Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just Blocks

As an educator, I am ALWAYS looking for new ideas of activities to do with my kids. I am definitely guilty of forgetting about the old tried-and-true activities that I know (in the back of my mind) are fabulous learning opportunities. One such item? Blocks.

Blocks are amazing and teach skills such as:
-spatial awareness
-motor skills
-problem solving
-hand-eye coordination
-pretend play
-social skills (working together)
-language skills (verbalizing what is being done)
-shape awareness

They are a great tool because they are so open-ended (unlike puzzles which only have one solution...also a good tool, but for different uses). Blocks are also useful for any age--my 7 month son enjoys holding them, knocking towers we build over, banging them, and of course chewing them. My 3 year old daughter builds palaces for her animals because the flood is coming and they need their homes to keep them dry (or other involved scenarios as such....) and there is some type of block play for every other age--even adults enjoy blocks! Just leave yours our next time you have friends over and see what happens. :)

You can also spice up block play by adding "components." Right now we have plastic animals in our block basket. We've had peg people (plain wooden peg people from Hobby Lobby that I painted to look like different people), cars, aircrafts, plastic bugs, etc. Changing out one part of the blocks helps rejuvinate interest and also changes the direction of the play. Just be careful not to add so much stuff that you are taking away from the play--too many items can get distratcting. Sometimes just the blocks themselves are enough.

There are also different types of blocks, and changing out they type of block can also be a good idea. We have some magnetic blocks, some colored cube blocks in smaller sizes and also letter cube blocks. This below set my father in law made Q for her 1st birthday and we adore them!!

There are tons of articles out there if you do a google search for ideas and suggestions and tips on block play if you want more information. However it's also really simple to just get down on the floor with your child and start building together!

In my classroom I taught my students to shrug their shoulders and say, "oh well" anytime a block tower they were building fell down. We always talked that we could build it again. This helped reduce frustration if they (or someone else) accidently knocked over a masterpiece.

I also used "work mats" (lamintated pieces of construction paper--the large size) to designate areas when several students were each building their own object. This helped reduce accidents--as my students learned to spot the colored mats and walk around them. Of course there was the rule that "the builder is the knocker" to keep children from destroying another's work.

I took pictures of finished towers and we had a book we kept of the photos. The children loved revisiting their masterpieces in the book, and also they would sometimes take the book to the block area and rebuild a past tower (or castle or farmyard, etc.) or rebuild something cool another child had made. This leads to "fluency" in all of the skills listed above at the beginning of the post.

So.....get out your blocks and build something cool this week!!

PS) If you keep your blocks out where your kids can see them they'll be more likely to use them. Ours are in a big basket that slides under our entertainment center, and whenever they are left out for weeks at a time, they get used far more!

PPS) These are the letter blocks--Q keeps them in her room to build with during her quiet time.
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