Many Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms have blocks with which the children play. Most families have some type of blocks in their home that their children play with or did so at one time.  No one denies the allure of blocks for children.  Children learn while they are playing with blocks, especially in the classroom.  Here are some of the things they are learning:

PROBLEM SOLVING – Sometimes it is intentional:  “I want to build a tower, a building, a rocket, etc. How do I do that?” Other times it is in the moment: “To go higher and add to one side, what can I use?”  I see children all the time begin with intent and then change as they see what they have created so far and their vision changes. If a child is able to solve problems on their own, they will be happier, more confident and more independent; they will not feel frustrated or disheartened.

USING THEIR IMAGINATION – Children can follow their own plan or they can share a friend’s vision and work together to create something new.  If children are provided with opportunities to develop imagination for themselves when they are very young, their creative problem solving abilities are enhanced. Building with blocks, playing with paints, with costumes, with glue and with crayons. Making a mess. Wondering at a caterpillar inching past. Pretending to be a bird, gliding through the sky. It happens every day in my classroom!

SELF-EXPRESSION – Blocks offer many ways for young learners to explore, express themselves, and demonstrate something they have only had in their thoughts.

MATH SKILLS – Important concepts and skills are practiced and strengthened through block play. Some of these include measurement, compare/contrast, sorting, numbers,  counting, estimation, symmetry, balance, etc. Children learn concepts that stick when they use hands on activities, such as block play.  You can explain balance to a child all day long, but they gain understanding of it when they have built a hundred block towers and have learned the implications of size and weight on what makes their towers stand.

CREATIVITY – Blocks and other loose parts can be moved freely by the children, to be combined and recombined in countless ways.  The children in my class also love to pull in toys from other areas in the room to include in the block world they have created.  And they always ask me to “TAKE A PICTURE, MRS. GREEN!”

SCIENCE – Blocks offer opportunities to test hypotheses and build scientific reasoning.  Many a failed and retried experiment takes place on a daily basis in our block area.

SELF-ESTEEM – I watch the children in my class discover that they have worthwhile ideas and that they can bring their ideas to life by creating, transforming, demolishing, and re-creating something unique.

SOCIAL SKILLS – Playing with blocks in a group setting helps the children in my class learn to take turns, share materials, speak civilly to one another, and develop new friendships.  They also become self-reliant, increase attention span, learn to cooperate with others, and develop self-esteem.

DEVELOPMENT IN OTHER AREAS – Block play requires fine and gross motor skills.  As mentioned earlier, blocks enhance children’s problem solving skills and build language, math, and science skills.  Constructing these creations help build feelings of success in a real life way.

Yep!  I am sure there are many other things the children in my class are probably learning while they are playing with blocks in the classroom.  I do not suppose the children even realize they are learning all of these wonderful things as they busy themselves with creating and teamwork.  That’s the beauty of it.  Hands down, when I ask, “What play area would you like to go to today?”, the most popular answer is “BLOCKS!”

Cathy Green

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