Blocks

Blocks are a core material in a preschool classroom. Teachers should read The Block Book, edited by Elizabeth Hirsch, to understand fully the developmental basis behind the various stages of block building and for ideas about implementing a block program.

Like art work, block building with young children emphasizes the process, not the product. Children cannot use materials for representational purposes (building a house) until they have explored the various physical properties of the materials. The youngest children may need to mouth and bang blocks. As they grow and their understanding of what they can and cannot do with blocks matures, children will use blocks in ways that seem more appropriate to adults. This is the time to apply motivation similar to that with art materials. Instead of "What are you building?" (product-oriented statement), hand the child a block and ask, "Where will you use this one?" Rather than suggesting that the child have a product in mind, you are encouraging the child to continue the process of building.

Children need to be taught to respect each others block buildings. Rules do need to be imposed. Block buildings may not be knocked down and blocks may not be thrown. Children who are using blocks in a potentially dangerous way may need either one-on-one help using the blocks or to be redirected to another activity.