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Block Play Throughout Early Childhood

The Group at GROW

Dear Friends,

As all our attention is focused on autumn and Halloween, I would like to turn our minds on something entirely different for a brief while. This, by the way, is a useful strategy when excitement towards a particular event is getting a little over the top just way too exciting. Changes of venues are always helpful.

The topic I have been quite interested in for some time is that of block play in the preschool years. As a child, while I didn’t have many toys, what I did have was a huge box of wooden blocks that I loved, and that provided  my sisters and me hours and hours of imaginative play.

Much research has shown that when children construct, create, and represent their experiences with blocks, they grow in every area of development.

Socially and emotionally, in the block area children are continually exchanging ideas with each other as they play side by side and interactively. As their imaginations blossom, so do their negotiation skills with their peers while engaging in block play.

Children’s small motor/muscle development is greatly enhanced when they are in the middle of putting blocks together. Their eye-hand coordination is challenged as they carefully balance blocks so they won’t fall down.

Cognitively, as children experience the world around them, they form mental pictures of what they see. Playing with blocks gives them an opportunity to recreate these pictures in a concrete form. The ability to create these representations is the background for abstract thinking. In addition, block play encourages a concrete understanding of concepts that are pivotal in logical reasoning. Children learn about sizes, shapes, numbers, order, area, length, patterns, and weight as they pick out, build with and put away the blocks.

I love listening to the language that children use while talking with their peers and with adults as well about their block creations. The language skills that develop are quite phenomenal as they try to describe what they  are doing or what they have just put together.

Caroline Pratt, the educator who designed unit blocks in the early 1900’s, stated that     “blocks will simply remain pieces of wood unless they are infused with  information gleaned from experience.” Indeed, with young children it is always interesting to watch the stages of development of block play. At first, the child will most likely carry blocks around and manipulate them, but not use them to construct anything. Gradually, as children’s cognitive processes mature, so do their block building skills. An experienced block builder may build an intricate tower or an elaborate design. The sky becomes limitless in the block area as children grow and develop, and the creations that we see every day are truly mind boggling…

In our classroom this week, in and out of block play, and having nothing at all to do with block areas, we have seem some lovely things happen.

In our Infant Room we whole heartily thank Ace Hardware for donating new paint for our room. The effect is calming and just lovely. We also thank our friends at Kickypants for our new “circus tent” and new shelving unit. The babies have loved going into the circus tent and it accentuates their tendency towards the comical side of life.  While our baby girls, the younger set, are not as interested yet in this type of play, they sit and watch, fascinated by what a baby can do when it gets older.

This week in the toddler room, the children had a wonderful guest storyteller, what happy faces we saw during this event! The toddlers of course had a great time shredding paper and adding it to water in the sensory bin. Outside, as the rain has been falling, the motion of it as it falls down has been fascinating for the toddlers. Watching water flow from the sky, down a hill is one of the simple pleasures of life when one is one or two, or maybe 82! The toddlers also have been feeding and changing and holding their baby dolls, calling them “my baby.” Ah, yes, nurturing comes alive in the toddler room…

In the Green Room, on “Toe tapping Tuesday” the children jumped and hopped for joy as they did what the teachers called “happy dancing”. On Wednesday, the children took an exceptionally long walk, all the up to Ordway School, and during this adventure, they joyfully pointed out and watched leaves, pine cones and colors of all kinds, remembering the sign language signs for each color. They came upon some construction workers and asked them many questions about what they were doing. On Thursday the Green Group made blueberry muffins for everyone, and of course Friday is our big field trip to the Pumpkin Farm. The children made some wonderful pumpkins that are not part of the wall pumpkin patch that is under the apple tree.

On Monday the Green and Blue Group had an exciting experience carving pumpkins that was an organized project that our neighbors at the GROW COMMUNITY put together. We all walked to the GROW project on Grow/Wyatt, and in the window before the rain, we dug out pumpkins, scooping up the wonderful gooey orange insides, and then we carved fabulous faces on each pumpkin. They are currently on display over there, so check them out between now and Halloween.

This week in the Blue Group the children’s art has burst out of the walls, creativity at its best! Paintings are lining the walls, starting off with the letter “C”, and then imaginatively embellishing this C to great heights. Pumpkin paintings are also adorning the walls, as are glorious crayon shaving/ dried colored leave stained glass window type art that shows how skilled the children are at creating and spacial design. Shari has described to the children the letter “C” being like an “O” opening its mouth. What a great visual, and I bet the children will remember this for years to come… For an interesting math project, the children are counting and sorting harvest items, focusing on leaves and apple bushels.  And the creative imaginations of the children once again came alive with the creation of a little man they named “Spider” who knows exactly what to wear when you go out on a cold day. Check him out by the door in the Blue room if you want a good laugh… Speaking of weather wear, the Blue room teachers would also like parents to make sure their children are adequately clothed for cold weather with hats, gloves, and rain boots.

Have great weekends, all of you!

with kindest and warmest regards,

 

 

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