Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

8 Great Reasons for Block Play In Kindergarten

Timber Block Play
I have always wished to create a space dedicated to block play in which elementary children could spend time in a room much like a music room or school library. My passion for block play makes it very hard for me to resist purchasing block materials to add to an already large collection. (and yes I do get teased about this)

Unit Block Play

Each year I am impressed with the growth of skills and joyful learning that emerges from block play. In my Kindergarten room, the children have access to a large quantity of blocks and an abundance of accessories, including loose parts.  This has greatly influenced my Kindergarten practice and room design as I strive to support early learning. This year, like every other year, includes a large number of students who love block play. For two students who began the year with solitary play, it has been in the block centre when they moved to parallel play and eventually cooperative play. 

Every morning the students have up to 90 minutes of uninterrupted play time in the classroom which I call Exploration as well as Quiet Play in the afternoon which is about 25-30 minutes. Block Play is the number one choice by my students. so to intentionally better support them I divided the blocks into three spaces large enough for group play: timber blocks, small block play and large block play. This design provided sufficient space and resources for the children to engage in group play during exploration without encroaching upon each other's structures. 

Each of the three spaces have easy access to accessories like animals, fabric, cars, trains and loose parts. The timber blocks are adjacent to our story play resources, while the large blocks are next to the home centre and finally the small blocks are beside the loose parts shelves which includes open ended nature and recycled materials, a train as well as vehicles & road signs. 

This change has been enthusiastically embraced by the children with more than half the class choosing blocks each day, sometimes revisiting structures created the previous day to continue their play. On one very exciting day for me the entire class chose block play!

The decision to create more block play space has exceeded my expectations and spurred me to take an online course on block play to enhance my understandings and better support the children.

If you are wondering Why Block Play? What do Children Learn?
Here are a few thoughts:

1. Thinking

Block play teaches students how to problem solve and work collaboratively in a group. They experiment, test ideas and explore cause and effect as they build structures that fall down and then rebuilt. It is through these experiences that children develop their problem solving skills and test hypotheses.

2. Communicating
Block play helps children with planning, revising and implementing designs. It encourages children to talk and share their thinking with each other. As children play they create stories, imaginary worlds and re-enact life experiences. 

3. Relationships
Through block play children have countless opportunities to learn about each other, as well as hone their listening and conversational skills. Phrases like: "what if, how about, I know, let's try this" often accompany this play. Friendships blossom as the children get to know each other through co-constructing block play. 

4. Confidence
Block play helps students build confidence as they begin to take risks with these open ended materials. Frequently they build the same structures repeatedly, each time refining their design, discussing with play partners and adding to their stories. Because they are open ended, these materials tend to be less frustrating and there is no wrong way to design. Additionally, the children soon develop a reputation amongst their peers as builders, designers and/or decorators.

5. Mathematics
Block building is all about numeracy. How many more.. how many should I add?... will 2 be enough? How long should it be? How tall can we go? Can we fit more?  They use tools like levels and carpenter rulers to check their structures. They draw their designs using perspective and sometimes careful measuring/comparing.

The children develop greater understandings about spatial relationships through this hands on open-ended play. As I document their work, sophisticated designs and behaviours emerge such as the use of 1:1 correspondence, shape, symmetry, perspective and balance.

6. Literacy
Block building has a large and recognized literacy component. As children learn from each other opportunities for new vocabulary are created. For example, as one child built a hotel he wanted to add an elevator which led to a description of what is an elevator and how does it work, some children had never stayed in a hotel which led to more descriptions while other children compared a hotel to a lodge or campground. As the children play the shared experiences add to their literacy knowledge. 

Clipboards and paper nearby provide opportunities for the children to create signs, which they can attach to the blocks with painter's tape. Building and Bridge design books displayed at the block centres provide opportunities for research and inspiration.

7. Social Emotional Skills (SEL)
SEL is a key piece of early learning and Early Learning Educators intentionally weave it throughout their programs. Block Play allows children to negotiate, share materials and take turns. They learn to enter into block play by observing and asking questions. It also encourages self reliance, reflection and builds stamina as they build for expanding amounts of time, sometimes working on an idea over a span of days. Naturally there are disagreements, disappointments and arguments but those are learning opportunities. As long as I do my job of designing a space, modelling SEL language and helping find solutions they are growing and evolving their SEL.

8. Imagination
As children build with blocks they are free to follow their own ideas. Because blocks are an open ended material they are always  being transformed into hotels, space ships, castles, classrooms, homes, boats and so on. The more children play with blocks the more experienced they become and are able to imagine and create.


Thanks for stopping by,

Liz

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