When block play becomes much more than ‘just playing’

When we say block play I guess you think of building towers and other structures with duplo or lego. Thats exactly right but block play can take many different forms too. We use construction materials of all sorts of shapes and sizes. We have magnetico which are magnetic blocks which enable the children to create larger and taller structures without them falling apart at the slightest movement.

Other blocks like the small wooden blocks help with fine motor skills and they are small and take some concentration to get them to balance. We also use more natural resources such as sticks and stones and other household items like cardboard boxes, yoghurt pots etc. If you can build with it we do!

All block play helps to develop imagination and develops communication and language. Children have to decide what to do with the blocks. Are they building something specific or just putting the blocks together in a random format? Sometimes they add other objects such as animals and make buildings or fields, other times they simply build up the structure and enjoy knocking it down. We encourage them to talk as they play. This could be about what they are building, the colours, shapes or counting the blocks they have used or simply chattering about what we have ben doing, what we will have for snack etc.

We have recently had a move around in the room to ensure our learning environment best meets the needs of our children and to optimise their learning. We have relocated the construction area as we felt it wasn’t being used as much as it could have been.

We have spent the week focussing on larger scale block play and brought in some of the equipment we usually have outside including large wooden blocks and cardboard tubes. We didn’t want to overload the area so only brought limited numbers into the area but made children aware there were plenty more if they wanted them.

I think the only thing that the children didn’t do with the blocks was build towers with them! They were used as ramps and car parks for cars.

The children used them as seats and to jump off. Then they assembles them into an obstacle course and they used various methods to negotiate their way along the the course including walking and crawling.

The tubes were used in equally as inventive ways. Some children used them to hit other objects with (and sometimes each other), some used them to shout down and experiment with sound and others used them as telescopes!

They also enjoyed adding their cars to the tubes and making tunnels for them.

Whist all of this investigation and play was going on we also observed a huge number of other skills. The children shared the resources waiting for others to finish before they used a resource. They took turns going round the obstacle course and using problem solving skills soon worked out that they all needed to go in the same direction for the course to work. The children had to work together as a team to achieve their goals. They began interacting with each other and using each others names. We saw play begin and be extended adding new resources to make things better. The problem solving continued in seeing which cars would fit down the tubes and which were too big (we purposely offered a range of sizes some of which we knew would not fit)

We heard so much language from the children ranging from good manners saying’ please’ and ‘thank you’ to more mathematical terms such as big, long etc.

So I bet you’re thinking there must have been an adult there helping, talking to them and telling them what to do – NO! I was there armed with my camera and notepad to write down what I saw but this was totally child led. They came up with ideas themselves, sorted out conflict (mostly) independently and enjoyed some massive achievements. They also had so much FUN and ultimately that is what learning is all about. They didn’t know they were learning or developing new or existing skills. They didn’t know they were often doing things and using language that they have never used before because all they were focussed on was having fun with their friends.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our week and will be extending this further next week. Why not try doing some block play at home, remember you don’t need any expensive toys or equipment cereal boxes would be perfect. Don’t forget to share what you have been doing with us we love to see the children developing their interests at home.

Little Stars – Learning, laughter and fun!