For Social and Emotional Development

"Tip 115: May 2018 - Block Play: Tools for Learning Together "
   May, 2018

Blocks offer opportunities for exploration and mastery at any level, especially the opportunity to symbolize one thing with another. (Using a block as a cell phone.)

This ability to symbolize is essential to building pre-math and reading skills. Through these skills children learn about mathematic and scientific concepts. Block building helps children make connections between patterns and the relationships they create so that the brain, which is a pattern seeking tool, can then construct, organize and synthesize basic scientific and mathematical concepts into new knowledge.

Blocks enhance social/emotional development; they offer opportunities for sharing, communications, group problem-solving, and the development of sensitivity to the needs of others. There is no right or wrong way to create a block building so there is less chance for a child to experience failure. Children develop self-esteem and a sense of personal competence and comfort associated with previously mastered skills. It is the process not the product of building and creating that is rewarding and important to children. Adults need to understand that demolishing a building for a child is part of the process. The act of building and then knocking down the structure can help children to feel powerful and in control. Children at different ages play with blocks in different ways, but even within an age group, individuals use blocks in a variety of ways depending on their previous exposure and experiences.

Infants: Block Feely Bag: Have the infant place two different block shapes inside the bag. Hold up a block so that the infant can see that it matches one of the blocks they put inside the bag. Encourage the infant to find the block that matches the one which was placed inside bag. Use more blocks for older children.

Toddlers: Build A Zoo: Suggest to the toddlers that they could build their own zoo with blocks. Have them bring stuffed animals into the block area. Encourage them to think of what kinds of homes they would need in the zoo. Point out all the different sizes of the stuffed animals and how each of them would need a different size home.

Preschoolers: Block Furniture: Suggest children work together to build some block furniture. Ask problem-solving questions. “Can we build a couch big enough for two children to sit on? How about making a table and chairs or a bed for a baby?” Ask, “What would we need to add to the bed and table?” (sheets, blankets and tablecloths)

Block Building Rules:
For safety as well as enjoyment it is important to establish rules for
playing with blocks. Have children help write the rules. Make a chart and
hang it in the block area in both pictures and words. The following are
some suggestions:

  1. Blocks are for building – not for throwing.
  2. Make you blocks only as tall as you are.
  3. You may knock down your own building, but not someone else’s building.
  4. SHARE- Take turns with friends when using blocks and toys.
  5. If you play with blocks, you MUST help clean them up.