I really could never have predicted that when we gave Jack his first set of wooden blocks that he would derive so much joy from building. He spends time in our block area everyday creating; sometimes specific sculptures, other times seemingly just the cathartic repetitious motion of stacking. Through blocks, Jack and Sarah are learning to share and Jack is learning to manage his frustrations.
I really think blocks are the epitome of open-ended materials. They allow a child to express their own creativity while making designs, constructions and sculptures. Blocks require a child to think creatively, problem solve, negotiate and invent. They learn about concepts of balance, stability and symmetry through trial and error as they construct their buildings.
Blocks also encourage a child to think 3-dimensionally, especially with the addition of a mirror, blocks teach children about angles, height and perspective.
Extending Block Play
Every child plays with blocks in their own unique way and has therefore developed their own unique understanding of how blocks work. Through observation though, we can extend their block play. You might notice your child creating pretend worlds with the blocks and so adding some loose materials to the blocks will encourage them to deepen their play. Or you might notice your child building similar structures each time and so maybe some sketching to expand ideas or a demonstration will inspire them to use blocks in new ways.
Next time your child is playing with their blocks, sit and watch for a while. What are they doing?
- Are they stacking into a single tower?
- Are they building a line of blocks?
- Are they building a 3-dimensional building with walls?
- Are they constructing a flat blue-print type building?
- or the tallest tower they can manage?
These observations will give you insights into how your child approaches blocks. There is no right or wrong way, each child will play in a way that speaks to them, but we can provide opportunities for them to extend their play and continue to master new skills and understandings.
- add loose materials based on your child’s current interests to the blocks
- add a mirror to the block area to encourage your child to build 3-dimensionally by making the front-side of the blocks visible
- if the blocks come with a booklet of suggested designs (like Rolka blocks or Lego), put these away for the moment so your child can discover and create on their own
- provide a nice sturdy platform for them to build
- provide as much space as possible to build – a big space encourages big work
- ask your child about specific details of their building – “Is this Daddy’s work?” “What is this part here?”
- before they crash it down, ask them if they would like to sketch their building so they can refer to it (and build upon) next time
- if they are having difficulty building something, like maybe a bridge, bring out the clipboard again and ask them to draw their ideas. Use the plan to work through the problem together
- don’t be afraid to teach them how to build something – Jack always revels in being taught a new skill or design idea
92 blocks for $US 49 Nova Natural Toys
50 blocks for $29 Rolka Creative Building Blocks
Imaginarium Wooden Blocks:
150 blocks/$US 29.99 Toys’r’Us
$5 K-mart (Jumbling Tower)
Discovery Light & Colour Blocks:
24 blocks/$46.15 ZartArt (Product Search -> Product Code -> WP020)
ZartArt have amazing materials but their online store isn’t the most user friendly. You can order their Play-based Catalogue. It is so inspiring.
Wooden Nesting Rainbow:
6 blocks/$US 39.51 Little Sapling Toys
Haba Wooden Marble Run:
$US 95.14 Amazon
Natural Tree Blocks:
Small and large branch blocks. Free from nature.