Have you ever heard someone say, “All they ever want to do is play in the block center!” Well I have some news about the block center that just might surprise you. In fact, instead of trying to figure out how to get kids out of the block center, this person might start wishing students would spend more time in the block center.

I recently participated in a Bam Radio podcast with Rae Pica and Rosanne Regan Hansel which you can listen to here

In our podcast, Rosanne explains that “…blocks are ever more important in the 21st century classroom.” Our discussion centered on the different types of learning that takes place through block play. Here is a quick overview for you…

What are the benefits of block play?

STEM

When it comes to promoting STEM skills, Rosanne explains that blocks provide three dimensional creativity and problem solving. Materials that you can touch stimulate certain parts of the brain that manipulating of models on computers just can’t do.

Social-Emotional

When it comes to social and emotional skills, Rosanne explains that block play helps young children learn to get along, build on each other’s ideas, problem solve as well as learning to work as a group to solve a problem.

Physical

Rosanne goes on to share that as children play with the blocks they are on the floor and moving their bodies which promotes gross motor skill development. Fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and spacial awareness are also strengthened as children spend time manipulating, balancing, and building with blocks.

Success Stories

During her study of block play, Rosanne found that children from all backgrounds including children from low income areas, dual language learners and children with language delays were very successful in the classroom during their building time developing their language skills.

Teaching Strategies 

Rosanne explains that the teachers she observed worked to find that fine balance between not getting overly involved but still staying present.  She goes on to explain that listening to the children as they play is very important too.

In my own classroom, we start out at the beginning of the school year modeling inspiration which simply means to sit down and share an idea or start an idea as well as the thinking that goes into the process. Not say, “this is how to build a tower,” but to start with “I wonder what I would need to do to build a tower?” then brainstorm and work with the children to build a tower using their ideas and contributions in the process. Over time, we find that the children quickly begin to model ideas for each other and teacher modeling is rarely needed.

More time leads to better play

Over the years, I have come to discover that the more time I give my students to explore the block play experience, the more creative they become in the building process. Given quality time in block play has strengthened my students’ ability to cooperate and really work together to support each other’s ideas. In other words, instead of leaving left-over time for block play, I have gradually come to the understanding that block play needs to be front and center in making my plans for each day. I need to protect their time for block play so the children will have time to move from the seemingly chaotic stage of block play to the deep and meaningful forms of block play.

Around the classroom

Although my students’ greatest desire is to head to the carpet and use the wooden blocks we keep in our shelf, they also enjoy exploring blocks and a variety of other kinds of blocks in other areas of the classroom.

I try to integrate the children’s interests in blocks across the curriculum. I think it is fun to figure out how we can explore all the basic concepts through block play.

As you allow the children to invest plenty of time in block play, they will use those skills beyond the block center and before you know it, you start to see the benefits of the block building experience everywhere and in everything!

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