Block Play

Block Play

Location: indoor or outdoor

Materials: a set of wooden blocks, other props (people, animals, cars, etc.) are optional

You don't need to do too much to make block play educational for your kids. Building with blocks gives children a chance to work on a ton of different math concepts, as well as motor development, social skills, and self-expression.

Ways to make the learning visible:

  • Ask what the child built. Invite them to give you a tour and show you all of the features. For example, you can ask, "What's this part over here?"
  • Ask about their goals and help them think through how to accomplish them. For example, if they tell you they are trying to build the tallest building, you can ask, "How can we make it taller?" and guide them with both questions and trial and error to a more successful approach.
  • Ask questions about cause and effect with the blocks. For example, ask, "What would happen if I did this?" or, "What if I put this here?" You can do this without actually messing up or changing their structure.
  • Encourage them to work together. Blocks provide a great opportunity for collaboration.
  • Give them language for sharing. As much as we might all wish we had an infinite amount of blocks, that's probably not realistic. Your children may be forced to figure out how to share the exact pieces they want. A script for a child that needs a lot of support in sharing should sound something like this:
    • Teacher to Liz: "It looks like Sheila is using those pieces right now, but maybe you can ask Sheila to let you know when she's done."
    • Teacher to Sheila: "Sheila, Liz would like a turn with those. Can you let her know when you're done?"
    • The goal is for kids to eventually be able to do this without teacher support, but in the beginning you may need to support the entire interaction.
  • Allow a pause at cleanup. Sometimes cleanup time comes, and kids aren't actually done yet with what they're working on. If possible, allow them to leave their block structure in place so they can return to it later in the day. This isn't always possible given space restrictions in the classroom, but something to consider.

What We're Learning

  • collaboration and team work
  • role playing and self-expression
  • spatial awareness
  • conflict negotiation
  • flexible thinking
  • language and communication
  • early math concepts like size, balance, weight, symmetry, and shape