks were actually great for stacking and knocking down (that is the only reason you build a tower right) because they were so light weight (hence no one got hurt).
We would get to explore and play at each station for about 15 minutes.
I also loved the "Green" block station which included pretty much everything you would find in your recycling bin - cereal and diaper boxes, juice containers, paper towel tubes, etc. (thoroughly cleaned). We discovered that Yoplait cups stack very well on top of eachother.
Attending this event reminded me that one of the best ways we can teach or children is by simply playing with them.
For more information on teaching early math skills with block play check out this article here.