While on the surface it may just look like fun, our teachers have a more intimate understanding of the values our children are getting out of their play. Every single thing our children do contributes to their development. In this series of blog posts, we would like to illustrate and examine the different play centers our students get the opportunity to explore nearly every day. Some may bounce from center to center. Others are happy to stay at one or two for most of the morning.
First up is a staple of childhood: block play. Building structures with chunks of wood is timeless. We know that children engage many areas of their brains when playing with blocks, such as….
- Balance when they stack the blocks
- Concepts of shapes, size, length, locations, space, color, and angles when they select which ones to use for their tower
- Estimation when they determine how many more they need
- Measurement when they determine the length of the road they need for their cars
- Gravity when the tower comes crashing down
- Persistence when they start all over again.
- Patience when it doesn’t work out the 1st time
- Math concepts when they put six squares together to create or repeat patterns
- Creativity when they use their imagination and add other things to the blocks like milk caps, spools, corks
- Cooperation when they work together with others
- Problem solving and planning
Blocks are also a great investment- they grow with children, and can be used from time a child is sitting up until well into their childhood years. They can also be used by different ages of children at the same time, encouraging siblings to engage in cooperative play.
How can you help support block play at school and at home?
1. Provide extra accessories, such as dolls, cars and other small toys, paper towel rolls and small plastic bins, cardboard and markers to make signs.
2. Help children pick up blocks at the end of play- it is a lot of work, and may be a deterrent to choosing blocks if assistance is not provided
3. Set ground rules such as:
- We build with blocks, not throw them.
- You may knock down only the tower you build.
- You may build as tall as you are.
4. Remember that different ages of children will play with blocks in different ways.
- Toddlers and 2’s may just explore how they feel, how heavy they are, and what sounds they make when they fall. They also enjoy filling and dumping, stacking, knocking down and laying blocks side by side on the floor.
- 3’s will begin more constructive types of play. They may actually build a structure, a garage, or a house. 3’s usually play alone or near other children and are beginning to engage in pretend play.
- 4 and 5 year old’s begin to combine structures to make more complex buildings. They may begin to share ideas and cooperate and build with others. They may use block accessories and add more types of toys into their play.
Here are some ways the children at the co-op have been using blocks this year:
In the coming weeks, look for other areas our children benefit from play as we detail each one in our Learning Through Play Series! Did you play with blocks as a child? Do your children love blocks? What is their favorite way to use them?