This year, my preschool students were SO into block play! Every year I have children who adore playing in our building center, but this year’s kiddos went above and beyond. Every single child in this year’s class spent so much time planning, creating, building, and learning with block play.
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get more creative with block play
I believe how I set up and organized the block center has something to do with their amazing interest. More importantly, I think adding different materials allowed them to move past basic structures. I did, of course, include basic unit blocks as the foundation to the building center. Below, I’d like to share some of the other items I included and how the children used them to extend their block play.
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I’ve always had some cylindrical blocks in my classroom building centers. This year, though, I went out of my way to add more. The children used them to make taller, more stable structures. They also acted as columns when recreating structures from around the world. Gross motor skills, spatial awareness and thinking, creative thinking, math and science skills are just some of what the children are learning with the inclusion of cylinders.
People and animals
The kiddos loved having wooden people and small plastic animals available every day. It gave the children the chance to bring more pretend play into their block play. This allowed for an amazing amount of creative thinking and language development throughout the year! Read a bit more about it in my pet small world play post.
These gems have been all over the classroom, but their “home” was the block center. My students used them to “decorate” their structures and add balance to their creations. They also sorted and counted the glass pieces almost every day. The glass jewels ended up being used for math, pretend play, building, fine motor strengthening, etc.
Empty thread spools
Including these turned out to be such a great idea! The boys and girls used them as mini columns when building with other blocks. Sometimes the children stacked and built with just the spools, too. I loved seeing them use the spools in conjunction with other random materials, especially when they worked on their one-to-one correspondence. Fine motor skills, gross motor skills, counting, and various scientific concepts were touched upon with the spools in the building center. I just used empty thread spools that had been donated by parents, but they can also be purchased online.
I’ll be honest, I had no clue that these were actually called Ringa Majigs until I went looking for a link for this post! I’ve always called them stacking circles, mostly based on how the kids refer to them. They’ve been a constant in our block center all school year. These stacking toys were often used on their own, but they were also coupled with the gems, animals, and spools. The children gave their fine motor skills a workout, and they integrated math and science concepts as well.
My preschool kiddos have really enjoyed having all of these materials in our block center. Their creations became more and more intricate over time, too. All of the children have been incredibly proud of their structures, asking me to take pictures before disassembling them. I have (quite literally) thousands of pictures of proud children with their creations!
What about you? What are some of the staples in your class or home building center? Any more ideas to share with us?
For more block-related goodness, please see the following:
- Expanding Block Play from Twodaloo
- Introduction to Block Building with Children from Homegrown Friends
- Blocks: A Versatile Learning Tool for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (a PDF from NAEYC)
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This is a really inspiring post, Mary Catherine! I love seeing all the interesting loose parts that people add to block centers.
Mary Catherine says
Thanks, Ann! I appreciate the kind words. I’ll definitely be integrating even more loose parts to our block center next school year, probably on a rotating basis so as not to overwhelm the kiddos.
Kate soper says
I love all these ideas, some of which we already do. I would like to add more, especially some of the small things but i am wondering how do you get your kiddos to clean it all up without it taking half an hour!?!
Mary Catherine says
Thanks Kate! 🙂 Oh, sometimes it seems to take forever to clean up . . . I completely understand!! One of our rules is to only take out what you’re going to use, and another is to clean up before moving onto another center. The kiddos work together, and having the block center labeled well helps too. That being said, some days clean up takes longer. I wish I had a better answer for you!
I believe that if the children are fully engaged in the materials it doesn’t matter how long it takes to clean it up!
Mary Catherine says