Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Early Learning—Block Area

We’re in the midst of a series of articles about setting up environments in early learning.  Last week we talked about a Literacy Area; this week we’ll dig into the Block Area.

A Block Area is often very popular with the children, but not so much with the parents.  They often have a hard time seeing the learning experiences their children are having in the Block Area.  Does it really matter if a child can build with blocks?  We have to be able to explain why it is important; and even more, what else the child is learning during this process.
  • Frequently, block play is accomplished with a partner.  This is a great place for children to learn the give-and-take required when working with someone else.
  • Just like in your Literacy Area, your Block Area can help children to develop their vocabulary.  They can learn what an arch is and how to describe what it is they are doing.  Props can be especially helpful in enhancing vocabulary.
  • Number awareness—“How many blocks did you stack?”  “How many blocks do you think you will need to do that?”
  • Geometry—what a perfect place to learn the names of the shapes!  How do squares differ from rectangles?  What’s the difference between a triangle and a pyramid?
  • Relationship between size and shape.
  • Planning—what blocks can stack on others and which will fall over?
  • Motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Color names.
  • Color matching.
  • Making or identifying patterns.

The location of the Block Area in the classroom is not critical.  The main considerations are that you don’t want it near your quiet area and it needs to be in an area where it can be physically separated from other areas to help keep creations from being accidentally knocked over.  So, what do you need in your block area?
  • Low shelves to hold the materials and to protect the area from passersby.
  • Ideally, both a space with hard flooring and another space with a low-pile rug.
  • A wide variety of blocks in different sizes, shapes, colors, and materials.
  • Props—especially helpful if they are related to any theme that you might be learning.  Props can include vehicles, people, signs, and books.
  • An organizational system to keep the blocks in the right place.  This will also help the children with matching skills; make sure you put the blocks away properly.

Hopefully, once you explain to parents everything their children are learning in this area, they will be pleased when they see their children building a creation.  Next week, we’ll talk about a Dramatic Play Area.

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