Honoring the Hard Work of Child’s Play — Block Play

Whenever I enter a childcare setting the first thing I look for is the block area.  I like blocks.  From the youngest children who carry blocks around, packing them into backpacks and purses to the most skilled architects in the kindergarten class, children use blocks to fuel their dramatic play, express themselves, explore their physical world, experiement with balance and symmetry.  Blocks give children the power to create cities, towns, jails and zoos, the ability to build bridges and walls.  Let’s look at block play across the dimensions:

Math Cognitive


Symmetry, balancing, sorting, matching, sequencing, planning, etc.
Literacy Writing signs, labeling, reading blueprints and books about building, describing the process, building vocabulary, researching, etc.
Fine Motor Physical


Balancing blocks and accessories, writing signs, drawing a plan/blueprint, etc.
Large Motor Picking up/carrying/stacking larger blocks, motor planning, etc.




Sharing materials, cooperating, working together, managing space, self esteem, self regulation, cause and effect, respect of self/others/things, seeing self/others as experts, etc.


2 responses to this post.

  1. My kids love blocks as well. It is getting to be one of my favorites, because it is something they can do together even though they are different ages (13 months and 3 1/2). How can I help my son not get frustrated with his sister when she doesn’t play with the blocks the same way he does?


    • Make sure your son has opportunities to build without little sis around some of the time, but for the times when you are all building together, try giving little sis an inexpensive set of blocks of her own — empty shoe boxes wrapped in paper. She can stack and knock over time after time. For added interest you can put different items in the boxes (making sure the boxes are securely taped closed), and they can double as shakers. Or you can change the point of building when they are playing together. Maybe the game becomes “once upon a time there was a giant baby who always was breaking down the town.” You can also begin teaching your son tolerance. When you notice he is beginning to get frustrated (before he actually is), acknowledge that feeling. Help him name it, and offer solutions. Try something like, “you are looking very frustrated. Are you getting upset because little sis keeps __________? That is frustrating. She is little and still learning. Would you like to stop playing blocks now and play_____ instead?” It isn’t a punishment, it is a practical solution. If he chooses to continue to build, remind him that little sis might knock it down, and help him plan his response. “Aw, shucks” and “Oh bummer” are funny to say and with a little preparation, your son may be able to regulate his responses a little easier.


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