When children learn how to work together, and they construct and build together, they are learning as a unit. They are developing the skills that it takes to be a great leader and grasp the social skills it takes to grow and learn in a social environment. When children build together, they explore math, science, early literacy skills, and the social skills needed to succeed.
Here are some great tips to incorporate an inviting block area that will keep children engaging and excited to build with their friends.
Multiple Types of Blocks
- Having different types of blocks allow children creativity and encourages them to see color and textures of their structure.
Having Large wooden blocks allow children to build sturdy structures that will resemble buildings and other structures. Also making sure that there are enough wooden blocks is essential. In the third edition of the Environment Rating Scale, you should have at least 150 wooden blocks of all different sizes.
- Having hollow blocks allow children creativity and to build structures that are large. This also provides for imagination as they can run cars through or make houses with them. ECERS-3 also requires hollow blocks to be apart of the block center to gain points.
- I know that this seems like a lot in the block center, but it is beneficial for you to have enough materials for children to build. Work with the children on cleaning up. A lot of teachers will start the cleanup time with the block center sooner because it does take so long to clean up in that center. Visual timers and signs are great ways to enforce time management for children in the classroom.
- Add things that are not traditional like twigs, pieces of wood rings, popsicle sticks, or straws to allow children to build other types of structures.
Large Enough Space
- You want to have a significantly large area for the block center that they can build multiple structures without interruption of another child forming a structure, but also to allow children to create buildings that are large and extensive if they choose.
- The block center should be large enough for significant buildings but not large enough that you don’t have room for other centers as you do not want too many children in this area at one time. Most teachers will limit this center to no more than 4, which sometimes can be too many, but no less than 3.
Lots of Pictures
- Sometimes it is hard for children to spark their imagination on their own. A great way to let children understand that buildings and different types of structures can be however they want is to take pictures of buildings around the world and post in the block center. Doing so allows them to see the differences, or if you have children that a lot of pictures on the wall can be way over stimulating; take a ring clip and laminate pictures of buildings and put them on the ring and hang it up in the center. This will allow the children to take it down and set it next to them and see the pictures up close.
Different types of support items
- Children love blocks, but there also needs to be many other items than just blocks. They need to have toys in the center that will allow them to expand their imagination. Items like trucks, cars, trains, heavy machinery (like cranes and lifts), animals, and people of different abilities and sizes are great ways to spark the imagination of a child.
Change it up periodically
- Children get bored, so add props periodically, or add prompts or questions about the theme of the week to help children think of different things that they can build.
- Talk about a specific question that pertains to the theme and post it on the wall to make them think outside the box.
Encourage children to build
- Adding pictures of the different types of structures that the children have made with them in the image is a great way to show off the impressive work of your students. This will encourage children to be in this center as well as be proud of their hard work, which in turns makes them feel responsible for that center and are more liable for taking care of the items in that center.
- Being present in the block area as the teacher. Get down on the floor and ask questions and be there to support. Don’t take over but be there and interject scaffold on what they are doing. Look for that sweet spot to facilitate deep block play. Be an active observer of the play.
- Be a mindful teacher. If a child is hard at work and is really engaged in that work allow that child time to either keep building or save that work and build on it when they come back to center time. There is nothing in the rule book that says that everything has to be back to perfection after free play. Allow children the opportunity to keep working on their masterpiece. This is how children learn and become intrigued with a specific area of expertise. You never know, you could be hindering the next Picasso or Phillip Johnson. Don’t be the one who crushes those dreams, be the teacher that fuels those dreams!