We are soon entering the holiday season when every other flyer will feature some new-fangled toy that moves, blinks, or promises to make our children happier, smarter, or more creative. The good news, however, is that for most families and certainly at LANK, that toy already exists; a set of wooden blocks!
In a play based school every classroom should delight in owning a high-quality set of wooden building blocks. There is no better toy for inspiring imagination, encouraging problem solving or teaching concepts of symmetry, balance, weight, and stability. While playing with blocks may look like simple fun, the truth is that there is a whole lot of learning going on! Children’s play with blocks progresses from stacking simple towers to more complex structures, and all the while if a teacher is nearby asking some pertinent questions, or gently guiding the play, the discoveries and learning are multiplied! Imagine a child’s glee when after multiple attempts at stacking a tower, that child discovers independently that providing a wider base will finally result in a structure that stays put. Perhaps two children collaborating together create a design that includes a second level or as I overheard a four year old say an “upstairs apartment.”
Over the last few years, the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) acronym has been widely used and most schools have jumped on this band wagon because of the realization that tinkering, problem solving, and testing out designs has been well documented as being highly valuable for learning. I sometimes chuckle because I know that we already have many of these components available through play and right at our fingertips—a beautiful set of wooden blocks with smooth edges and various shapes for counting, sorting, organizing, hypothesizing, testing, and creating!
To read more about block play, here and here are wonderful articles from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)!