Last night I read an article on how much children can learn from simple block play. Hand to eye co-ordination, spatial awareness, sharing and other social skills, problem-solving skills, creativity and language skills are just a few of the benefits to children who are given a bucket of blocks and some uninterrupted free time to play.
So, in our Full Day Kindergarten class today, my teaching partner and I set aside a minimum of 45 minutes and gave our students buckets of blocks (and only blocks) to create and play with. There were large wooden blocks, small wooden blocks, Lego, and soft foam blocks. We both sat on the carpets in our room with the children to interact and play with them, but also to observe the skills they use while creating with the blocks.
In the group that gathered to sit by me, the children made a community, demonstrating they have an awareness of what a community can look like. It began with two children building a house. Another child suggested building on a garage to the house. Then a child suggested a driveway, which led to more children building roads. We added a few small plastic cars and people. Suddenly, a student who was sitting quietly by herself a few feet away from us came over and said she had built a school. The children added blocks to their roads to get to the school. By the time I looked at the clock, 55 minutes had passed! I looked around the classroom and each child was engaged in co-operative group play. Some of the other small groups created castles, airports, planes, rocket ships and vehicles.
During this time, my teaching partner and I both had the opportunity to see children sharing, freely creating, co-operating, working as teams, verbalizing their knowledge of the community they live in, saying colours and counting blocks. It was amazing to watch the students demonstrate some of the knowledge we have been teaching them this year through their play.
And one of the best things about block play is that it can be free. You don’t need to buy blocks, if you don’t want to. You can use things from your own home. You can use washed out milk cartons, shoe boxes, kleenex boxes, cereal boxes, canisters, and any other item you can safely build with. If you want to add weight, place items inside and tape the boxes shut.
So the next time you need a quick idea to occupy your child(ren), or students, grab some blocks or items and let them build and create.
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