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Everyday Play with Blocks

EVERYDAY PLAY WITH Blocks

BY SUKIE JACKSON

I forget about the blocks in our classroom sometimes. I shouldn’t. Anytime I find a way to encourage both boys and girls to engage in block play, the outcome is positive. Most recently Older 4 children built on a lesson about shapes to create imaginative and elaborate block structures. Here are just a few highlights of our Circle Time:

  • One crew made a construction site with a hemisphere shape as “a dome.” A member of this group thought long and hard about how to use the curve shaped blocks.  Blocks1 Eventually he created a road to the site with C-shaped blocks and a ramp.
  • Four children used block shapes to build a water park.  Blocks2 Triangular blocks were positioned upright as water slides and columns sprayed water.
  • One child built a pyramid into his structure to make a tower. Another opted to build a house. She persevered when her first attempt toppled over and built a second. The third child working in this area experimented with arches. Blocks3
  • All the children engaged in an impromptu show-and-tell. As we walked to see the three different areas where children worked, each individual child had something he/she wanted to say about their creation.
  • When it came time to clean up the blocks, groups worked as teams matching block with shape outlines on the shelves— a puzzle in itself.

There is no shortage on research about the benefits to block play. This excerpt from The Economist magazine in the article “How do unit blocks help children learn?” nicely summarizes the benefits of block play and what is meant by “unit” blocks.

“Theorists cite a laundry list of the benefits that children derive from playing with unit blocks… Co- Blocks4 operative building develops language and social skills. The “unit”-based measurements of halves, doubles and quadruples, combined with columns, ramps, curves, buttresses and other specialised shapes, lay the foundations for basic maths and geometry. Balance and collapse teach the nature of gravity. Ramps and columns can be used to make simple levers and fulcrums. The need to place blocks carefully develops hand-eye co-ordination. Does all this ascribe too much educational potential to simple chunks of wood? In fact, multiple studies over several decades back up these claims, with some finding that children who play with blocks significantly outperform those who do not, not just in infancy but over their entire academic careers.”

I find that simple questions and an interest in my part can encourage use of blocks by children. “What would you like to make?”  I wonder if you can build something tall?”  “Do the cars need a garage?”  “Could blocks be used to keep the farm animals separate?”  “Is there something you two could you build together?”  “What could this long block be used for?”

How can I forget about blocks? Special thanks to teacher Brenda Holmes-Stanciu who helps me remember!

SIncerely,

Sukie Jackson          Older 4s teacher.