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AREAS OF DEVELOPMENT ENHANCED BY BLOCKING BUILDING WITH CHILDREN
I’ll admit it when I entered graduate school I had no idea about block building. I signed up for the Block Building Class completely confused as to how a class on the graduate school level was about building blocks. I mean, don’t you just build blocks? By the end of the first class I was humbled about the complexities of early childhood education and specifically how beneficial block building is to a child’s education. The use of blocks in your classroom or home promotes all aspects of a child’s development.
gross motor development
Social- Emotional Development
pride of ones work
respecting peer’s work
THE BLOCK SHAPES
The specific shapes, lengths, widths and heights of the wooden blocks are crucial to the success of the block building experience. Pratt designed the unit blocks in an incredibly thoughtful manner through years of experimentation and direct observation in the early 1900s. A basic block set begins with the unit block and then expands with blocks two and four times as long but with the same width and thickness, cylinders, curves and half units.
BLOCK BUILDING HELPS CHILDREN EXPLORE FRACTIONS
All blocks except for the cylinders and curves can be created from the unit block via multiplication or division.
THE STAGES OF BLOCK BUILDING WITH CHILDREN
Repetition is the key to a successful education. Children need time, space and security to explore materials without any end product in mind. You can begin to introduce block building as soon children are capable of picking up the smaller blocks.
Children will carry blocks from one place to another without any real thought of building.
Stacking blocks in rows or small irregular towers.
Bridging is used. Two blocks are used with a space in between and another block connecting at the top.
Enclosures are created. This became a favorite part of my children’s block building after we visited the zoo.
Increased use of blocks, height, pattern and balance.
Dramatic play begins to appear. Children begin to name structures.
Building structures that represent everyday life.
THE BLOCK BUILDING ENVIRONMENT
Ideally a block building area should have a great deal of space. Hardwood floors are easier to build on than a rug. Yes, it does make a bit of noise if the blocks fall, but play spaces and classrooms were not meant to be quite places.
HOW TO STORE UNIT BLOCKS
THE CLEAN UP PROCESS
Almost everyday we have intricate block building structures that leave no blocks left on the shelves. The clean up process can be overwhelming to children when they look at how many blocks need to be sorted back on the shelves. Cleaning up needs to be part of the learning process and consistently practiced. Teach children to start from the top of their structures and work their way down to the bottom of block structures. Blocks are not to be crashed into. This is overwhelming and does not show respect for the materials. Do not assume that children understand that blocks should be sorted according to the labels. This is a teachable moment. Gather your children or students and model how to clean up. “I have a triangle block. Hmm, where does it go? I need to find the red triangle shape! Here it is! The triangle block goes behind the red triangle shape.” Have children come up and try to do the same with another block.
Do you have reluctant cleaners? Make it a game! Draw pictures of the block shapes on pieces of heavy paper and keep in a basket. At cleanup time have each child choose a shape. The child is responsible for cleaning up just that shape. This helps make the process less overwhelming. Want to practice counting and 1-to-1 correspondence? Have a basket full of numbers. Children pick a number and need to clean up the corresponding number of blocks.
The clean up process is a great opportunity to point out how working cooperatively as a team makes the cleaning easier and more fun!
BLOCK BUILDING ACCESSORIES
In the early stages of block building we focus solely on the wooden blocks. As children become more adapt at building and add dramatic play to the block building process I add a few accessories. Accessories are a great way to tie in a unit of study or a recent experiential trip. After our first beach vacation we added a basket of shells and some blue fabric. When studying our backyard bugs I placed a basket of pretend bugs. The children loved making little homes for our creatures. Here is a list of some of our favorite accessories. Please keep in mind to limit the amount of accessories as the focus should be on the block building
colored cube blocks
colored glass stones
small pieces of fabric
small sheets of tin foil
small pieces of paper (index cards) and markers to make signs and labels
Interested in creating your own block center? Start by purchasing good quality wooden unit blocks.
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