What is important about the block center in early childhood education? It is one of the children’s favorite spaces in a child care center. Young children love to use the large wooden blocks to create structures. Most classroom teachers consider it one of their favorite spaces because children are thoroughly engaged with the materials.
Those of us with an early childhood education background know that there is more to blocks than just a place to play. In fact, the block center provides the space to build children’s developmental skills.
Children enhance their physical development by holding, stacking, and balancing the blocks. They build large motor skills through the movement of their entire bodies. As they grasp blocks during building, they are building their fine motor skills. As they interact with other children in the center, you hear the lively discussions. “Let’s build a building for the fire trucks!” The language skills are addressed. The children create wonderful structures based on their own designs, therefore increasing their creativity. They feel good about themselves after their structure is completed. This enhances their self-esteem. Cognitive development is addressed in multiple ways. “I need two of the 1 unit or 2 half units for my bridge.” Children sort the different sizes, count, and problem solve while playing.
A good block center should be well-stocked. Several children can participate at a block center with around 100 wood blocks. There are half unit, unit, double, quad, arch, half/Roman arch, quarter circle arch, quarter circle, elliptical curve, intersection, pillar, double pillar, small cylinder, and large cylinder. While wood blocks are not cheap, it is well-worth the cost based on the learning potential. Make sure that the blocks are stacked long ways on the shelves so that the children can clearly see what is available. Add pictures and labels to help children know where to put them back at clean-up time.
The space at the block center should provide plenty of room with a carpeted area for play. Books shelves can define the borders of the space. Stock the block area with plastic figures of people, animal sets, large trucks, buses, cars, hard hats, etc. Make sure that your figures of people represent diversity and special needs. After a field trip to visit a fire station, you could add fire trucks, fire hats, hoses, and other items that pertain to the fire station.
In the beginning, children’s interaction with the wood blocks may be to take them off the shelf. Later they may begin to stack blocks or line them up. After some experience, the children will begin building bridges, roads, and buildings. A mistake I use to make was to not allow them enough time to play in the area. A group of two or three preschoolers would spend the morning Group Time building a large structure and then I would announce clean-up time. They became discouraged and quit building detailed structures. I realized my mistake and I allowed them to keep up their structure to play at during the afternoon Group Time.
The classroom teacher should move from center to center expanding learning. For example, she/he could have the children: 1. Sort all of the quad blocks together, 2, Match the quad picture with the quad blocks, 3. Count out the small cylinders. Through her interaction, she is challenging and encouraging. Perhaps, she could provide pictures of a fire house to encourage the children to build the structure. The classroom teacher should keep a record of the observation for each child. Do they need more help with fine motor skills? Is Christopher sharing the blocks? Was Kimberly using the words “dispatcher” that she heard in the story that I read today? All these anecdotal notes should be added to a record to file away on each child and share with parents/guardians during conferences.
The block center is one of the most favorite spaces in a preschool classroom. The teacher should keep it interesting my changes out some of the items to add novelty to the experience. You can find more information on the NCSite.