Block play is a valuable learning tool for young children of all ages. By setting aside an area for block play within the child care space, child care providers are creating an area for imaginative cooperative play. Children playing with blocks are practicing a wide variety of developmental skills, including manipulating objects, creating structures, and working together.
Block Play Supports Children's Development
Block play enhances young children’s development across several different domains. Look for the following skills as children interact with blocks:
Physical development: Infants and toddlers using blocks are practicing their grasping and hand manipulation skills. Preschoolers and school-age children can refine their gross motor and fine motor skills by building complex structures that require balance, a steady hand, and hand-eye coordination.
Cognitive skills: Children working with blocks have a chance to use their ideas to produce real structures. Building complex block structures requires children to understand a variety of math concepts, including size, shape, number, order, area, length, pattern, and weight. Children can practice comparison, measurement, and classification, among other essential thinking skills.
Language development: The block area is an ideal place for children to practice new vocabulary by using words to describe types of buildings, shapes, and structures. When planning a structure together, children must use verbal communication skills. Child care providers can enhance language skills in the block area by using new vocabulary words, encouraging children to describe their structures and their building process, and encouraging children to write stories about the structures they create.
Social and emotional skills: When working together in the block area, children begin to practice negotiation. They get experience following rules, sharing their ideas and insights, and looking at the world from the points of view of others.
What Teachers Should Know about Block Play
Understanding the Child's Role: Children go through four expected stages in their block play. Knowledge of these stages provides teachers with a reasonable expectation of how children’s block play will change over time.
Stage 1 – Carrying blocks
Stage 2 – Piling blocks and making roads
Stage 3 – Connecting blocks to create structures (bridging, making enclosures, designs)
Stage 4 – Making elaborate constructions
Understanding the Teacher's Role: Teachers can support children's play in the block center by talking to them about what they are building. Be sure to focus on the process of building, not the final product. Child care providers should comment on block choice, arrangement, number, similarity, or any special design features that a child has used.
Teachers are responsible for the following in the block center:
Setting up props that teach social studies and community concepts, pattern formations, and problem solving
Identifying blocks and accessories by proper name, shape, size, or color
Urging cooperative play, protecting the rights of each child